New St. Paul fest starting out big

Tool and the Dave Matthews Band will headline three dozen acts, with even bigger plans for 2013 on Harriet Island.

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The Dave Matthews Band

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Two bands that have packed Xcel Energy Center in the past will stretch out on St. Paul's Harriet Island this summer as headliners for the River's Edge Music Festival, an inaugural two-day event whose organizers hope will draw 40,000 people daily.

The talent lineup and the festival's name were revealed Thursday at an event overlooking the city-run park that has only seen one other music event, the Irish Fair, since the demise of Taste of Minnesota two summers ago.

"It really has been my goal as mayor to take advantage of that space," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman of the riverfront venue.

Arty metal kings Tool and bohemian jazz-rockers the Dave Matthews Band -- mainstays of the summer concert circuit -- will top out the June 23 and 24 lineups, respectively. Some of the other 30 or so (mostly rock) acts assembled by concert promoter Live Nation include the Flaming Lips, Mutemath, Coheed and Cambria, Brand New, Diplo, Scissor Sisters and local bands Poliça and Motion City Soundtrack.

Representatives of Live Nation -- the Los Angeles-based global behemoth -- also revealed plans for an even more ambitious River's Edge next year featuring a second weekend of country music, a third day of rock, plus an electronic dance offshoot. The company signed a five-year minimum contract with the city to produce the festivals.

This year's could prove challenging enough. Live Nation's first-year investment is close to $4 million, an amount that co-president Mark Campana admitted he does not expect to make up in revenue.

"This is the year we'll have our training wheels on, and, hopefully, it will lead to many smooth years ahead," he said.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Campana was involved in efforts to build a large amphitheater in the Twin Cities, something most comparable metro areas have. "The fact that you do not have a major outdoor venue was the biggest magnet for getting us to do this festival," he said.

Island revival

While the mayor and Live Nation representatives touted the scenic location of River's Edge -- with four stages, including a DJ stage and smaller performance area on neighboring Raspberry Island -- other concert veterans remembered the difficulties in producing events on Harriet Island.

"It's a fun place to have a show, but it presents huge challenges," said Randy Levy of We Fest, who has presented events such as the Warped Tour there. "There are challenges in the traffic, parking and -- more than anything -- sound. The sound there bounces all around that river valley."

Harriet Island's success rate of late has been spotty. Its Fourth of July week mainstay, Taste of Minnesota, folded after two years under new managers, who had high aspirations but suffered from low turnout. A music fest started in 2007, the River Rocks Festival, lasted only two years.

However, Heart and Whitney Houston each drew around 50,000 fans to the island for RiverFest in the late 1980s (with $5-$8 tickets).

Live Nation representatives pointed out that giant video screens -- not seen in 1987 -- will help with the crowds.

City staffers said they are planning shuttle buses from various locations in and around downtown. The City Council passed variances Wednesday to allow the festival to proceed but with a 10 p.m. curfew. Food-services giant Aramark is the primary concessionaire, although local food vendors also will be brought in.

Two-day wristbands go on sale April 13 for $99 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com, or fans can buy them in person without service fees at Xcel Energy Center's box office through April 20. Single-day tickets will go on sale sometime in May for around $75. Prices will increase closer to the festival's dates.

Fireworks on July 4, too

As part of its deal with the city, Live Nation agreed to serve as an underwriter for fireworks off Harriet Island on the Fourth of July, which used to be Taste of Minnesota's domain. Proceeds from the festival will also go to the Children's Cancer Research Fund.

Motion City Soundtrack's Twin Cities-reared members Justin Pierre and Josh Cain said they are excited about performing on Harriet Island again, especially since the first time -- the Warped Tour in 2002 -- their band was mis-advertised as "Motor City Soundtrack."

"I went to Lollapalooza on the island when I was a kid and had the time of my life," said Pierre. "This harks back to that: a few dozen bands on different stages in a great outdoor setting."

Staff writer Jon Bream contributed to this report. See the full River's Edge lineup and more details at startribune.com/artcetera. Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

  • RIVER'S EDGE MUSIC FESTIVAL

    When: June 23-24

    Where: Harriet Island, St. Paul

    Tickets: $99 two-day wristbands on sale April 13

    Web: RiversEdge MusicFestival.com

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