After dreams of hosting the Replacements never came close to being true last year, Rock the Garden organizers managed to nab another influential Minneapolis band’s heavily anticipated hometown reunion gig this summer: Babes in Toyland were just announced as part of the June 21 lineup at the two-day music festival outside Walker Art Center. The full RTG 2015 schedule was slowly revealed Tuesday on air at 89.3 the Current, which co-presents the event.
Slotted as the second-to-last act on the Sunday show, Babes have only played two shows so far on a gradually rolling reunion run that started last month with a pair of well-received California gigs. They’re doing a short U.K. tour in May before RTG. This will be the internationally celebrated roar-rock trio’s first performance in 18 years in Minneapolis, where frontwoman Kat Bjelland and drummer Lori Barbero still call home.
“I remember saying that Babes will never play again,” Barbero admitted in our feature story off of the first of those shows. “Time and love heals. I’m such a happier person because of this.”
Although it would have been more meaningful for old-school fans having Babes back at First Avenue instead – you can bet the club will still try to make that happen after RTG – the outdoor festival is nonetheless a good fit for the punk vets. They’ve only been playing hour-long sets. Also, like the 'Mats did at the three Riot Fests, they will no doubt be performing in front of fans too young to have ever seen them in concert. Here’s hoping this means Babes will now get into heavy rotation on 89.3 the Current, too, like most of the other RTG performers already are.
Tickets for the Garden party go on sale Thursday for Walker and Minnesota Public Radio members. Here’s the full schedule.
SATURDAY, JUNE 20
Belle & Sebastian: Though they've never had a mainstream crossover hit like the other RTG headliner, the bookwormy, Glasgow-reared pop-rockers have a cultish following of the Smiths variety, making them a big name to a small (but very Current-centric) crowd. They also don't get out much. This will be their first Twin Cities show since 2006 at the Orpheum.
Conor Oberst: The Omaha-bred frontman/namesake of Bright Eyes has been a Twin Cities favorite going back to his early-'00s gigs at the 400 Bar and a core part of the Current's playlist going back to its beginning in 2005. He's never played Rock the Garden before, though. Perhaps he was waiting to finally put out a record that suits RTG's sunny summer vibe, as did last year's solo album "Upside Down Mountain."
Courtney Barnett: The lo-fi Australian rocker -- who told us how much she loved Odetta and Kurt Cobain in an interview last year -- scored an indie hit last year with her gardening-gone-bad epic "Avant Gardner." She's now lined up to make a big splash at next week's South by Southwest Music Conference ahead of the release of her debut full-length album.
Lucius: Led by visually and harmonically matched singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, this Brooklyn art-pop quintet has been charming audiences going back to a lively 2013 Entry show whose audience included Current assistant program director David Safar (i.e., it's not a coincidence the station got in on them early).
The Stand4rd: The hometown electro-R&B/rap quartet featuring Kanye’s new 21-year-old protégé Allan Kingdom and hypersexual high schooler Spooky Black, plus Bobby Raps of Audio Perm and producer Psymun.
SUNDAY, JUNE 21
Modest Mouse: Remember them? The idiosyncratic Washington State rockers put out some great records in the '00s, had a big hit with "Float On" in 2004 and went on to become a top draw at festivals. However, the quality of their live shows became as inconsistent as the frequency of their albums. Their first new record since 2007, "Strangers to Ourselves," is due out Tuesday.
Babes in Toyland: In their day, these raging riot-grrrls put on shows that were truly riotous, with Bjelland's manic vocals able to rattle the windows on clubs and hard-punding rhythms that spawned mosh pits. Come to think of it, they will be the heaviest/thrashiest band to ever play RTG.
JD McPherson: Oklahoma’s burgeoning rockabilly revivalist has an especially strong local following and just put out an especially solid sophomore album. He and his sparkplug of a band kicked off their tour with a sold-out First Ave show last month.
Seun Kuti: A bold pick that's more in line with the Walker's music bookings outside of RTG, this rising Afrobeat star is the son of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti. He earned raves last year off a Cedar Cultural Center gig with his band Egypt 80. Kuti's set will hark back to the memorable performance by the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at Rock the Garden in 2004, before the Current was the museum's partner for the event.
Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: After a couple lackluster attempts at starting a music career like his Beatle dad John and half-brother Julian, Sean Lennon seems to be on track with his psychedelic group with girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl, who put on a fun and wee bit freaky show in the Entry last year. Lennon also has familial ties to the Walker via his mother Yoko Ono, who has a piece on display there now as part of the museum’s 75th anniversary collection.