Rock the Garden: First-Time Diary from the 17th Summer Kickoff

A love for music unites a wide variety of concertgoers at Rock the Garden, which upped the ante this year by expanding its slate from one to two days. As a first time garden rocker, I couldn’t believe that so many people (nearly 10,000 per day) flocked to the Walker for the festival which, because it had effectively doubled its capacity, had tickets available on the day of the show for the first time in years. Saturday didn’t feel sparsely attended, though–the hillside was packed with people claiming their spots with blankets, soaking up the sun and munching on fair-style local food and drink (a combination of Butcher & the Boar brats and Summit beer have a tendency to keep concertgoers happy).

My highlight of the day was when I made my way on up to the front for the Matt and Kim set–a Brooklyn-based indie, punk dance duo, notorious for their party-starting music and on-stage risk-taking. Their audacious, infectious adrenaline helped the couple command the stage and unnite with the audience. Kim appealingly spanked her tush (clad in American flag-printed pants), stood up on her drum set, and danced while a fan held her up by her feet. She burst with energy that inspired the crowd to let loose, unleash their craziest dance moves, get up on each other’s shoulders, and crowd surf. Matt was the same way–I came away doubting that the couple ever sleeps.

Lizzo, Minneapolis alternative hip-hop singer and rapper, won me over with her overall fierce vibe and feisty lyrics. (My new jam: her song “Batches and Cookies,” which repeats the title over and over again. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.) She wore a floral dress with high-top sneakers, a gold-studded denim jacket, a chain necklace, and giant hoop earrings–an outfit as bold as her sound. I even spotted her curly blonde hair at the side of the stage when she danced along to support later performances by Matt and Kim and De La Soul.

Whether attendees were music aficionados or festival novices, Rock the Garden satisfies for all sorts of music lovers with tastes ranging from rap to indie pop. I had barely heard of Matt and Kim, but now I’m inspired to check out more music from the other acts and tune into 89.3 The Current to prepare myself for next year’s lineup. Indeed, I’m counting the days until next summer’s RTG. Until then, find me blasting that Lizzo song with the windows down. Summer has officially begun.