Two giants of the Upper Midwest arts scenes will reemerge together next summer when Bon Iver headlines the annual Rock the Garden concert at the newly refurbished Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on July 22.
Walker Art Center and 89.3 the Current announced the details of their fundraiser rock fest as tickets went on sale to members Wednesday, four months earlier than usual. The advance warning gives them a jump ahead in the increasingly crowded summer concert calendar, but it also reflects the general excitement over this particular headliner.
“As long as we had Bon Iver confirmed, we just figured, ‘Why wait?’ ” Walker publicist Rachel Joyce said.
Led by Eau Claire, Wis.-based indie-rock guru Justin Vernon, Bon Iver played one of its/his first big festival gigs at Rock the Garden in 2008 but has not performed in the Twin Cities since 2011, a few months before winning a Grammy Award for best new artist.
Vernon put Bon Iver on hiatus in 2012 as the hoopla around his group spiraled. He only just started touring again this past summer and fall around the release of his band’s third album, “22, A Million.”
“It just seemed like it was time to set it down; I didn’t feel like I was in control,” he told the Star Tribune of Bon Iver in 2015 around the launch of his own hometown festival, the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. That festival, where his band played for the first time in three years, gave Vernon “the gateway to start thinking about [Bon Iver] again in a very healthy way,” he said.
The Eaux Claires fest may have also played a role in next year’s Rock the Garden plans. Dates for the third annual installment of Eaux Claires have already been announced for June 16-17, 2017 — the weekend RTG is typically held. Moving the date of RTG to July 22 and landing Bon Iver as its headliner doubly solved that conflict.
It was bound to be an atypical year for Rock the Garden anyway. Walker Art Center has been extensively overhauling its sculpture garden and the surrounding grounds. Other events around the garden’s reopening are planned for June. The ongoing construction work forced this year’s Rock the Garden to move to Boom Island Park along the Mississippi River.
Despite the overhaul, Rock the Garden will be laid out much like it was in the prior years outside the Walker on the hillside next to the museum. Sight lines will have to be adjusted around newly planted trees, and more activity is planned inside the Sculpture Garden itself, where a second stage will be erected. It will remain a one-day event in 2017.
Tickets will be available to Walker and Minnesota Public Radio members starting Wednesday at 10 a.m. through Friday at 10 a.m. for $64 via WalkerArt.org and TheCurrent.org. VIP passes will rise in price to $300 with a few new extras attached. Both organizations use the event to drive up membership, so don’t expect many of the 11,000 or so tickets to be left when the general public can buy tickets come April.