Crowd, sun push Rock the Garden to full bloom

The Walker's Rock the Garden concert grew in size even without household band names.

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David Byrne suggested they call it Rock the Parking Lot when he headlined in 2004. This year, however, the Walker Art Center's outdoor Rock the Garden concert Saturday could have been called Whimper at the Grassy Knoll, thanks to a nicely relocated stage in front of a hill where the Guthrie Theater used to stand and a lineup that was far from rock-heavy.

Co-produced by hipster public radio station the Current (89.3 FM), the four-band, six-hour party -- located next to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden but never inside it -- drew close to 10,000 music fans despite its lack of household-name performers.

Folk-rock band the Decemberists from Portland, Ore., topped off the bill with plans to perform a dramatic 17-song rock opera. Hazy, bouncy Minneapolis quintet Solid Gold kicked things off under sunblock-demanding clear skies.

"We couldn't have asked for a better day or a better crowd," singer Zach Coulter declared.

It was definitely the biggest crowd ever for Rock the Garden, a membership drive for both the Walker and the Current. Organizers doubled the concession stands and let fans stretch out on the hill next to the museum, future home of an expanded sculpture garden.

Watching the bands from a perch near the museum, Leah Wilkes of Minneapolis hoped the expansion won't come too soon.

"They made it more intimate, and more like a real concert site," Wilkes said.

"There's not a bad sight line here."

Read a review of Rock the Garden at startribune.com/music or in Monday's Variety section.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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