How perfect that the most local Rock the Garden concert of all time kicked off with a tune by one of the most celebrated local bands of all time, played by one of the most debated local bands of all time. Howler opened the six-hour, five-band affair right at 3:45 p.m. today with a cover of Hüsker Dü’s “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely.” Read into the choice however you will, what with Howler frontman Jordan Gatesmith’s comments about the Twin Cities music scene being in a lull pretty much since the 80s. At least the 20-year-old rocker and his bandmates did the song justice, igniting it with snarly guitars and jagged rhythms, which continued through the rest of their set.
After spending much of the past year on the road, Gatesmith & Co. have the live versions of theirs songs down pat – as tight as Gatesmith’s jeans, if you will. The half-full crowd outside Walker Art Center were sort of ho-hum about the Current-spun radio tracks “Told You Once” and “Back of Your Neck” (the latter of which closed the half-hour set), but deeper cuts such as “Wailing (Making Out)” and “This One’s Different” sparked some dancing and heavier head-bobbing. Gatesmith joked between songs about scalping his extra Rock the Garden tickets, and how the day “feeling very pastel.” No surprise, his mouthiness was about the only thing people didn’t like.
Tune-Yards are up next. I saw the Trampled by Turtles backstage, who seemed extra excited about playing to their biggest almost-hometown crowd ever today. They got a little extra boost in the ego department going into tonight's show after their gig last night in Bayfield, Wis., where they shattered the attendance record at the Big Top Chautauqua. So far, the rain has held off since gates opened, and concertgoers are doing a great job fending off the sweat with the cold, plentiful Summit beer.