We're just a few hours into the inaugural SoundTown Festival, the great experiment taking place at the newly remodeled and renovated Soundset Amphitheater (formerly Float-Rite Amphitheatre) just over the border in Soundset, Wisconsin. I'll be posting a few sporadic updates throughout the weekend to let people back home know how it's going leading up to tomorrow night's headlining set featuring the Flaming Lips.
The festival officially kicked off at 2 p.m. today, but campers already started showing up last night to stake out spots -- which turned out to be a wise move, because all of the camping spots have been consolidated into one third-party lot. Camping passes were sold in two tiers, general admission and V.I.P., but it looks like heavy rain turned most of the V.I.P. area into a giant mudpit, pushing all of the campers together in a campgrounds that is actually owned by the neighboring Float-Rite facilities, which rents out tubes for those looking to take a float down the nearby Apple River.
Beyond some mild confusion about the camping situation (a man on an ATV promptly came by to tell us that we needed to be sure we were in the correct area, lest their overly protective police force come and hassle us in the middle of the night), things seem to be running smoothly so far. The festival grounds themselves are sprawling, and just the main stage area appears large enough to easily accommodate 10,000 people. At the present moment, I'd estimate that there's only about 1,000 people milling between the ground's three stages, and only about 200 or so congregated in the area in front of the main stage, where Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons are just wrapping up an introspective, stoic set of alt-country tunes. I can't help but feel a little sympathetic toward Chisel and his band, who were probably expecting to play to a larger crowd, but they appear to be making the most of it nonetheless.
Right before Chisel played, I also caught a set by Minneapolis-based disco revivalists Apollo Cobra, who were playing in the mid-sized stage nestled under a tent that reminded me of last summer's Taste of Minnesota (and I don't mean that to be as foreboding as it sounds). I'm hesitant to make any sweeping judgments about the success of the fest so far, since it seems like a large portion of the crowd is still hanging out across the street at the campgrounds, and I have a feeling that it will continue to fill in as the night progresses. But I'm still a bit nervous that there might not be enough people in the crowd tomorrow night to hold up Wayne Coyne's giant orb when he surfs out into the crowd.
There are still a lot of great acts on tap tonight, including Ghostland Observatory, the New Pornographers, Sims, and one of the final performances by Roma di Luna. I'll file another report once I've seen more from tonight. We'll also have many more non-Instagram photos from Erik Hess once he gets back to his computer.