First in a series exploring Minnesota's favorite season.
Look at the feet, in their sandals and flip-flops, tennis shoes and teetery heels. Glance down the row of park benches facing the stage, or at the blankets spread on the civic green, and watch everyone's feet.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
When it comes to summer concerts, the toe bone is connected to the ear bone.
On this particular evening at the Como Lakeside Pavilion, toes bounced to irresistible dance beats first laid down by the likes of Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington -- beats that now enjoy an eternal encore with the Minneapolis Police Swing Band, which turned the joint into a swanky open-air nightclub. Saxophones crooned, mixing a musical cocktail for the brassy trumpets, while the trombones growled like bouncers, enforcing the beat.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
The night before, a community band played circus marches and movie tunes. Another evening brought the ringing chords of a barbershop chorus. Music goes on like this all summer in parks and bandshells across Minnesota. Wise musicians bring clothespins to pinion their scores against a sudden breeze. Concertgoers gauge the sun, choosing between warmth or shade as they settle in for Satchmo, or Schubert, or Sousa.
The concerts are casual. At Como, people wandered in and out, prompted by their dogs' needs or the evening's chill. A mother heel-toed a polka with her toddler, while an older couple danced seamlessly to "Satin Doll." In the distance, a dog barked, a siren whooped. The audience applauded a tasty lick by the gravelly bari sax.
The listeners were thanked for attending, but really, the band would have played to an empty house. The 17 police officers, active and retired (and a few civilians), don't do this for money, and the fame lasts about as long as the concert. Yet the larger police band has played since 1917, longer than any other police band in the country.
That's something, even in Minnesota, where it's fair to say that few summer nights pass without someone, somewhere, performing music that's as free as the fireflies, setting toes in motion.