The Basilica Block Party is sponsored by Cities 97. But the first night of the 16th annual church kegger felt more like a 89.3 the Current-affiliated show, what with Spoon headlining the smaller stage on Friday. On Saturday, the Basilica had more of a Cities vibe with longtime station favorites Barenaked Ladies, Guster and Ingrid Michaelson on the big stage.
Both stations could claim small-stage stars the Avett Brothers and V V Brown, though the Current probably started playing those artists before Cities did.
Enough with the radio rivalry. How was the music on Day 2? Here are some reflections as I bounced back and forth from the Sun Country Stage (the big one in the parking lot behind the Basilica) to the M&Ms Stage (smaller one in front of the Basilica).
Breakout star. Sporting black Spandex and feathers, V V Brown, the London model-turned-singer, showed lots of energy and attitude -- likable attitude that is. Backed by a trio of musicians and plenty of recorded music, she sashayed through an array of vintage R&B and pop (from girl-group pop to swinging jump blues to Dusty Springfield-like soul). Her sound evoked Amy Winehouse and Adele but the tall, vivacious Brown made many new fans beyond those who only knew her hit “Shark in the Water.”
Put up a Disco Parking Lot. After grooving in a disco mode in the parking lot in front of the Sun Country Stage, Boston popsters and Basilica vets Guster closed with a couple of crowd-pleasing hits, “Careful” and “Barrel of a Gun,” which had the parking lot bouncing like a disco floor.
Paging BNL. Without co-frontman Steven Page (fired last year because of drug problems), Barenaked Ladies sounded a little thin as a quartet. But they still revel in their humor, even if Ed Robertson gave a dumb shout-out to a guy who’d just exited a port-o-potty and Robertson rapped as the rest of the band sang Pilot’s cheesy 1975 hit “Magic.”
Hash or alcohol? While Weezer sang about a hash pipe on Friday, BNL drummer Tyler Stewart invited fans on Saturday to go to hell with him for one song in the shadow of the Basilica – “Alcohol,” which sounded even more sophomoric than usual, performed at a church kegger. Tyler, please report for confession.
Wedding band. The Avett Brothers were arguably the Basilica’s most exciting booking. The North Carolina quintet mixed bluegrass, punk, pop, harmonies, cello and y’alls into a vibrant, intoxicating stew that was two parts hipster, one part old-school and completely cool (unless you insist on perfect bluegrass harmonies). To top it off, a guy near the front of the stage proposed to his girlfriend (who said “Yes”) so the Avetts broke into “January Wedding.”
Nothing but blue skies. The backdrop for the Sun Country stage was the downtown Minneapolis skyline. This year, if you looked to left, you could see the canopy of Target Field – all lit up. The backdrop for the M&Ms Stage is a constant flow of headlights and tailights going by Walker Art Center. At one point, though, during the Avett Brothers, the sky behind the smaller stage was a gorgeous Maxfield Parrish blue.
No room in the pews. At both stages, Cities 97 DJs announced a “sell-out crowd of 15,000.” There sure were plenty of open spaces for a sold-out show. I’ve been to Basilica Block parties that were more crowded. Still, Saturday’s crowd was 2,000 more than Friday's.