Festival Review + Photos: Cities 97 Basilica Block Party 2013 (Minneapolis, MN)

Basilica Block Party featuring Mayer Hawthorne (Ann Arbor, MI), Father John Misty (Baltimore, MD), Matt Nathanson (Lexington, MA), Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (Waitsfield, VT), Bomba De Luz (St. Paul, MN), Cloud Cult (Minneapolis, MN), Walk The Moon (Cincinnati, OH), Goo Goo Dolls (Buffalo, NY), Raphael Saadiq (Oakland, CA) and Matchbox Twenty (Orlando, FL)
July 12nd-13th, 2013
Cities 97 KTCZ
The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, MN

Every year, thousands of music fans make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Minn., for a weekend of music and revelry. In its 19th year, the festival lineup had a little something for everyone, well, almost everyone, and I had the pleasure of taking in all three stages of it.

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Friday: Day One

Full Gallery: Basilica Block Party 2013 Day One

My first journey through the concert grounds had me speed walking past the line for drink wristbands and food truck tickets, straight to the Sun Country Stage for Mayer Hawthorne. I have a confession, Mayer Hawthorne is one of my favorite artists to see live. He’s fun, his band is on point and together they give a great show. Even if I’m left feeling slightly underwhelmed, as I did this time around, it’s still a blast.

Hawthorne’s set was a mix of hits from “A Strange Arrangement,” “How Do You Do?” and a couple singles from his brand new album, “Where Does This Door Go?” The radio sponsor’s listeners in the audience  immediately responded to “The Walk” and “Her Favorite Song.” I couldn’t hold back an embarrassingly giddy squeal for “Maybe So, Maybe No” and “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’.’” Although I might prefer to see Hawthorne in a dark venue, nothing thrills me more than seeing an artist achieve commercial success; I hope it continues because he’s amazing!

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Up next on the same stage was Father John Misty. If you haven’t seen Father John Misty, search his tour schedule and go. Josh Tillman is the epitome of a sexy, badass frontman- seriously, he owns the stage and it’s awesome to witness.

The crowd swayed along to “Nancy From Now On” and cheered when Tillman asked the video guy to get a close up of his beer to “level” the beer advertising playing field. There were hauntingly beautiful songs followed by a tongue-in-cheek prayer and a quote from Norman Mailer. The content vibes radiating from the audience must have met their way to the stage; with a simple “I love you my Viking blood babies,” the band began “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” while Tillman wrapped himself around the mic stand and thrashed about the stage to end his set.  It was perfection.

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On the other side of the festival grounds, Duluth’s Southwire, The Cactus Blossoms, Family of the Year, Actual Wolf and ZZ Ward rocked their sets. The layout made it easy to hop from stage to stage adding a bit of convenience for the music fan who thrives in the center of the action.

Matt Nathanson, a staple among the adult contemporary crowd, wooed and wowed with his syrupy pop anthems. He opened his set with “Mission Bells” lighting up the faces of the ladies in attendance; God bless the boyfriends and husbands who were dragged into the giggling masses. “This Modern Love” and “Faster” were infectious and charming. By the middle of the set my judgments had melted and I was in it, swaying along and hypnotized.

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The top headliner for the first day was Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Channeling a hippie angel, Potter stunned in a flowing dress with perfectly matched heels. Not that any of that really matters because her talent is where it’s at. The first half of her set included “Never Go Back” and “Low Road” perfect for the audience. She also mixed things up with a cover of Hank Williams’ “Devil’s Train” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The most heartfelt moment during her set was a song dedication to Lily McLean, daughter of the late and beloved concert promoter, Sue McLean.

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Day One Artists:
Southwire
The Cactus Blossoms
Actual Wolf
Family of the Year
Mayer Hawthorne
ZZ Ward
Father John Misty
Matt Nathanson
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Saturday: Day Two

Full Gallery: Basilica Block Party 2013 Day Two

My day started with a local band I’ve been sleeping on, Bomba De Luz. I haven’t been this blown away in a long time. Musically, everyone in the band is very talented by the lead singer, Lydia Hoglund is a stand-out. The 18-year-old has the sultry voice of someone who has lived multiple lives and still thrilled to be doing it. While I wasn’t familiar with their set list, I really enjoyed their cover of Laura Marling’s “Night Terror” and their originals, “How Will I Know” and “Phantoms.”

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Next stop for me was Cloud Cult, a local favorite. For those unfamiliar, Cloud Cult is an eight-piece band that operates much like a family. Lead by Craig Minowa, there are visual artists who spin canvases while creating a painting during the performance and band members who play multiple instruments and singalong. “Running With the Wolves” started things out with a bang. Easing into the sentimental portion of their set, the band dedicated “Pretty Voice” to Sharon Jones, who was originally slated to perform  with the Dap-Kings at the festival but was unable due to recovering from a recent surgery. “You Were Born” was met with plenty of awes while the drumming and intensity of “Everybody Here is a Cloud” kept it moving.

Additional hits played by the band included “Good Friend,” “There’s So Much Energy in Us” and “Travel Safely.” Their set was powerful and filled with lots of lovely moments that make a Cloud Cult show a truly unique experience.

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Later on the same stage, Walk The Moon, the dancey and electronic-inspired band out of Ohio, led fans in face paint through a fun set filled with bouncing moments and radio-friendly hits. “Tightrope” escalated the dance party as the sun began to set alongside the stage. As a moment of homage to their influences, the band covered “This Must Be the Place” by the Talking Heads and urged their fans to check out their work- very cool. “Anna Sun,” concluded their performance and almost immediately the gates surrounding the stage were swarmed by eager girls in cut-offs and crop tops waiting for autographs from lead singer, Nicholas Petricca. He patiently signed every single one.

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On the opposite side of the festival grounds, the Goo Goo Dolls show was well underway. Performing a mix of new and classic favorites, the band’s stage was packed. Although I missed a portion of this set, I did catch “Name” and can happily report that Johnny Rzeznik’s voice remains in perfect condition. It might be easy to dismiss both the Goo Goo Dolls and day-two headliner Matchbox Twenty but let’s be real, these bands have made the impossible happen by creating a catalogue of hits that haven’t lost their magic over the decades. Kudos to them for continuing to make music and charm audiences the world over.

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Filling in for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Raphael Saadiq, was a perfect replacement. His soulful vocals alongside a high-energy band gave the ideal ending for the two-day music festival. While some of the crowd might not have been as familiar with Saadiq, they loosened up to dance along to “Heart Attack” at the start of the set and let those vibes carry them through”Stone Rollin’.”

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Overall, it was another successful event on the books for the Basilica Block Party team and their sponsors. I’m already looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the 20th annual festival.

Day Two Artists:
Bomba De Luz
Van Stee
On An On
Kate Earl
Cloud Cult
Walk The Moon
Raphael Saadiq
Goo Goo Dolls
Matchbox Twenty

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