Concert review: Rain couldn’t bring down soaring Trampled By Turtles set at Bayfront
For those who went the distance, the first major concert of the season at Bayfront Festival Park ended with rain-soaked shoes and a group singalong-and-bounce to a favorite by the headlining band.
It felt like being cast in the triumphant final scene of an indie flick.
That was the reward for Trampled by Turtles fans who lingered at Amsoil Arena during the Saturday night concert’s lightning delay and then returned to the park — despite the unyielding rain — to see the final act of a four-band bill finish its set.
And, oh, what a show.
Music fans, you know the story about the Wilco concert in 2007: A big ship emerges from the fog and crosses behind the stage at Bayfront. Frontman Jeff Tweedy turns his head and acknowledges that, whoa, this is cool and everyone gets a little goosebumpy. The story is repeated so many times that even if you weren’t there, you kind of forget and think maybe you were.
That bit of venue legend has been one-upped. Heck, maybe nine-, ten-, eleven-upped.
It had been raining for a while when Trampled by Turtles took the stage Saturday. The headliners for a concert that included Haley Bonar, Low and Doomtree opened with the sweet-voiced Tim Saxhaug taking lead on a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.” Lightning lit the southwest sky, but the band played on.
Then the lightning got closer.
(This all was probably Doomtree’s fault. The Minneapolis hip-hop collective zigged and zagged on stage under ominous clouds. When the rain began to pour, it felt like their energy had wrung out the clouds).
Trampled announced that it was calling the show after one more song. With little fanfare — like the sky was a stopwatch — it busted out a new one, “Are You Behind the Shining Star?” The song is the first track from “Wild Animals,” which is scheduled for release in mid-July.
Then the guys huddled and seemed reluctant to leave the fans who once packed Pizza Luce to see them perform — back before they were in David Letterman’s Rolodex. Dave Simonett edited the previous announcement: Yes, the stage is a lightning rod, he acknowledged. But the band would continue to play, committing to one song at a time.
Right on cue, lightning caused a house-light glow across the stage. The crowd whoa-ed and backed up and that was it. Night over.
Except it wasn’t over.
A Duluth Entertainment Convention Center employee invited the thousands of remaining fans into Amsoil Arena for a wait-and-see. If the lightning let up within a half-hour, he said, the show would go on.
Some fans left with their wet blankets. Some made the trek to the arena and were entertained by a guy who got inside the ice-less rink, danced around a would-be faceoff circle, and played air banjo for the crowd — until security spotted him.
The next announcement from DECC officials, about 15 minutes later, included bad news and good news: It was still raining — lots, actually — but the show would go on.
Those who remained passed back through the gates at Bayfront and crested the hill to see the five-man bluegrass band lit in a soft blue glow, quietly playing a fitting pick: “Duluth.”
“Still I like the quiet / Of Duluth in the winter / In the sacred bond / There’s no place like home,” Simonett sang.
The lightning never made another appearance, but man was it wet. Ankle-deep streams formed in front of the stage and the park was slick with mud. Hair stuck like leeches to faces.
Trampled by Turtles played for about 45 minutes, a second show that included a mix of new and old. Bodies packed close together like old friends in front of the stage. The crowd bounced along on “Wait So Long.” And during “Wild Animals,” steam puffed from the singers’ mouths.
Someone presented the band with plastic glasses with a shot’s worth of amber liquid and the guys smiled, made the universal sign for “cheers,” and drank.
“It’s a War” included strobe lights.
In between songs, a seemingly earnest Simonett repeatedly thanked the crowd — which felt about as unnecessary as responding, “You’re welcome for letting you continue to play a wet guitar when you could be snug at the Red Herring Lounge, making cameos in an Actual Wolf set.”
Trampled closed with “Alone,” a starts-slow, ramps-up single from its last album, “Stars and Satellites.” Those three minutes felt epic and cinematic.
When it was over, a few fans called for “one more song” like they always do, and it was funny. Trampled already had gone far above and far beyond.