What makes summer in Minnesota so special? The music, of courseA rundown of Minnesota's numerous summer music festivals.
When it comes to summer music festivals, Minnesotans are rarely without options.
Kicking off things this weekend in Winsted (south-central Minnesota) is the 2010 edition of Winstock Country Music Festival. It’s bigger than ever — thanks in no small part to headliners like Alan Jackson and Dierks Bentley.
General admission passes cost $100 ($150 for reserved seats), and a camping pass is only $85 (plus $20 for each vehicle). Visit www.winstockfestival.com for ordering information.
Come Wednesday, you’ll want to head over Walker way for Jammin’ Country, Moondance Jam management’s foray into country music.
Although it’s only a couple years old, festival promoter Bill Bieloh has managed to secure Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and the Zac Brown Band as headliners for the four-day festival.
There are also planned performances by Kellie Pickler, Neal McCoy and perennial favorites the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“I’m excited to see the Zac Brown Band,” Bieloh told the Budgeteer in an e-mail. “He’s wild and crazy. I don’t really like country, but I do like him!”
Passes start at $170 for the entire four-day experience (camping extra), but, as is usually the case, you can save some money if you buy your passes ahead of time. For the full lineup and ticket options, visit www.jammincountry.com.
Self-proclaimed music geeks will surely dig next Saturday’s Rock the Garden at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center. This one-day festival, 3 to 10:30 p.m. June 19, will feature performances by MGMT, OK Go, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and one of Duluth’s finest exports, Retribution Gospel Choir.
All general admission tickets are sold out but some pricey VIP tickets are still available for those that just need to get in. Contact the Walker at (612) 375-7656 to try your luck.
The formerly free Taste of Minnesota festival (it’s now $20 before 4 p.m., $30 if you arrive in the evening) returns July 2-5 in St. Paul on Harriet Island with four distinct nights of headliners: The Current will host Minus the Bear and other indie rock favorites July 2; KQRS will sponsor a classic rock who’s-who with Sammy Hagar and Foreigner’s Lou Gramm July 3; Cities97 will host Gin Blossoms, Needtobreathe and Counting Crows July 4; and 93X is bringing back the ’90s July 5 with 311 and the Offspring.
Many more musical acts are also performing throughout the day — including Haley Bonar, Charlie Parr, Mark Mallman and Retribution Gospel Choir — so be sure to keep your eyes on www.tasteofmn.com for updates.
A number of highly regarded rock acts will come together July 9-10 for the 16th annual Cities97 Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis (at the historic Basilica of St. Mary). Headliners include Weezer, Spoon, the Avett Brothers, Guster, Ingrid Michaelson and Barenaked Ladies. Two-night passes are $70; details at BasilicaBlockParty.org.
After a short recovery period, popular classic rock festival Moondance Jam reclaims its place from the cowboys on the Bieloh family ranch July 14-17. Celebrating its 19th birthday, the latest Jam will feature an interesting mix of ’90s rockers (Tonic, Hoobastank, Collective Soul and Buckcherry) and your more-traditional classic rockers (like REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Sammy Hagar).
A special note to Northlanders: We all know how much you love your Hairball. They’ll be rocking the main stage at 10:30 p.m. July 14.
But who is Bieloh most excited to see?
“Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he said. “Because they do rock.”
Tickets for the Jam are $160 for the whole event (again, camping extra) or $85 for a day pass. For full details, call (877) 666-6526 or visit MoondanceJam.com.
If rock ‘n’ roll isn’t your (life)style, Willmar’s SonShine Festival is a faith-based alternative being offered during the weekend of Moondance.
More than 100 bands — including headliners like Needtobreathe, Skillet, the Newsboys and the O.C. Supertones — are spread across more than 80 acres to accommodate all of the action. Tickets are available at www.itickets.com or (800) 965-9324. For more information, visit www.sonshinefestival.com.
While the weekend after Moondance and SonShine usually belongs to the hippies, the annual 10,000 Lakes Festival at the Soo Pass Ranch near Detroit Lakes is, sadly, on hiatus until further notice. A note on the formerly star-studded event’s website says that “Unfortunately, 10KLF could not grow to financial success.”
Next up on the summer schedule is WE Fest, Soo Pass Ranch’s original get-together. The legendary country festival will be held Aug. 5-7, and it will feature some of the biggest names operating in and around country today: Kid Rock (no joke), Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Gretchen Wilson — to name just a few.
Since there are numerous ticket configurations, visit www.wefest.com to find out what will work best for you and/or your party.
Contrary to WE Fest’s party atmosphere is the Higher Ground Music Festival, which kicks out patrons if they’re caught with alcohol or tobacco.
Held Aug. 13-14 in Winsted (the Winstock location), Higher Ground is a lot like SonShine. It features big-name faith acts like Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Schultz and Hawk Nelson.
Tickets are going for $56 for the whole event and $30 for camping. For details, go to www.hgmusicfest.com.
Rounding out the summer festival season is Kick’n Up Kountry in Thief River Falls. This Labor Day weekend event will feature country favorites Little Texas, Highway 101 and up-and-coming North Dakota act 32 Below (whose members perform at just about every similar festival in the state, including WE Fest and Jammin’ Country).
It was started by Ardell Larson, a 20-year veteran of the WE Fest scene.
“I guess I’m just a crazy blonde,” she told the Budgeteer in a past interview.
Having attended WE Fest from the start — and watching it rise in popularity — she felt a country festival would be beneficial to the economy of northwestern Minnesota. Larson called it “a goal and a challenge,” saying it’s easy to get the big names — but not always easy finding the money for them.
Like the other bigger festivals, Kick’n Up Kountry features on-site camping and more-expensive VIP tickets with special incentives. For information, see www.kicknupkountry.com.
Also of note
The Minnesota Zoo continues its acclaimed Music in the Zoo series with performances through Sept. 4. Some of this year’s headliners include the Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Devo, Gear Daddies, Greg Brown, Los Lobos, Hanson, Crowded House and George Thorogood (with the Destroyers, of course). For full details, visit www.mnzoo.org/events/musicinZoo.asp.
As in years past, the Minnesota State Fair’s grandstand lineup features some of the biggest names in the singer/songwriter genre (Brandi Carlile), classic rock (Kiss, Rush), modern rock (Seether, Hinder) country (Carrie Underwood) and humor (“Weird Al” Yankovic, Garrison Keillor). For ticket prices and dates, call (651) 288-4427 or visit www.mnstatefair.org.
Thrifty types will still find much to love, as this year’s free entertainment includes some of the best to date: Trampled by Turtles, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Rosanne Cash are just some of the artists doing it for the applause.
Budgeteer editor Matthew R. Perrine can be reached at email@example.com.