River's Edge debut delightful

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2012 - 10:38 AM

Tool, Dave Matthews and "silent disco" are among the festival's attractions.

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Sunshine, the skyline of downtown St. Paul and "silent disco." Then lasers, spectacular lights and mind-numbing metal at night. What more could you want for the inaugural $4.8 million River's Edge Music Festival on Harriet Island?

Well, other better-known bands besides the Dave Matthews Band and Tool, which headlined Saturday's opening festivities, put together by Live Nation, the world's biggest concert promoter.

"This is really premier," said Chloe Kruckenberg, 25, of Minneapolis, who was with her mother.

"This is set up well," said her mom, Jenny Kruckenberg, 52, of Inver Grove Heights. "I could find the ATMs. Security went well."

Jeremy Coffman, 33, a St. Paul native who lives in Minneapolis, gave thumbs up to the ambitious new festival in a city park that had seen the successful Riverfest in the 1980s, Lollapalooza in the '90s and the spotty and eventually bankrupt Taste of Minnesota in this century.

"I like the five-year contract [for the fest]," Coffman said. "It's easy to move around here. Taste of Minnesota always sucked. Harriet Island needs more of this."

The most curious attraction at the two-day fest has to be "silent disco," one of four stages at River's Edge. A DJ spins the music, but the sound is audible only via headphones (free rent, with a $10 deposit). Watch people dancing their hearts out, but headphone-free spectators have no idea if the beats are from some hip European techno artist or Carly Rae Jepson's bubblegum pop smash "Call Me Maybe."

"This is crazy awesome," said silent disco listener Trevor Newman, 19, of Lindstrom, Minn.

"It's all right in your ears so you get the full effect," interjected Sam Martin, 17, also of Lindstrom. "You don't hear anyone, but everybody's shuffling."

Newman was "sketchy about the music at first because I didn't know the bands" except Tool. "But this is worth every penny."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman was all excited about the new event. "It's spectacular," he said at dinnertime. "Beautiful setup, lots of folks, beautiful night."

More than 20,000 turned out to see 16 acts over 10 hours -- 11 if you stuck around for the extra hour of silent disco. "We couldn't be happier with the way thing have turned out for the first year," said Mark Campana, co-president of Live Nation North America.

Live Nation shelled out $3 million for Tool, Matthews, Flaming Lips and two dozen club-level bands. Another $1.8 million has been spent on production and facilities, including water-refill stations and a mammoth main stage.

Other features that set River's Edge apart from Taste and other predecessors on Harriet Island include valet bicycle parking, computer-chip wristbands (instead of tickets), giant LED video screens by the main stage, cellphone-charging kiosks, several food trucks and even a sit-down restaurant with wait staff.

The only lines seemed to be people eight-deep at portable toilets near the main stage.

There also was a short line of folks in suits and dresses waiting to board the Jonathan Padelford boat for a late-afternoon wedding reception. Missing was the nephew of the groom. He had bought Tool tickets before he knew about the wedding.

"I told him to go have fun," said his mother, Lori Nelson, of Falcon Heights.

Joanne Nelson, of Jordan, another sister of the groom, figured that she'd check out the concert after the reception. "The way we're dressed, we should be able to get backstage," she joked.

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    Sunday: Dave Matthews Band, Flaming Lips, Puscifer, more.

    Where: Harriet Island, downtown St. Paul.

    Tickets: $90 at the gate.

    Info: www.RiversEdgeMusicFestival.com.

    SEE photo galleries from the fest at startribune.com/galleries

    COMING MONDAY See the Variety section for a festival wrapup.

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