Come One, Come All (To 10KLF)
Another Minnesotan, Mason Jennings, played a pleasantly surprising up-tempo set pairing his tried and true singer-songwriter roots with a more crunchy, electrified rock sound. Heralded by some as the next Bob Dylan, Mason’s albums tend to have a predominantly acoustic feel with well-written lyrics, but over the past few years in concert he has diversified the sound with the addition of electric guitars and distortion. An upcoming album promises to be a successful continuation of his previously released works as the songs fully develop through live performances.
"Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby," sang frontman Jeff Tweedy and the rest is 10KLF history. Alt-rockers Wilco headlined the Mainstage Thursday thrilling the packed concert bowl with classics as well as field testing tracks from Wilco (the album). Charging right out of the gates with the title track, they had the field in the palm of their hand. Nels Kline once again proved himself a master of electric guitar and how to manipulate its frequencies. At one point Tweedy joked with the crowd, asking them for all of their glowsticks. After a healthy amount were thrown he responded, "I guess I fully underestimated how many you have," and proceeded to lay down ground rules. No throwing at the head or Nels as "He needs to concentrate!" Welcome to 10KLF, Jeff! Another new song that yielded a great live performance was "Bull Black Nova," which in addition to the songs "A Shot In The Arm," and a monumental "Spiders, Kidsmoke," had the more jam-minded crowd enthralled.
Capping the night for many was a performance by Atmosphere, a Twin-Cities based hip-hop group. They are well loved in the area and more broadly in the scene. Shortly after playing "God Loves Ugly," the lightning show that had been a beautiful backdrop moved in and finished the action for the day with two heavy rainstorms. Campers either stuck it out and were soaked or like us, scurried to our tents and dreamt of day three.
Day three from the 2009 10KLF brought one of the most fun acts to be seen at any festival. For the fifth time at 10K, Matt Butler conducted the Everyone Orchestra. Anchored by EO vet, Steve Kimock, the performance was full of Butler’s usual quirks and crazy antics, but it also provided a playground for the artists to improvise and create music in its rawest form. Joining Kimock was his son on drums, which provided an intense chemistry that is a joy to observe. Rounding out the rhythm section was Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green on bass.
Listening to Steve Kimock is always a treat, but being able to see him perform twice in a day is just flat out lucky. In Steve Kimock’s Crazy Engine as in any setting, he sneaks up, starting out very subtle and smooth, and before you know it he’s soaring, but always with his light touch and amazing tone. The addition of Melvin Seals on keys lended playfulness and the show dripped with Latin and Reggae influences. But it was signature Kimock that quietly dominated the set. Again the father-son chemistry was clearly exhibited, as Steve looked proud to be playing with son John Morgan.
After Duluth favorites Trampled By Turtles got done rocking the mainstage crowd in a triumphant return to 10KLF, Widespread was again ready to take 10K by storm.
Widespread rocked the classics starting out with "Heroes" into "One Armed Steve" and finishing with "Pleas." Friday’s sets showcased the drummers, having numerous small percussion jams ultimately ending in a monster jam in the midst of a long, segueing second set "B of D" > "Chilly Water" > "Smokestack Lightning" run. Before being rejoined by the band for "Bust It Big," Ortiz surprised on the didgeridoo and when Widespread reprised "Chilly Water" the amphitheater went absolutely bananas. After a smoking second set, a soothing encore of "Airplane" into "Pilgrims" brought heads back to earth and provided a sense of full closure to their 10KLF adventure.
Starting out the last day on the Barn Stage was Todd Snider. Snider’s fans are devout as his spellbinding storytelling is both funny and emotional. Not often does one performer have the presence to captivate a large audience, but Snider’s down-home lyrics and communication with the spectators make him one to watch over and over. Upon exiting to another show, one camper looked me in the eye and said in a stern but light-hearted tone of voice, "You can’t leave Todd Snider early!" However, there was so much good music to see that I had to move on.