Recap and photos: Rock the Garden heats up with Bon Iver, the Revolution, and more

The crowd watches Bon Iver.
The crowd watches Bon Iver. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)

Rock the Garden returned to the Walker Art Center this year, filling the museum's Sculpture Garden with bands and music fans. Coming together for one day at two stages, 11,000 people saw artists from Margaret Glaspy to Bon Iver, all while trying to stay cool in some serious Saturday heat. Here's a rundown of the whole festival's events, going by each hour's official temperature and humidity readings from the National Weather Service.

Saturday, July 22. 12:53 p.m. 86°F. 55% relative humidity.

Whether you're waiting at the gate next to the Cherry and Spoon, the one by the Walker Art Center entrance, or the one on Groveland Terrace, you can hear Car Seat Headrest's soundcheck boom through the main stage speakers. The band don't stop when gates open at 1:00; instead, early arrivals get about 30 minutes of stop-and-go music from Will Toledo and co. There's also Summit beer to drink, Talenti gelato to sample, and a partly shady Sculpture Garden to explore until music starts at 2:30.

1:53 p.m. 87°F. 51% relative humidity.

This hour, California singer/songwriter Margaret Glaspy kicks off Rock the Garden, sounding even more rock 'n' roll than I expect. I've heard her debut album Emotions and Math, but something about her live performance rips into me, and I love it. She plays nearly all of Emotions and Math, plus music from older projects.

2:53 p.m. 88°F. 54% relative humidity.

Glaspy carries on with her rough, gorgeous rock, and I duck inside the Walker for some air-conditioned relief. Water bottle refill? Check. Sunscreen reapplication? Check. I will get through the day alive.

3:53 p.m. 89°F. 48% relative humidity.

I'm swimming in sweat watching Car Seat Headrest roar through their meaty setlist, so I can't imagine how hot frontman Will Toledo must be in his short-sleeve turtleneck. Emily Schoonover of Bruise Violet is wondering the same thing, she'll later share on stage. During her set, she'll recount her chat with Toledo: "I was like, 'Yo, weren't you hot in that sweater?' And he just kind of looked down."

4:53 p.m. 90°F. 41% relative humidity.

The first thing I notice about rapper Dwynell Roland during his Garden Stage set is his T-shirt. It's white, with a @BrianOake tweet printed on it, which makes Minnesota music Twitter light up for a few minutes. The next thing I notice is how lively he is. Through Travis Gorman production and guest appearances by Devon Reason and P.O.S, Roland and his wacky energy get the crowd on board.

L.A.'s Benjamin Booker is younger than I thought he was. Going off his raspy voice and Chuck Berry-style riffs, I've always taken him for an extremely seasoned rock 'n' roller. He is, of course, but he's also just 28. At the Main Stage, he performs several songs from his latest, Witness, including the title Mavis Staples collaboration.

5:53 p.m. 89°F. 42% relative humidity.

Bruise Violet are a dream. The three band members -- guitarist Emily Schoonover, drummer Danielle Cusack, and bassist Bella Dawson -- thunder through punk songs "Talk S-- Get Hit," "Wasted," and many more at the Garden Stage while the wind tosses over mist from Spoonbridge and Cherry. Behind them, pedestrians on the elevated bridge gawk with confusion, repulsion, and wonder.

6:53 p.m. 87°F. 43% relative humidity.

Judging from the Eaux Claires shirts, hats, and pins concentrated in front of the main stage, the people in front came to Rock the Garden for Bon Iver. But the area still goes wild for the Revolution, Prince's backing band from the early '80s. Wendy Melvoin (guitar), Lisa Coleman (keys), Dr. Fink (keys), Bobby Z (drums), and Brownmark (bass) are unstoppable, opening with "Computer Blue" and storming through six other Purple Rain hits with vocal assists from Stokley Williams of Mint Condition. They welcome the crowd to "Erotic City" as Bon Iver's Justin Vernon walks out on stage to sing (and dance!) with them. "These songs belong to you. We're just the band," Melvoin says before the renowned opening chords of "Purple Rain."

The Revolution setlist

Computer Blue
America
Mountains
Take Me With U
Erotic City (feat. Justin Vernon)
Let's Work
Kiss
When Doves Cry
Let's Go Crazy
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I'm a Star
Purple Rain

7:53 p.m. 85°F. 48% relative humidity.

It's a relatively quiet hour at Rock the Garden, with thousands squeezing together on the hill, anticipating Bon Iver. Dead Man Winter -- a band by Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles -- provide some respite at the Garden Stage, performing music not only from their 2017 album Destroyer, but also from July 21 surprise EPs Lake Superior and Careful I Think It's Loaded.

8:53 p.m. 83°F. 46% relative humidity.

The sun's finally starting to disappear. Vernon's back on stage with his band Bon Iver, wearing a Baltimore Orioles cap with "PEOPLE" stuck to the underside of the brim. The Sad Sax of S-, a group of five horn players standing behind the frontman, can't stop smiling between their cues.

"22 (OVER S∞∞N)," the first song, wraps up, and the first seconds of "10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄" thunder through my head. Having listened to 22, A Million in sequence so many times, I sink when I realize track two probably isn't coming next -- except it does, followed by "715 - CRΣΣKS" and the next six tracks of the new album, complete but for "000000 Million." From there, the band go back in time to "Minnesota, WI," remixing it with insistent beats and bloops. Referencing the title, Vernon says, "Not many people know where those places are. I kind of like it that way."

9:53 p.m. 80°F. 51% relative humidity.

Bon Iver have the ability to leave audience members slack-jawed, lost in a quiet wonder. It's a warm kind of immobility, a stock-still inertia; after surging during a shred-heavy "Creature Fear," the effect lets up during sing-along tune "Skinny Love." But once encore "Beth/Rest" starts chiming across the field, sounding not unlike the famous theme from Chariots of Fire, people stand entranced everywhere.

A few minutes after Bon Iver take their bows, the Aquatennial fireworks sound from over the Mississippi River, and crowds pile through the walkways. Food and drink vendors pack up, and teams clear abandoned food trays and beer cups on the hill. Security at the exits thank each person for coming.

After nearly eight hours of music, what started as a blazing afternoon dips into placid night.

Bon Iver setlist


22 (OVER S∞∞N)
10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄
715 - CRΣΣKS
33 "GOD"
29 #Strafford APTS
666 ↓
21 M♢♢N WATER
8 (circle)
____45_____
Minnesota, WI
Beach Baby
Holocene
Creature Fear
Skinny Love

Encore:
Beth/Rest

24 Photos

  • Fans keep cool under 'Spoonbridge and Cherry.'
    Fans keep cool under 'Spoonbridge and Cherry.' (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • The main stage before gates open.
    The main stage before gates open. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Margaret Glaspy opens the main stage.
    Margaret Glaspy opens the main stage. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • Car Seat Headrest perform on the main stage.
    Car Seat Headrest perform on the main stage. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest
    Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Andrea Swensson socializes with fans.
    Andrea Swensson socializes with fans. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Jade introduces Dwynell Roland.
    Jade introduces Dwynell Roland. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • Dwynell Roland wears a t-shirt with a Brian Oake tweet.
    Dwynell Roland wears a t-shirt with a Brian Oake tweet. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • P.O.S. gets down to Dwynell Roland.
    P.O.S. gets down to Dwynell Roland. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • A fan helps a security guard cool off.
    A fan helps a security guard cool off. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • Benjamin Booker and one of his guitars.
    Benjamin Booker and one of his guitars. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Benjamin Booker shreds on the main stage.
    Benjamin Booker shreds on the main stage. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Bruise Violet take the Garden stage by storm.
    Bruise Violet take the Garden stage by storm. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • The Walker's VIP section takes in the view.
    The Walker's VIP section takes in the view. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution
    Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Justin Vernon joins The Revolution for "Erotic City"
    Justin Vernon joins The Revolution for "Erotic City" (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • The Revolution take a bow.
    The Revolution take a bow. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Dead Man Winter perform at Rock the Garden
    Dead Man Winter perform at Rock the Garden (Jay Gabler | MPR)
  • Bon Iver's introduction.
    Bon Iver's introduction. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • Bon Iver takes the stage.
    Bon Iver takes the stage. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • One of Bon Iver's saxophones.
    One of Bon Iver's saxophones. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)
  • Bon Iver plays Skinny Love.
    Bon Iver plays Skinny Love. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • A composite photo of Bon Iver and a fan.
    A composite photo of Bon Iver and a fan. (Evan Frost | MPR)
  • The sun sets over the main stage.
    The sun sets over the main stage. (Emmet Kowler for The Current)

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