Beat-up acoustic instruments and pristine weather reigned supreme at the Basilica Block Party's second day, but mostly it felt like the sold-out crowd was never really all that plugged in to the music.
For the second night, the 18th annual beer-soaked fundraiser topped out on crowd size with 16,500 attendees, making it one of the event's biggest years. Saturday certainly wasn't one of the block party's most rapturously received lineups, however. While Friday's rainy festivities revolved around one dominant band, Train, the second day offered nothing but sunshine and no band with that star power.
Main-stage (Sun Country Stage) headliners the Avett Brothers did draw a small diehard crowd that sang over the din of all the chatty audience members, especially to cheery favorites such as "Kick Drum Heart." The Avetts' rootsy, folk- and bluegrass-inflected sound also set the tone for Saturday, heavy on string-picking, chord-strumming bands.
The main stage's opener, the Lumineers, performed a nearly all-acoustic hourlong set. Even their cover of Bob Dylan's gone-electric classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was played acoustic (which missed the mark and the point). The Denver trio -- upsized to a quintet on tour -- still had too small and raw of a sound to draw in the big crowd, which frontman Wesley Schultz claimed was their largest yet. Hopefully, they won't add the cheesy soft-jazz coating that did nothing to liven up London band Graffiti6's drab, downbeat folk-pop songs.
Of the more "electric" bands, Los Angeles' R&B boppers Fitz & the Tantrums resoundingly livened things up. The only problem was they played the basilica just last year and didn't change things much. At least frontman Michael Fitzpatrick wore a T-shirt instead of a sweaty sports coat. The hard-grooving version of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" was a smart add, too.
There was also a same-old vibe for the little-known, locally reared Stuart D'Rozario, who unjustifiably made it to the large second stage (Walser Stage) while the more popular and active Twin Cities bands were on the small Vita.mn Stage, where there was a whole lot of strumming going on, too. Opening band the Boys N' the Barrels started with its bouncy, bluegrassy, banjo-led barnstormers. Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles incorporated some of the electricity from their new album along with their old, folky, ukulele-plucked charm. Twangy Americana rockers Farewell Milwaukee pulled off one of the night's highlights when they truly went unplugged and jumped in the crowd for "Lovable/Kind."
"Lovable" was a suitable word for the Avetts, even though they too are recycled, from 2009. Their songs from an album due in September showed more sophisticated twang-pop power. Scrappier, more rustic old tunes such as "Love Like Movies" and "Pretty Girl at the Airport" fit the night's breeze-swaying summer vibe and the crowd's romanticism. No wonder they were asked back.