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Come One, Come All (To 10KLF)

Step right up, to the beautiful tree-lined rolling hills surrounding the Soo Pass Ranch- site of the 7th annual 10,000 Lakes Festival (10KLF). 2009’s diverse lineup promised to be sensational and indeed the campgrounds filled up quickly. Heavy hitters Widespread Panic, Wilco (the band!), and an expanded and inspired Dave Matthews Band propelled the festival to near record attendance. Surrounding the core of jam-oriented rock, one might experience hip-hop, electronica, funk, soul, bluegrass, metal (or at least Umphrey’s brand of it!) and just about any cross-genre combination imaginable. Good vibes abound here as fans and artists take pleasure in the rustic natural setting, temperate weather (read: usually not 95 degrees), good-natured staff and terrific music. Smiles are the norm, and upon critical inspection of the musicians playing 10KLF, the veterans are always enjoying themselves and the up and comers are energetic and eager to please. Something in the water of Northern Minnesota does this to the artists, festivarians and staff members of 10KLF every year.

Patchy spots of ominous, dark clouds and cool winds punctuated with intermittent sunshine the first afternoon foreshadowed the roller coaster ride that would be the next four days. The main stage was alive on the first night of the festival for the first time in 10KLF’s history with Gomez warming up the crowd for Widespread Panic. Although the crowd didn’t need much priming, Gomez still delivered with bone numbing bass lines and infectious poppy grooves, clearly showing their influences by performing the Led Zeppelin classic, "Bron Y Aur Stomp." A 90’s progressive rock feel came through with sounds reminiscent of Live, Smashing Pumpkins and a melodic quality similar to that of Dave Matthews.

Widespread Panic must have been feeling the vibes, too, starting out funky segueing "Old Neighborhood" into "Weight of the World," sounding at times like Bowie’s "Fame." A spirited "Bear’s Gone Fishing" wandered its way through "North" and into standard but tight "Can’t Get High" to keep the funk going. After letting the fans breathe, the pace was picked up again strongly closing the first set with an epic "Junior," featuring soaring solos from Jimmy Herring as well as a blistering guitar duel between Herring and guitarist, John Bell, that churned the crowd into a frenzied state of ecstasy. Embarking on a mellow course with "Contentment Blues," the second set ratcheted up the intensity as the band comfortably increased the tempo, finding its stride midway through the syrupy smooth "Driving Song" and voyaging into "Hatfield." Dark and electrifying, Jerry Joseph’s "Chainsaw City" rounded out a night defined by Herring’s shredding, JB’s raw and penetrating vocals and Dave School’s bass lines shaking the soul, Widespread delivered the goods and brought down the house.

Intensity, heat and energy continued well into the starry and crisp Minnesota night starting out at The Barn stage with a very motivated performance by Kinetix. Making their fourth 10KLF appearance it’s at once apparent why they’ve been asked back and why the crowds keep grooving. Driven fiendishly by drummer Jack Gargan, Kinetix brought the audience through peaks and valleys with a fun blend of ska and pop punk featuring vocals by guitarist Adam Lufkin and keyboardist Eric Blumenfeld. The closeness of the musicians was obvious as their live show was genuine, tight and intuitive, and their communications hilarious. Mixed in with creative originals, Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" was eaten up by the audience. With a new album out soon expect to see them play some bigger slots at festivals as they gain speed and continue on their path.
If the DJ scene is more your style, Pretty Lights rocked The Field Stage with samples to satisfy all musical tastes- possibly sans "new" country! Consisting of DJ/Producer Derek Vincent Smith, and drummer Corey Eberhardt, Pretty Lights created deeply stratified layers of electronica, hip-hop, Motown, rock and more, yet came off sounding very organic. Highlighting the set was a crowd pleasing Rage’s "Bullet In The Head" into Cypress Hill’s "Hits From the Bong." The cross genre blending sometimes brought giggles, but when the clowns came home, it jumped like a mid-nineties rave party.

Minneapolis natives, the Gypsy Lumberjacks, opened day two on the Saloon Stage. After a wild first night it was surprising to have a strong crowd that early, noon, but a packed Saloon was treated to their unique brand of gypsy jazz combining sounds of Flamenco and Persian music with a tinge of bluegrass all mixed over rocks with a pint of Jameson. They effortlessly blended covers into originals starting out with Bela Fleck’s "Big Country" into Lumberjacks original- "Gypsy Life," before bringing it back into the melodic and spiritual "Big Country."

The campground stages in Blue Ox and Lake Sallie really came to life on day two. Lake Sallie is traditionally the most festive of the campgrounds so when amplified music was allowed in the campgrounds this year, stage organizer Bobby Patrick loaded them up with a talented roster of regionally known bands, many local to Minnesota, and the stages were rocking. Campers eager for live music but unready to leave the comfort of the campgrounds were flocking to hear some of the region’s best acts, stripped down and raw. Many great memories were made as these stages provided some of the most intimate shows of the festival. Some of the more notable shows played included: Bigtree Bonsai, Hyentyte, 2 1/2 Brains, Absolute Gruv, and many more. Of particular note was Friday’s performance by Minneapolis’ A Night In The Box, compared by some to The White Stripes they have a pared down indie-rock feeling. However, it’s not single faceted, they add to that blues, bluegrass and Americana, delivered in an incredibly intense package that has created a devout fanbase.

Thursday was undeniably full of homegrown talent on the Mainstage. Rooted deep in the Minneapolis music scene, rock veterans, The Honeydogs brought to 10KLF a polished, light-hearted live show. Singer Adam Levy’s heartfelt lyrics were framed by a bright, crisp horn section and the classic rhythms of alt-country and indie-rock. Riding on the release of their latest album, Sunshine Committee, look for them to perform with more frequency in the near future.

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