How many Dave Matthews Band fans will sit through a set by a trailblazing indie electro-R&B band? And how many Motion City Soundtrack fans will stick around for a set by TOOL?
These are the questions that organizers seemed to want answered at last weekend’s inaugural River’s Edge Music Festival, which paired two massive mainstream headliners (Matthews, TOOL) with a mish-mash of indie, pop-punk, and commercial rock bands, plus dance kingpin Diplo.
The headliners did their due diligence and drew tens of thousands to Harriet Island on both Saturday and Sunday, but the lineups each day created a lot of downtime for everyone. Those who came for a nostalgia trip had to wait until the end of the day for their payoff, and those seeking out newer acts had to wait hours between sets — especially on Saturday afternoon, which offered up several similar-sounding mall-pop bands prior to Motion City Soundtrack’s set.
The real success of the festival, though, was in the execution of the event. The layout, stage placement, food sales (no tickets, just straight cash, plus drink stands every 20 feet), and ease of entry all indicated that there had been an extraordinary amount of forethought and planning. As Channy Leaneagh said during Polica’s set, “It’s a real festival, and it’s on its way to becoming something really great for the city,” and I couldn’t agree more — the foundation laid this year bodes very well for the future of River’s Edge.
And despite the erratic booking there were still quite a few highlights. From a local angle, I enjoyed what I heard of up-and-coming new wave band the Rope as well as Motion City’s set Saturday, which pulled one of the largest crowds to the secondary stage and had fans singing and bouncing along. Similarly, Polica pulled a large crowd over to their stage on Sunday afternoon, overcoming some sound issues early in the set and building steadily into a crowd-pleasing finale of “Wandering Star” into “Amongster.” The Flaming Lips also took a moment to name-check a few local landmarks and pay tribute to the Replacements.
As Matthews fired up his three-hour set on the main stage Sunday, Mutemath and Diplo closed things out on the far-removed Raspberry Island and made the side stage feel like its own separate event. Mutemath ended their set by pulling out an inflatable light-up mattress and sending lead singer Paul Meany surfing out over the crowd, while Diplo created a nonstop dance party that had the island booming with huge basslines right up until curfew.
Overall, I’d say the festival is off to a solid start. Now that they have a head-start on booking round two, I’ll be interested to see what they have in store for us next year.
PHOTOS BY BEN CLARK