Rock the Garden 2016. Photos by Hannah Johnson.
On June 18, more than 14,000 people gathered at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis for Rock the Garden 2016. The festival, which has been co-presented by the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current since 2008, had its usual lineup of indie-centric music, including M. Ward, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and headliners the Flaming Lips, who’s eccentric performance received mixed reviews. With temperatures in the high ’80s, festivalgoers sprawled across the park, trying to embrace the limited amount of shade. Others flocked to the many food trucks at the park for some cool relief, including local vegan-friendly ice cream vendor Fro Yo Soul and other booths with lemonade, bubble tea and alcoholic beverages.
As a loyal Current-listener who knows Mary Lucia’s voice like the back of my own hand, I’ve been counting down the days until my very first Rock the Garden since April when the lineup was announced. While I enjoyed every minute of the festival, here are a few of my favorite highlights:
1. Farewell to GRRRL Prty
GRRRL Prty brought a whole lot of girl power to the Rock the Garden stage for their last performance together as a group. DJ Shannon Blowtorch, and MCs Lizzo, Manchita and Sophia Eris kept the audience dancing despite the blistering sun, strutting across the stage while snapping photos and videos of themselves, which they later posted to social media. The most touching moment of the set was when Manchita took a break between songs to talk about her recent struggles with mental health. She told the audience that there is help available for those experiencing mental health issues, and encouraged everyone to donate to Abbott Northwestern, where she received treatment. This group of empowering and talented women will be dearly missed on Twin Cities stages.
2. Hometown Heroes Hippo Campus
Along with GRRRL Prty and Poliça, Hippo Campus helped maintain a strong Minnesotan presence in this year’s lineup. Despite their ever-growing popularity, the band members seemed genuinely happy and honored to be playing at the festival, thanking the fans between every few songs. The Current favorites played most of their popular hits (“Little Grace,” “Suicide Saturday”) and premiered some of their new songs, making me hopeful for a new album in the near future. From the excited reaction of the crowd, these local favorites are just getting started.
3. Chance Loves Children’s Television
For many young festivalgoers like myself, one of the best sets of the night was by Chance the Rapper. People started lining up by the stage more than an hour before, practicing the Chicago rapper’s signature yelp to pass the time before his performance. Chance kept the crowd on their toes, performing both new and old songs with contagious fervor. The stage’s security guards unintentionally added to his performance, as they aimed their hoses at the crowd while the lyrics “Rain down Zion, it’s gonna rain” from “Sunday Candy” blared on stage. My favorite part was when Chance covered the theme song from the children’s television show Arthur, transporting everyone in the audience back to their childhood. As the song goes, “what a wonderful kind of day!”
Chance the Rapper