The Bands of 10,000 Lakes, Part 1

Article Contributed by Janie Franz | Published on Thursday, March 15, 2007

With warmer temperatures, jamfans are already looking toward summer festivals. To tempt you further, we're going to take a look back at last year's 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota, the new kid on the festival circuit that is drawing fans to its musical honey and its truly sweet location. We'll show you a bit of what each day was like with a profile of a couple of bands that played there last year. A final installment will give you a glimpse into what to expect this summer.

Last year's fest was the fourth installment of 10K, each year, the festival gets bigger and better, and going greener and greener. The entire festival - from the big stage amps and lightracks to the bulbs in the bathrooms and in the vendor booths - was powered by wind energy through wind certificates bought for the festival.

Spread out over 600 acres of prime Minnesota lake country, there are 7,000 pristine campsites with showers, general stores, and acoustic entertainment tents would be the envy of any off-road resort. But when you throw in state-of-the-art sound systems, four stages, lots of dancing room, and a lineup that only comes in your dreams, the 10,000 Lakes Festival is rapidly becoming the destination jamfest of the season. It's even one that many artists are grabbing as an end-of-tour rest or an oasis within a hectic summer.

The 2006 10,000 Lakes Festival changed its dates to cover Wednesday through Saturday events, with the first night having a full lineup starting at 6 pm. The Main Stage was dark, but the Field Stage, the Barn Stage, and the intimate Saloon Stage showcased regional talent, up-and-coming new bands, and offered a venue for jam stalwarts, The Breakfast and The Samples. All sets were an hour and a half.  The official musical evening ended around 1:30 am, but music continued in small late-night jams in the campgrounds.


Three regional bands, Cosmic Railroad, Enchanted Ape at the Barn Stage, and the New Primitives on the Field Stage, opened the festival. Cosmic Railroad, a grassroots band from Wisconsin, drew a packed house in the Saloon. Its three guitars, a bass, and two drummers warmed up the stage and set the tone for things to come.

Enchanted Ape, based in Minneapolis, started a tad late but soon had the audience open-mouthed with the expertise of their electric cello player. Though it started to rain, the audience was protected somewhat by a new tarp over the Barn Stage. Unfortunately, it was less like a nylon tarp and more like netting. We all got misted, but since it was a hot evening, it was welcome. [See the band profile of Enchanted Ape in the website's archives.]

Out on the Field Stage, the sprinkles continued, but it never phased the audience. Under the leadership of drummer Stan Kipper, the New Primitives pulsed out Afro-Cuban rhythms and got everybody up and shaking it. One guy was really getting into it. While he spun around, you could read the back of his shirt: "Pray without ceasing." As the band went into "No Doubt About It, It Must Be Love," the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared. Amen.

The crowds grew as the night wore on, with the Saloon Stage SRO and the Barn Stage overflowing into the walkways. It was clear even then that the 10,000 Lakes Festival was facing record numbers. Trampled by Turtles, a speed bluegrass band from Duluth, that is a festival favorite, drew a gigantic crowd at the Barn Stage. The Samples, celebrating 20 years of touring in 2006, kept that crowd and added more to its late night revels.  The Barn Stage seemed to be the venue with the most bust-out crowds, other than the big Main Stage area.

Down on the Field Stage, it was always hard to judge the size of the crowds because the open space in front of the stage is so huge. It is usually straw-covered to keep down dust and to keep mud to a minimum. But Minnesota rains are usually short lived and the heat kept any moisture from turning to muck.


From this stage, Bockman, a four-piece band named from a character in a Kurt Vonnegut short story, twisted the audience's collective ears in their own brand of techno-urban-euro-pop. They were followed by The Breakfast, whose music rocked those early nighters in their beds back at camp, and kept the nightowls blissfully happy until they toddled back to their tents.

Up in the Saloon, Turbine, a New York duo newly mushroomed into a four-piece, offered their eclectic mix. They were followed by Unity, a reggae band from Wisconsin, that spread the love around. [See Turbine's and Unity's profiles coming soon.] Down Lo from St. Paul closed out the night with The Band-type originals on guitar, bass, drums, keys and sax.

Those few initial hours of the 2006 10,000 Lakes Festival showed all of us that this festival was truly something special. And, there was so much more to come.