Lessons From Basilica Block Party

A first-timer learns why the Twin Cities love to “praise the loud”

The Basilica of Saint Mary. Photo by madison bloomquist

A confession: I’d never attended Basilica Block Party before this year. I don’t know why. I love outdoor concerts, I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for a few years, and I’m usually all for events that support a good cause. But something about the poppy, semi-acoustic sets never interested me until this year, when I finally bought tickets to both nights of the 22nd-annual fundraiser, crossed it off my Twin Cities bucket list, and learned some important lessons about one of the summer’s biggest parties.

There was so much to do. I was expecting to simply wander among the three music stages and eventually call it quits for the night. Don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of that—but even with two nights and nearly 11 hours of music, I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of other options. The Minnesota State Lottery-sponsored Silent Disco gave attendees the perfect excuse to dance as though no one was watching—slip on a pair of headphones, step onto the dance floor, and hear a beat no one else in the tent’s crowd could hear. I ate my weight in free samples of yogurt from Libertine and granola bars from Nature Valley, but managed to save room for food trucks such as Rusty Taco. I even got a full tour of the Basilica itself, and learned the difference from a basilica and cathedral. And hearing Andra Day belt out her radio hit “Rise Up” from inside that stately, historic building was perhaps more moving than hearing it in the crowd outside.

Even if I had only stuck to the music, I wouldn’t have been bored. I have pretty diverse music tastes and can’t seem to stick to the same genre for more than an hour at a time. While the Block Party offered mostly pop music with a few sprinkles of acoustic guitar or alternative rock, concert-goers could expand their musical horizons with local bands’ raw and largely unknown talent, Gary Clark Jr.’s jazzy vibes, and Milky Chance’s reggae-inspired tunes. I rediscovered some songs I forgot I loved and found some new favorite Twin Cities-based artists.

Music wasn’t the only thing on people’s minds. Several artists spoke about the previous week’s violence in Minnesota and across the country. According to City Pages, Andra Day said, “There have been too many deaths and too many families are hurting,” after a protest song. Holidae’s singer, Ashley Gold, wore a dress that said, “Hoods Up & Hands Up & Don’t Shoot & I Can’t Breathe.” Main stage bands briefly mentioned the tragedies, but kept their sets upbeat and hopeful by reminding concert-goers of music’s power to bring people together.

My ears rang until Monday morning and I had overpriced beer spilled on nearly every item of clothing I wore, but it was a beautiful weekend to stand in the glittery evening sun and hear the music. I struggled to stand on uneven pavement for hours on end, but relished waving my arms in the air shoulder-to-shoulder with 25,000 other music-lovers who trekked to the Basilica for a similar reason: to let real life go and simply enjoy the music.