Local Current Blog

The audacity of Low: What does a band ‘owe’ us when we pay to see them perform?

Alan Sparhawk performs with Low at Rock the Garden (Nate Ryan/MPR)

Whether you attended Rock the Garden, listened to the live broadcast from home, or simply followed along on Twitter, chances are you’ve caught a few mumblings and grumblings about Low’s 27-minute-long, one-song set.

As the sun peeked out and the crowd peeled off their rain ponchos, the Duluth trio launched into their song “Do You Know How to Waltz?,” a normally 14-minute-long song that first appeared on their 1996 album The Curtain Hits the Cast, and stretched out the song’s jammy, droning coda to create an unending wall of noise.

Scanning the crowd during Low’s set, the reactions seemed muted at best. Most people stood stock-still, staring at the stage, as if trying to discern just what was going on. A thirtysomething man next to me literally had his mouth hanging open for part of the set, while his date kept looking at me nervously and laughing, unsure how to react. And it certainly wasn’t the only surreal thing to have happened that day, with Dan Deacon’s impromptu parking ramp set still fresh in many concertgoer’s minds.

But in the time since Low stopped playing and Alan Sparhawk concluded their appearance with the simple sentence, “Drone, not drones,” the reaction to Low’s Rock the Garden performance has taken on a life of its own. Both the slideshow and review on our site have been inundated with impassioned comments, and the social media snowball has rolled down the hill far enough to spawn Twitter accounts on both sides of the aisle (@FU_low vs. @TheLowDrone).

The reactions were so severe that Alan Sparhawk has already given an interview defending the decision to play an unconventional set, saying “It was a big show, so we wanted to do something big and different. If I was there in the audience, that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see a band do.” Meanwhile, fans continue to praise the band for a “punk rock” move while others grapple with whether or not Low delivered the set they felt they deserved.

  1. Listen Low, “Do You Know How to Waltz?” live at Rock the Garden

“We paid them to put on a show and they didn’t. They very do literally owe us,” wrote commenter Zetes Johnson. “The expectation is that they play a certain amount of time, and presumably, you know, a couple of songs. I’m not sure it was specifically mentioned on my ticket… but on the marquee, yes, they were listed and, no, they did not play.” A few of my followers on Twitter had similar reactions: They came to a Current-affiliated event to see Low play the singles they’ve been hearing on the Current, and they felt ripped off. One follower in particular responded to my tweet in support of Low’s set by insisting that I would have felt differently if I had paid to get into the event, rather than worked it.

All of this raises an interesting question. In this era of insta-downloads and unlimited, streaming free music, forking over actual cash for a concert ticket seems to have raised our expectations to new heights. But what does an artist actually “owe” us when we pay to see them perform live?

It’s a tricky question to answer, because as we all know, a concert ticket is not a contract. Of course, there is an expectation that the band will come out on stage, pick up their instruments, and do something with entertainment value. If they just flat-out didn’t play, the venue would likely issue some kind of refund. But beyond that, are they required to play the hits? Are they supposed to stand a certain way, act a certain way, or give the crowd a certain kind of interaction? And does the price of the concert ticket directly reflect what kind of experience the concertgoer is about to have?

Well, no. If that was all true, fans would have to fork over more money on their way out the door if they witnessed a life-altering show, or one that provided them with three encores instead of the typical one or zero. The choice is ours as consumers whether or not to purchase a ticket, and the choice is the artists’ what they will do when they get up on stage—and really, it’s all much more rooted in economics than we might like to admit. If a band performs well, the theory goes, fans will come back to see them again. If not, that’s on them and their reputation.

But a band does owe us something, no? At least from a social perspective, we expect them to put effort into their performance, to demonstrate their artistic talents to the best of their abilities, and to “earn” the spotlight that is cast on them when they step out of the shadows we cast on one another and up onto that stage. And in that regard, I would argue that Low did fulfill their obligation. They gave the crowd something unique, something unexpected, and something that provoked. Everything that happened after that was beyond their control.

Low may not have won over many new fans at Rock the Garden, but maybe that wasn’t the point. Here’s another question for you: How would people have responded if they had performed the “hits” off The Invisible Way in a more straightforward manner, as they did at the Fitzgerald just three months ago? Would their trademark introspective, somber, and down-tempo music have gone over any better with the festival crowd if the songs had been a little more familiar?

One thing’s for sure: Low got people talking, and it doesn’t look like this discussion is going to die down anytime soon. I’m eager to hear more of your thoughts; please leave your reactions in the comments.


Slideshow: Metric at Rock the Garden

Slideshow: Silversun Pickups at Rock the Garden

Slideshow: Bob Mould at Rock the Garden

Slideshow: Low at Rock the Garden

Slideshow: Dan Deacon rocks the underground garage

Slideshow: Scenes from Rock the Garden

Andrea Swensson’s set-by-set Rock the Garden recap


1 Photos

  • Alan Sparhawk of Low
    Alan Sparhawk of Low MPR Photo / Nate Ryan
  • Richard Narum

    A brilliant and bold one-song set. Don’t force your artists to be porcelain cu-pie dolls. No one really wants that.

    • Simon Thornhill

      I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing LOW play Live 8 times now
      & I have never felt that they have given the audience anything other
      than everything during those shows Having now listened to the stream of
      the performance I for one am as jealous as all hell that I wasn’t there
      Huge respect to Alan Mimi & Steve for having the courage &
      respect to provide yet another gloriously trithful and honest

    • revaaron

      Well said.

    • Louis LiveMusic

      no true artist would be that…

    • Neon Suntan

      Haven’t listened to them in years, but this was great!

  • Zach Thompson

    It was an epic performance. Loved it. Perfect for right after the rain, as the sun came out…

    • Stuart Hazard

      Epic?? The same monotonous chord progression across key changes. John Tesh on heroin. This is the one band I told my wife she would like, so I could rock out with Bob Mould, et al. She thought it sucked, I thought it sucked. You have no idea what Epic means. Epics start, rise, fall, and end. There is an arc. There is a point. This went nowhere. It was background music with nothing in front.

      • ECD

        haha. I don’t think you know what epic means either…sounds like an
        andrew lloyd webber musical to me…go see Joseph and the Amazing
        Technicolor dreamcoat if you want your “type” of epic. This performance
        was like a fine wine, subtle, expansive and challenging.

  • Jason

    Rock The Garden whiners make me ashamed to live and work in music in Minnesota. You don’t like art or art rock? Then why are you attending a concert festival at a modern art museum? Live music is not and should not always be a greatest hits package for you to sing along too. And if this was your first time seeing Low and you were mad they didn’t play the songs you know, then shame on you. They’ve only played about 100 other shows here in the last 20 years, in every venue I can imagine. Local Current fans my ass. In other cities there is Pitchfork Festival, Austin City Limits, and on and on. Only here does an unsurprising 30-minute “arty” set from our local Low get so panned by locals fans. Ever wonder why no one would ever travel here to see one of our festivals? Because they’re based in top-40 note-for-note boredom and no surprises. You people should stick to the State Fair. You don’t have like Low’s music, but the hatred I’m hearing for anything “different” is just sad and pathetic and, well, Midwestern of you.

    • Terry Gould

      Midwestern? I’m going to be sick. Nurse!
      I’m always to pleased to be bestowed with knowledgeable coastal hipsters who drop in to correct us Midwestern simpletons here in the prairie. What would we do without you?
      Now if I see a band and they say…throw feces at us, I can advise any outraged audience member that, “hey man, art is subjective you rube!”
      Now &#*% off!

      • kman

        So you’re comparing Low’s performance with having feces thrown at you? Bring out the histrionics.

        • Terry Gould

          Nice reply, Kman. I’ll give you that point. I’m not really comparing Low’s performance to throwing feces as I am voicing my contempt for criticism being tied to geography.

          • kman

            I can dig that. I’m against snobbish ‘region-ism’ as well.

      • Jason

        Show me your examples of the successful Minnesota music festivals with diverse musical line-ups and I’ll eat my east coastal sentimental hat. Chicago doesn’t have this problem, and though I wouldn’t want to live there, I’d certainly travel there for a festival. But why should I have to? Minneapolis is cool too, right?

        • Terry Gould

          Jason, growing up near Chicago I can say that while maybe they have more diverse line-ups in their musical festivals, Chicago has a disproportionately lower output of artistic innovation compared to Minneapolis. I wouldn’t want to live there either.
          I guess my question to you is why should a sophisticated East Coaster like yourself bother with a Midwestern musical festival? Surely there are more “important” cultural events along the Eastern seaboard to pontificate on.

        • Babs Santini


          • Jason

            I love Heliotrope, Babs, but this year it didn’t even happen. Is it a big successful festival with 10,000 people from 10,000 lakes? Unfortunately, no. Could you get the “local Current” fans to come to Heliotrope, say, 1000 people even? Not a chance.

            Don’t get me wrong, there are MANY things I love about Minnesota, which is why I’ve lived here for 20 years. But when it comes to larger scale events and music festivals I don’t see the variety, especially culturally, that I see in any other city of our size. And in Chicago there are free neighborhood festivals that have headlining acts like the ones we see here for Rock The Garden. For free. I travel a few times a year to different states to see a festival and even more times a year to see other music that rarely if ever comes here on the same scale/line-up/etc.

    • J.D.

      I can’t help but laugh at your post, Jason. Maybe many of us are acting “Midwestern” as you said, but I know one thing for a fact. Being “Midwestern” means we are not pretentious assholes like you. We value entertainment and many of us feel like we were not entertained by Low’s performance.

      • Jason

        see above comment to Terry Gould.

      • Randy

        Being “Midwestern” also means being suspicious and hostile toward things that don’t fit exactly into what you expect, like a 30-minute song or Somalians.

        • J.D.

          Only for you Randy.

        • Terry Gould

          Wow Randy, you just blew mind with your comparison of not appreciating 30 minute 1 song sets and my suspicion of Somalis (by the way it’s. Somalis not Somalians). This message board is quite the brain trust

      • Louis Wermann

        It’s not necessarily pretentious to try something different and see how an audience reacts to it. That’s how you occasionally stumble into something great. I’ll bet there were a number of people who loved the set. I personally love droning music and would rather watch a band create a sonic swell than see a bunch of three minute sing-alongs. I know I’m probably not in the majority, but to make a long post short, they aren’t robots. Part of seeing live music is unpredictability. If you want to see the same show every night, catch a movie. When it comes to live music, you pay your money, you take your chances. It seems like this audience that demands songs they are familiar with would have crucified Hendrix or the Doors, bands who took big chances in their live performances.

    • Andrea

      I am assuming people don’t come here because of the rude, self-centered, cliquey minnesotans. How very minnesotan of low to play a boring, mundane set that honestly sounded more like a plane taking off then real music. i would never recommend anyone seeing them again

      • Jason

        Right, Andrea. I always tell people that if I didn’t like a band’s performance that no one should ever see them again. Nobody has to like Low or their performance at this festival, but Low has been doing music like this for 20 years, here and all over the world, and they are not the only band who pulls out 30 minute songs, even for a whole set. What’s sad is how closed-minded the comments have been — LET’S RUN THIS BAND OUT OF TOWN FOR PLAYING 1 SONG!! — and to me that is what is worth defending more than anything else. I’ve travelled across the country to hear music like that, with 3-days worth at a festival, so there is an audience for what they do. You just don’t have to like it. Do you always like all of the bands you see at music festival? That would really surprising to me.

        • Andrea

          Hey Jason, I am not trying to argue with you, just stating my opinion. You are right, you can’t like every band…but then again, there were only 5 bands playing…so wouldn’t you say its pretty likely you would like them all? Also, I am a fan of low…I just wouldn’t recommend seeing them live. I know when I see a show I expect to be amazed…whether its a one song set or 20 song set. I just think it could have been better. Sorry, I wasn’t intending on offending anyone.

          • Jason

            Yeah, it has been a lot of the poor behavior on the part of my fellow locals that has been more disturbing than the supposed poor behavior of Low. And, yes, you can hope to like all 5 bands on a festival bill, but I have not experienced that to be the norm.

            The other interesting part of this issue are the folks like yourself who say “I like Low, but I don’t like what they played.” Since The Current has always had Low’s music in their rotation — and presumably not their 10+ minute songs from their albums — I’m going to assume that many of the concert attendees are familiar with those 2, 3 or even 4 songs they’ve heard over and over again. Does a band of many albums, many facets, many live concerts, and a career of now 20 years equate what they do with what you know of “Low”, which is likely only radio-friendly songs? There are many artists who make albums, but don’t consider that recording the be-all end-all of that song or songs. For many the songs are in constant evolution, and if you went to see Low live in the past you would know that they fall into that category. This was not the first time that they had performed that 1 song with a length of 30 minutes and surely it will not be their last. It is what they do, not what you might think they do, but that is a big part of their career.

            I would argue that you DON’T actually like Low and what they do. And again, that’s totally ok.

  • John

    I thought it was great, granted i was tripping pretty hard. Was super cool watching the clouds dissipate to the low set. I certainly appreciated it :)

  • Craig Freeman

    I was confused for a few minutes, but as it became clear what they were doing (and just how dedicated they were to it), I started to get into it. By the end I was in absolute awe of what I had just witnessed. I thank Low for being awesomely insane, and they have gone from being a band I like very much to one of my absolute favorites.

    For all the people hating on the performance, in 20 years which will you remember: Low’s set; or Silversun Pickups’ good, but generic rock set? It’ll be Low, and by then you’ll be saying you enjoyed it.

    • Richard Narum

      Actually… I was so bored by the final two acts that I’d already forgotten their names… thanks (i think) for the reminder…

      • Craig Freeman

        Bored by Metric? That’s surprising, I thought they put on a very fun show (even with the abrupt ending as they hit 10:00 and the stage turned into a pumpkin).

  • Kathy

    Did the fine folk of Oklahoma get their money back after the Sex Pistols played? NOPE. But they now get to say THEY WERE THERE! ( and had a hellava night throwing broken beer bottles at English lads.) What about the people who may have spent good money to hear John Cage play back in your Grandparents day? When i first heard the Sex Pistols back in 1980 they seemed so musically reckless,but I drop the needle down now and it sounds melodically cute. John Cage live would kill me. Check him out.

  • Lauren

    I really wish I could see it again actually. I know I wasn’t really paying as close attention to it in the first place. Thinking they were going to play more than one song, and so I really missed the overall experience, and wished I would have been more committed to it as a listener.
    I think it’s pretty cool that a band has enough confidence in themselves to even play continuously for that long. So cheers to them!
    I don’t get why people are complaining. Personally, it was one of the most unique overall concert experiences I have ever had. Between Dan Deacon and Low, and then dancing in mud during Metric, it was pretty amazing. You could say that they owe you something, but to Andrea’s point, would we be more disappointed if they played only the “hits”? I might have been, in fact, as a huge Metric fan, I wish they would have played more from Fantasies or Live it Out, but they didn’t and I still had a great time.
    So for the people who are pissed…”grow up and blow away.”

  • Emma

    I am proud of Low for daring to be different. Artists bare their soul when they preform or create and as an audience it’s our job to thank them for exposing themselves in that way. It’s not ok to disrespect them, especially if we don’t agree with their art. Discussion yes, but their only ‘obligation’ was to preform for us and they did it marvelously. Artists challenge and without a challenge to the current state of performance the genre, the art becomes stagnant. Take it with good faith and if you are really so offended by that, maybe staying home and listening to the album is where you should be next time.

  • jackwisecampbell

    I wasn’t there, but this just sounds like Low in their purest form. (At least when I think of Low) When listeners pay to see them, this is the kind of stuff they pay to see, and it’s their problem if they aren’t into it.

  • James

    Most of the Low fans seems to be defending Low from a perspective of artistic freedom of expression. For example: Richard doesn’t want artists to be dolls. Jason seems to believe you can’t like art and be upset at Low.

    But there is no discussion of whether the Low set was fun, or if their lack of acknowledging the crowd, and the attitude that a band doesn’t owe their fans anything is absurd.

    I was disappointed with Low. I wasn’t expecting for them to play their hits. I was expecting a sampling of their music. I vouched for this band when I convinced my friends to attend. I guess that was my mistake, but I felt like a fool after their set.

    • Mark

      Perhaps you should get to know the band before vouching for them. You don’t know Low.

      • OscarBones

        No but I know Low Momma!

        • Mark

          Nice. Good momma jokes are hard to come by these days.

    • kman

      I’m disappointed they didn’t shake each and everyone’s hand and give a heartfelt ‘thank you for coming to see us’.

  • Johnny Rey

    Music is a lot like food. People were expecting a steak, a baked potato and a side of vegetables with maybe cheesecake with strawberries on top for dessert. Instead they served artichokes for the whole meal. Not really a meal and some people don’t like artichokes. And some people don’t like surprises!

    • roverreporter

      Artists reach excellence by being who they are, not being who you want them to be.

    • Jason

      Your analogy doesn’t make since because Low were just a 30-minute appetizer (with a cut-short set even) and never attended as the entire meal or even the main course.

  • blahblahblah

    AH! NO! Please don’t quote “Zete Johnson’ in your journalism! No real music head needs to debate the vitality of the performance. it was vital. shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  • Neil Christianson

    Music groups owe us no more than a “performance.” That’s the great thing about the performance arts. Every show is (or, should be) different. They entertain us, and if they do something unique, that’s even better! If you want to see the most popular songs performed as they are on the radio, head to YouTube. This reminds me of Atlas Sound’s show at the Cedar, which I had the good fortune to attend. It was awkward at times, strained at others, but overall an experience that will be more memorable than the kind of set those complaining are looking for. Open up your minds, friends!

  • Freedom_Baby

    First, I’m not a fan, so I really don’t care. BUT, I like the point they made “Drone, not drones”, so I can understand that they planned on making a statement. Seemingly, it worked… BUT, now we’re talking about what does a band owe us? They point was for civil liberties, people, which apparently flew over everyone’s heads, much like Drones.

    Now, when it comes to bands oweing you stuff? Bands don’t owe fans anything, and bands can play whatever they want when they’re on stage. Of course, they have to be ready to face the repercussions. So if you say F- Low, I’m not going to see them again. Good, don’t. Their fault. If you dug it and are an even bigger fan, then by all means go back. Buying a ticket to a concert does not mean a band is going to play all their hits and do things by the book in an expected fashion. Granted, these days a lot of bands do the same predictable shows. It wasn’t too long ago that you could go see Nirvana, G n R, and the other ridiculous rock bands that would have headlines after every show for their weird and unpredictible antics.

    With all of this said, the only thing the band owes to anyone is the promoter. So, whoever set up the contract probably had a clause saying that Low would play x amount of minutes or else they’d lose out on something.. yadda yadda yadda. If that wasn’t in the contract then I’d be surprised, especially with 89.3 being a public station, they can’t afford to throw money away without guarantees from the musicians.

  • Srlsly

    I didn’t attend RtG (had my own concerts to perform), but I have to say that, having attended New Orleans Jazz Fest, Birdland, et al, I am not opposed to any artist presenting their desired pieces of art as their muse guides them. You pay for an experience generated by the artist, not to dictate that experience as you would on your mp3 player. Supporting LOW will bring them back, undoubtedly with more opportunities to experience their range of artistic endeavors. Kaboshing their artistic voice because of a choice at one event means you probably aren’t really a fan of art anyway, but more unfortunately a trend-harpie who attends events for bragging rights.

  • Jim McGuinn

    thx for all this discussion – the best art makes you think and reflect and this is certainly doing so!
    If you were there or not – go re-listen to this. It’s bold. I’ll admit that in the moment, I was a bit confused by their choice. But listening back to the audio now – it’s awesome. Everywhere I’ve been the past 36 hours people have asked me about this set – and most of the comments from folks I’ve encountered that went to the show have been negative. But I agree with those that believe this will be a very memorable and audacious set when we look back in years to come. I was on MPR News today with Keri Miller and she was not buying it when I said it was art and it was audacious and confrontational and compared it to Picasso painting a face with one eye or some such blah blah blah that came in to my head in the moment. But pulling myself out of the “what the heck?” feeling yesterday and re-listening, it’s pretty intense and awesome. Thx for giving everyone something to think about on a Monday Alan and Mimi and Scott!

    • Srlsly

      Jim, I agree with your position. (Is this a good time to reveal that I avoid Kerri Miller’s broadcasts?)

    • Mary

      I wish you would’ve been as bold/smart with your own comments in the Strib. Standing up for artistry and creative expression is important, especially as music director. Instead, you came off more concerned about listeners/donations/MPR than artistic expression. This has already sparked people donating to Drone not Drones and talking about a serious political issue/atrocities. How long has it been since a band has done that? No, seriously. How long? In an age of “likes” and when anything of true relevance and artistry can get buried, Low made one of the most beautiful live artist statements I’ve seen in a long time.

      • Jim McGuinn

        I was a little speechless when I ran into Chris from the Strib at the show. I had been dealing with a lot of negatives from listeners, members, concert goers, etc., about the Low show (and this was live on the radio too remember), while at the same time thinking it was both very punk rock and at the same time very indulgent/obnoxious. I really just wanted others to weigh in – I didn’t want to have to proclaim what they did as brilliant or crap.

        And I also only saw the last few minutes of it live – if I had been in the crowd for the entire journey I may have felt differently. And had I known they were going to do this, I would have been better prepared. I actually told Chris “it was unexpected,” which isn’t much of a quote, but it is true, in many ways.

    • James

      Jim, would you advocate for putting this Low recording on The Current Live Volume [whatever its up to now]? Why or why not?

      • Jim McGuinn

        I’m hoping we use one of the performances from the show at the Fitz they did with the guys from trampled for the next CD (I especially loved the version of “On My Own” with Ryan’s violin and Alan’s guitar dueling in a wash of space echo). The main reason i would not put this on is that it’s 27 minutes, and that would chop about 5-6 slots off the next CD because of the length.

        But we’re doing a 2-hour re-broadcast of highlights from the RTG for June 30, all this weekend I was thinking we should edit this down to just give a feel of what they did, but without getting the audio from Dan Deacon, we might be able to fit in the entire performance. Would you rather we play 10-15 minutes of Low and give the extra 12 minutes to air one more cut by Metric / SSPU / Bob, or do the entire Low song and air one less by the others? (FYI, we talked to the band and they are cool with whatever we do – air it all, shorten it for length, or don’t play it at all)

        • Hil

          If it were up to me, I’d go with an additional cut of one of the other artists. 10 – 15 minutes of one song is still a lot.

        • Robb

          You need to play the full 27 minutes. It is a piece of art and it would be like taking a portion of a famous painting and erasing it. I am not a Low fan and I saw the set at RTG. I got that they just jammed out a song and had a nice build up during the entire song. I am still not a Low fan simply because it is not my style of music. If you liked it great and if you didn’t hopefully you enjoyed the other bands. I think the people complaining about what they did is bringing all kinds of joy to Low. Low sounds like a band that has been doing this style for a long time and fell into making some radio friendly songs that are not really their style. I think it is awesome what they did this and I do not feel that I got a raw deal. I am not a Low fan nor will I ever be a Low fan, but I think the amount of time they are spending in poeples heads is exactly what they wanted. RTG was an ok festival an will keep going with full attendance year after year. I was there to see Bob Mould and Bob only. Bob did what Bob does and ripped out a really good set that I enjoyed, the rest for me was all fluff.

    • current@troy-amy.com

      I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the discussion much more than the performance. I think I would have more readily accepted it if these 27 minutes were a part of a full length set, rather than the entirety of the performance. I was also turned off by Alan’s admonishment at the end. The finger pointing and the anger in his voice really felt like an attack on the audience. It made me feel like the musical choice was made out of spite.

  • B.

    I wonder how different this conversation would be, had it not been at the Walker. I understand the argument that it was perfect for this particular setting. But as anybody knows, Art is divisive, everyone has their own opinion on what Art actually is. I also think that 80% of the crowd would generally not care for the kind of art they have inside the Walker. Putting those together kind of sums up why so many people were disgruntled by the performace.

    For me, i was less than thrilled with their demeanor. Engaging is certainly not a word I would use to describe it. And the way they seemed to just rush of stage, with no acknowledgement of the crowd, was just insult to injury.

    I didn’t feel disrespected by the performance, as many others have said, but I didn’t walk away feeling good about it. I had never seen Low before, but my overall impression was that they didn’t care to be there. And at something as special as Rock the Garden, that left me feeling like they disrespected me, and more importantly the Current.

    • Jason

      Contrary to the song, shiny happy people don’t always hold hands. Not all bands are smiley or even make you smile, and that’s…ok.

    • X.A. Smith

      Rock the Garden is not special.

  • paper_sleeves

    the recording sounds fantastic. what a huge sound! thanks for posting.

  • Blake Lehane


  • Wilhelmscreaming

    Very well said, Andrea. The only thing an artist owes an audience is effort. And while, I cannot say that I connected with the performance, I applaud the risk, the experiment, the attempt at making art, which no one can say lacked in effort. I am really rather confounded by the sense of self-entitlement among the vast majority of attendees, the feeling that they were owed more or that there was something malicious about the set, or contemptuous of the audience. Did I like the set, no. Did I respect the set, absolutely.

  • Mark Holsten

    I’m not a big fan of Low and wasn’t there yet to see the set. However, I’ve listened to their set via the link within the story. To give a little feedback; I’m not a fan of politics. But, I am a big fan of music, and their set was pretty bad. It honestly sounded as if they played three different notes for 28 minutes. Seriously, within the first fifteen minutes all they are doing is going back and forth with what seems to be three keys on the keyboard with a symbol now and then. The repeated one-note guitar strum is pretty annoying and my attention is already lost. I can see why people hated their set now. I had to hear it for myself to see what the talk was about and wow, it’s pretty bad. Almost seems to be a cop-out of playing, with choosing to play three or so notes repeatedly for 28 minutes. I don’t think a refund is in order or I would have been owed anything really. But it just confirms that I’m not a fan, still.

  • It’s extremely heartening to see a band acting against industry expectations.This is where popular music gets its energy from and why it currently has so little genuine excitement as the ‘artists’ seek to conform to audience and journalistic expectations the minute they pick up an instrument. If the audience can do better, then they should write a fucking song. If they want product, there are no end of conformist and careerist cocksuckers forming bands to give them just that. Well done to Low. Really.

  • Seth

    Musicians shouldn’t have to defend themselves for their artistic decisions and liberties they take on stage. Low offered this audience a unique experience that won’t be replicated again. Naysayers that are overtly vocal about the show will keep talking about this years to come, and in the great scheme this is just another footnote in Low’s legacy as one of Minnesota’s most beloved bands.

    Prince does crazier shit all the time and everyone still goes bonkers for him. Great work Alan, Mimi and Scott.

    • Faux Paul Allen

      Prince basically charges $200 for a ticket and all he does is jam. People will forever still wank off whatever new and horrible Prince song comes out.

      • Steve F

        Prince hasn’t done anything interesting since the 80s.

        • Faux Paul Allen

          Exactly but nobody will criticize him.

          • Steve F

            And I mean early 80s.

    • Steve F

      What has Prince done except cut out the dirty bits and recycle the same old same old?

      Screwdriver? Yawn. The 3rd Eye junk? Boring.

    • Bob Loblaw Law Blog

      Steve Garrington is the bassist, not “Scott.”

  • Mark Holsten

    I’m not a big fan of Low and wasn’t there yet to see the set. However, I’ve listened to their set via the link within the story. To give a little feedback; I’m not a fan of politics. But, I am a big fan of music, and their set was pretty bad. It honestly sounded as if they played three different notes for 28 minutes. Seriously, within the first fifteen minutes all they are doing is going back and forth with what seems to be three keys on the keyboard with a symbol now and then. The repeated one-note guitar strum is pretty annoying and my attention is already lost. I can see why people hated their set now. I had to hear it for myself to see what the talk was about and wow, it’s pretty bad. Almost seems to be a cop-out of playing, with choosing to play three or so notes repeatedly for 28 minutes. I don’t think a refund is in order or I would have been owed anything really. But it just confirms that I’m not a fan, still.

    • Mountain Battles

      So, what’s the minimum number of notes needed to not be bad/hold your attention/not annoy you/whatever? Five? Six? Seventeen? Just curious.

  • disqus_GsRPQXTzMS

    What do we owe artists? Are we being graced by their presence or something? If that isn’t a ridiculous notion, I don’t know what is. I appreciate the “audacity” here, but honestly I’d be pretty bummed out if I saw Low perform one long jam. They have a ton of great songs I’d want to see them play live. So, on one hand I think it’s a duty of the performer to “perform” for the people who took the time and money to see them. On the other, artists should attempt something interesting that, say, can’t be found on an album. A 27 minute long jam is not entirely bad or unexpected from Low, but it could be bookended with some classics.

    The truth is, people got upset. So, no matter what anyone has to say, there’s factual evidence that this wasn’t the best of ideas. I’ve been to plenty of shows in my life and I’ve experienced this very thing before. Chalk it up to a sub-par experience (I’ve seen Low plenty of times, they haven’t exactly been perfect on every occasion). To ask for your money back is a bit much, though.

    • Mark

      The song they played was on their second album from 1996. It was 14 minutes long on the album.

      • disqus_GsRPQXTzMS

        Yes, I get that and I’m not even arguing against it. I guess what I’m saying is, as an attendee at shows, I would like to see a variety of things from a band. It’s very hard to pull off one, long song and make it interesting.

  • The only thing to complain about here is the streaming link and not an MP3. This is epic.

  • Laura

    I’ll start by saying that I’ve never attended Rock The Garden. But I was surprised to hear that Low was part of this year’s lineup. I wondered if one of the slowest of the “slowcore” (which is apparently a thing) bands would play well in a festival setting? How did Bon Iver go over a few years ago? I know Justin Vernon is a WI / MN favorite, but also on the introspective side. Did his set win over fans or were some of the reactions similar?

  • Lazy Drone

    Why is everyone trying to polish this turd. It was a bad boring art “performance”. Low were laughing all the way back to Duluth with their fat paychecks.

    • Mountain Battles

      I’m impressed that you’ve managed to contradict yourself in just three sentences. You might criticize Low’s performance for being motivated by an artistic intention that you didn’t like or understand. Or you might criticize it for being motivated by a cynical desire to get a paycheck. Saying that it was motivated by both doesn’t make sense.

      • Lazy Drone

        Its just like that South Park episode where everyone farts in the wine glass and thinks its so awesome. Who are we kidding here.

        • Mountain Battles

          I take it you’re giving up the criticism that Low’s performance was motivated by a cynical desire for money, then? OK.

          I don’t really understand your new criticism. Is it that, like farting in a wineglass, the performance did not require any special musical ability? Or is your claim that people who claim to like the performance are liars or hypocrites? Or what? It’ll be helpful if you just say, clearly, what your criticism is.

          • Lazy Drone

            Art and Music are very subjective based on the person you ask. But it is hardly a far stretch to suggest that at a Big Outdoor Festival the artist is expected to pander to all audiences.

            We all now know that experimental music does not work for majority of people.

            Most certainly they will be keeping the money, unless they decide to eradicating hunger.

          • Mark

            I don’t expect artists to pander anywhere or anytime. I expect them to do what they want to do in the moment. Whether I end up liking it is dependent on any number of factors.

          • Lazy Drone

            What was Low’s point? Why did they do that. They felt it was beautiful and perfect for the moment. Was it also symbolic of the times we’re living in? Drones over head and drones in our ears? Should we be outraged at both?

            So was that the point to get their Audience outraged! About drones! I’m so confused.

            Ok, well that’s that. Some people think pretty highly of their Art and don’t require audience approval. When clearly most of the audience thought that was ridiculous. Just like farting in a wine glass is.

          • Mountain Battles

            Now I understand your criticism even less well. Your criticism was that there was an analogy between Low’s performance and a South Park episode featuring farting in a wineglass. Your explanation of that criticism is that Low’s performance failed to please as many people as it could have. But that doesn’t seem to explain the criticism at all. It seems to just be a different criticism.

            And I have no idea what you mean when you say that the band will keep their fee. I didn’t understand that to be in dispute between us. But again, it feels like you’re implying something else. It will be much more productive if you just, say, clearly exactly what your criticism is. So far I can’t detect any clear criticism at all in what you’ve said.

          • X.A. Smith

            Not to mention that “pandering to all audiences,” is impossible. Plus, there was only one audience there.

          • Lazy Drone

            That was mean to include people who liked Drone music and people who didn’t. Which is why we are having this conversation now. Its like the presidential election. Both sides have good points and we’re having a conversation.

          • X.A. Smith

            Lazy Drone, you are a lazy thinker.

          • Lazy Drone

            Thank you. Mr Smith.

        • Mark

          I think the recording sounds amazing. Hypnotic, minimalist, and strangely soothing. I’m really sorry I missed it live. It’s almost as if one’s response to music is…SUBJECTIVE!

          • Will

            I may have appreciated it more if I was there. I ended up turning off the radio at one point because it was so annoying, which was hugely disappointing. I love Low but obviously hated hearing that as the only song. So be it.

  • Brian Byrne

    The band owes you shit. They played. You may not have liked what or how they played but they still played so shut the fuck up you big babies. Here’s a band that plays out a lot. You’ll get another chance to hear them do a set they have done 2324 times before.

  • KTN

    A set by definition is more than one, so their self-indulgent single song was not a set. They were brave artists, hooray for them. Maybe next time they will act like professionals, and think “well the Current plays a bunch of our songs, so maybe we ought to play one or two of those songs, you know like the people are expecting”

    They chose to act like spoiled little children. Imagine if Bob Mould had used his stage time to read poetry or gaze into the crowd for an hour as art – would the Low apologists have the same feelings as they do about their band being lame.
    I could escape their assault in the Sky Box with a nosh and a cocktail until they left the stage, so no loss for me.

    • Mark

      A set in this context is an allotted amount of time. Artists fill this amount of time with what they do. There are no rules.

    • kman

      “They chose to act like spoiled little children” said the spoiled little ‘fan’.

      • KTN

        ouch, that stings. I am most definitely not a fan of Low. Did not go to the show to hear them, but to get my face melted by Mould, I could really care less about Low, if they play again, call it a day and move on, whatever, makes no difference to me.

        • kman

          Ok. I do hope you got your face melted (I know what you mean). My posts sound make me sound like a prick (and I probably am) but I am out for the conversation. I’m a commercial artist myself, and I don’t have the luxury of self indulgence, but I do push boundaries when I can and I value artists both having and taking the opportunity to be self-indulgent. It’s how new territory is discovered. I get prickly when artists are criticized for taking risk and not conforming to expectations. Low may not have done it well, that’s not what I’d argue. I just hope for a better discussion from my fellow Minnesotans.

          • KTN

            Sure push boundaries, but in this case, I believe they might have thought out their strategy a little better, I hear their songs on the Current, and like some of what I hear, and was hoping to maybe hear those songs live. They are not my cup of coffee. This does not diminish their talent, or abilities, just that the slow ethereal nature of their style is not why I (we) went to the show. For some, this was hugely successful and fulfilled their every expectation of what Low is, for me, it did nothing except make me scratch my balding head.

  • Babs Santini

    From 1996

  • Mark

    For all the self-congratulatory rhetoric about The Current’s eclecticism, many of its listeners seem to have musical horizons about 3 inches wide.

    • Will

      Or simply don’t like a 27 minute version of a song they probably wouldn’t have liked anyway…why the need for “either appreciate this piece of avant garde music or you are shallow” dichotomy. Totally senseless IMO.

      • Mark

        I agree with you. Simply not liking it is one thing, and that’s totally understandable. But arguing that Low somehow “cheated the audience” or “ripped people off” by playing an extended version of a song off their (imo) best album displays profound shallowness.

        • Will

          Profound shallowness because they maybe expected a sampling of songs from an incredible band with an incredible catalog? I think that judgment is a bit unfair. If I expected those songs and didn’t like the one song they played, I would have felt ripped off…I don’t think that is shallow. Fans are allowed to feel extreme disappointment @ $55 per ticket (or far more, depending on scalpers)…

          • Mark

            Expectations are a hell of a thing.

          • X.A. Smith

            If you paid $55 for one band, and they did one half-hour song, I could understand complaints. But for a festival where one of the many bands does it, I think it’s an over-reaction.

        • Will


    • Che

      sounds like it.

    • X.A. Smith

      The Current’s playlists are as eclectic as my Norwegian-American ass.

    • manure2

      Agreed, why would you listen to the Current when KFAI and Radio K are broadcasting… Being in their demographic, it’s a little too on-the-nose to be hearing its one sound and living its socio-economic lifestyle at the same time.

  • funoka

    I guess I’m surprised that Low can generate that much vitriol. I wouldn’t be suprised with anything they at a festival show, where they don’t have a full timeslot. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were like what RTG people got to see with Low — something different. Looks like Low has material to write their own indie rock version of Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” — You can’t please eveyone.

  • Eric Olson

    With the lights out, it’s less dangerous

    Here we are now, entertain us

    I feel stupid and contagious

    Here we are now, entertain us

  • kman

    You paid for a performance and you got one. If you don’t like it, get the guitar out and bust your own chops. Self-entitled whiners, the lot of you.

  • Benj

    It really is an interesting question, and in this day and age of lawsuit mania, it’s somewhat surprising that bands aren’t bound by contracts that spell out specifically what kind of show they’re expected to play, or at least for how long. Not that I am in any way in favor of that. Any time I’ve played out live though, it’s been loads of fun and I always wish I could do it more save for the fact that the bands I’ve been in only have about 30 minutes of material. Putting on a good show is not just good for a band’s PR (case in point), but is also often as much fun for the performers as it is for the audience. Why wouldn’t a band want to play as long as they could? Read interviews with bands about to leave for tour – they are always amped to get up onstage and play as much as they can. Regardless, the audience expectation is still there, and the unwritten, unspoken rule of a 30-45 minute set does exist; Except if you’re the Ramones, who are allowed to play a shorter 25-minute set because it will contain no less than 40 songs.

  • Kianna Tichy

    Yes low has a right to play whatever their hearts desire. But as a fanand Concert goer I have a right to be angry and disappointed! The drone that was played caused panic and confusion for me it was never ending and terrifying to feel as if time never moved. Music for me is uplifting and a spiritualawakening this felt as if I have been tossed to the lions. Low lost a fan and they should feel apologetic at least for the mayhem they caused.-hurt concert goer

    • Jason

      Sounds to me like you’re a fan of the Low songs you’ve heard on the radio, but not with their live concerts which you are probably unfamiliar with. In addition, by it’s very nature, you should not expect to like everything you hear at an artistically programmed music festival, and that’s ok too.

    • Steve F

      That’s a very limited idea of music.

    • kman

      “caused panic and confusion”? *facepalm*

      • Guest

        My kid actually cried.

        • kman

          I may actually cry.

  • Randy

    Let me get the hand-wringing equivocation out of the way first: Everyone has the right to like whatever kind of music they want.

    Low—three people who make music for a living so you don’t have to—were greeted by confusion, disbelief and eventually outright hostility when they played their set for you. If you could go to the Minnesota Orchestra, would you be booing them when they played what amounts to one song?

    The Twin Cities, in general, have a massively bloated self-image when it comes to our “arts community.” Anyone who reads our breathless, echo-chamber local press can tell you that Minneapolis and St. Paul are some of the best arts cities in the country; that our music community is vibrant, diverse and successful.

    That may be true on paper, but it’s a complete fabrication when you’re considering how people actually interact with and consume music and arts in our community. Thankfully—because Christ forbid anyone actually find something on their own—we have rubber-stamp critics and family-friendly organizations like The Current to give us easy signposts to what is or isn’t safe for consumption. It’s like our own little version of Oprah’s Book Club.

    What we’ve seen come out over the last two days, at least on a mass level, has been outrage, bile and hate directed at a band that made a bold choice at a high-profile engagement. So far, most of the sniping has been between people who loved or hated the Low set. Very little of this wonderful “discussion” has taken note of how this latest eruption is just the latest symptom of our shallow, hype-centric local arts media. Every time “the scene” blows up into yet another of its cyclical bloodbaths—for reference, see Howler—tensions are exorcised for another three months, and things settle down again.

    What’s disgusting to me about this whole thing is that this city has been primed for mediocrity for the last eight years by a radio station that has made the conscious decision, time and time again, to dumb down what it plays in order to appeal to a wider audience. The Current is a rigidly programmed mirror of a corporate rock radio station. The only difference between it and Cities 97, K-TWIN or 93X is that it plays “indie” music instead of butt rock, though I’d hazard an opinion and say that The Current and Cities are basically interchangeable at this point.

    The Current so transparently, so brazenly caters to the lowest common denominator that it’s becoming increasingly ludicrous to see it referred to with any amount of credibility by the local music press—or, at least, that it’s described as “indie” or “alternative” at all. It’s a crass, calculated radio station that doesn’t advance anyone’s agenda other than its own. That Low has fit into The Current’s scheme thus far isn’t a reflection of their music at all—it’s because they decided that you like their music enough to keep playing it, and because it would be bad form to stop doing so. Something tells me that such a privileged position will be reconsidered going forward.

    And one would think that the fact that the crowd at Rock the Garden was so stupidly hostile to something remotely different would cause some sort of self-reflection on the part of The Current’s staff. Some sort of admission of guilt, or shame, that the project they started with noble intentions eight years ago has become so monolithically dumb that it can easily gather 15,000 people together to boo and hiss at a band who have the balls to play one song. The crowd reminded me of the tutting, henlike, quintessentially Minnesotan women you’d see tending to their Vote Yes lawn signs. You people belong in the suburbs, or in Texas.

    The saddest part about all of this is that everyone (myself included) has been sucked into doing exactly what they want you to do: clicking on their links, listening to their stream, tweeting at them a lot. Andrea Swensson, along with the rest of the local music press, have mastered the art of writing long-winded think pieces (though I guess my comment has suddenly become one) that are solely designed to focus attention on the writer and her wishy-washy non-opinions on the matter. She shares the blame for this poisonous, cyclical bloodletting. Admittedly, Andrea has been paid to disseminate this garbage, but you would think that someone who once had a distinct voice would be a little clearer. But, that’s the way of The Current: to weaken, to smooth out, to whitewash anything resembling personality or uniqueness. It’s a sad state, and it’s smothering our cities.

    • Mark

      “And one would think that the fact that the crowd at Rock the Garden was so stupidly hostile to something remotely different would cause some sort of self-reflection on the part of The Current’s staff. Some sort of admission of guilt, or shame, that the project they started with noble intentions eight years ago has become so monolithically dumb that it can easily gather 15,000 people together to boo and hiss at a band who have the balls to play one song.”


      • Stuart Hazard

        What? A concert is now a competition to see who has the biggest pair??

        • Mark

          No. How the fuck did you get anything about a “competition” from that? Projecting?

    • Mark

      “We don’t play the watered-down generic dadrock those OTHER stations play. We play watered-down generic dadrock by DIFFERENT ARTISTS!”

    • Stuart Hazard

      The Minnesota Orchestra (when its playing) publishes its program BEFORE the concert. If you’re getting new or avant-gard, you know it ahead of time. And Classical critics are the toughest. This was a case of a band ignoring its audience or thinking they are somehow superior to and not dependent on their audience. That is a one way relationship that will not last.
      And lets talk about “three people who make music for a living so you don’t have to”; you mean who are privileged to be able to live in a society rich enough to support artists who can make a living making and performing their art and don’t have to till the soil!!

      • Mark

        I think it was a case of a band trusting its audience to hang with them on a challenging piece, and sadly finding that trust wasted on narrow-minded philistines.

      • IHANW

        Being a musician is a job. They have been working the same job tirelessly for more than 20 years. Do you till the soil?

    • Matthew Kretzmann

      Well put, Randy.
      Low is a band that I would expect to play music like this live to shake up the music world and I am glad they did it.

  • Eric Shosted

    it’s only art when it fits my preconceived criteria.

    • Steve F

      Nice one, Eric.

  • There’s a good bit of discussion in http://www.presspauseplay.com/ about the growing entitlement of the crowd in our new digital era…

  • Steve F

    Sounds like some of you would have been with the guy yelling “Judas!” at Dylan in ’66 at the Royal Albert Hall for going electric

    Maybe you’d be better off over at some of those radio stations where the 70s have yet to die, where you can feel safe and not have to think for yourself or be challenged. Or maybe just mindless pop hits would be the thing?

    The audacity of this is just plain awesome.

  • Vicki Larson

    I think the audience should have sung back one of Low’s own songs: “Just Make It Stop”

  • Sara Crow

    So many of the most legendary moments in music came when the performers do something completely unexpected. So, while attendees didn’t get to hear what they expected, they heard something completely unique and, had some not been busy being annoyed, something possibly quite powerful. Live music is unpredictable. That’s its beauty.

  • Will

    At the other extreme, jamming one chord and spending the next 27 minutes staring at the ceiling may be art, may be interesting and provoking art, but it is hardly fair to put it unadvertised on a bill to attract concert-goers. People GENERALLY put their money down expecting a set representative of work, be it old or new, deeper cuts or “hits”, or whatever. Low chose to commodify their music by accepting the cash and putting their name on the bill to attract fans — hardcore and casual alike. Commodities are sold to consumers who have a right to expect interaction with the commodity. Just IMO, I’d say that Low didn’t hold up their end of the bargain with the audience. And FWIW, I thought the set was beautiful and eventually annoying. The 15 minute version followed by some other stuff (anything else from the catalog, really) would have been welcomed.

    • Mountain Battles

      I’m not sure I really understand what you mean by “interaction with the commodity”. But insofar as I do understand it, I should have said that what I get, when I buy a concert ticket, is no more or less than the right to listen to what the musicians play, for however long they play it. So I can’t see how concert-goers were shortchanged, just on the basis of a lack of “interaction with the commodity”.

      You might reply by saying that there’s an expectation musicians will play a “set representative of work”. Again, I’m not sure I understand what that means. But, in any case, the claim just seems wrong to me. Maybe if the musicians announce in advance that they’re going to play a specific set–say, a particular album from start to end–I might have a cause for complaint if they don’t. But that’s not the case here. So I don’t see what the problem is.

      • Will

        Sorry, I meant “set of representative work” — perhaps songs from several albums? I’m sure that is less clear than what you might like but it’s a correction more than anything. Anyway, IMO once you sell the ticket, you sell the music and, IMO, sell products listed under the brand Low. That is a brand with many, many products in its catalog. To play only one and to extend it for the entire show seems unreasonable to me.

        • Mountain Battles

          I still don’t understand at all why you think that buying a concert ticket entitles you to hear a set of representative work. It entitles you to hear a concert. Isn’t that all? Why do you think it entitles you to anything more than that?

          It feels like you’re confusing good marketing (that’s the context in which we usually talk about brands and catalogs) with what people have a right to. And that just seems wrong–and a very odd use of language, besides.

          • Will

            Fair enough. I guess I’m just trying to work it out. When I see Low on a marquee, something specific comes to mind. That’s what I see as Low. I choose to buy the ticket based on that.

            I’m not saying that I am entitled or have a right to anything. When I purchase a ticket, I EXPECT to have at least part of an imaginary setlist fulfilled in some manner. I fail to see why that’s such a controversial expectation. Yesterday was disappointing to me as a Low fan because those expectations weren’t meant in any meaningful way. What they did was beautiful in some ways but I still find it disappointing. FWIW.

          • Mountain Battles

            OK, good. Your first comment contains the reason I thought you were saying more than that you didn’t like the performance. In that comment you said: “Commodities are sold to consumers who have a right to expect interaction with the commodity. Just IMO, I’d say that Low didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.” I’ve added the italics. In those sentences you sound like you’re saying more than that you didn’t like the performance. It sounds like you’re talking about rights and entitlements.

            In answer to your other question: I don’t think it’s controversial that you, for whatever reason, have a private expectation of hearing an imaginary setlist when you go to a concert. But, as I said, I understood you to be saying more than that your private expectations went unfulfilled. So I’m glad we’ve cleared up the misunderstanding (if we have).

  • Gigi

    A long time ago I saw The Flaming Lips play at a little cowboy bar in Bozeman MT. They filled the room with smoke so thick I couldn’t see anything. The Lips came out and played pure distorted feedback noise for twenty minutes then left the stage. That was it. I felt ripped off, but in the end I have a great story to tell about it. I felt the same way after the Low stunt-ripped off. But, it’s a great story and I guess something of a “punk” move, though rather tried and clichéd. Like Emily Haines sang a couple of hours later “Dead disco, dead funk, dead rock and roll. Remodel, everything has been done.”

  • banjonyc

    Actually you bring up an interesting point as far as “art” is concerned. What if the band indeed, never came out. What if they just set up their instruments on stage and that was the performance. The piece was about how music has become souless, so they just have the instruments on stage for 30 minutes, lights come up and good night. Would we have to say that “hey, its an art piece and there you have it?”

    • Mark

      Yes. You would. Ever hear of John Cage’s “4:33?”

      • Lazy Drone

        For $55 ! I mean come on. Maybe on a free Thursday night it would’ve been ok.

        • Mark

          Ah yes the American obsession with “my money.” Such entitlement. Also, Low wasn’t the only band who played the festival.

          • Lazy Drone

            Why is it so easy to pick on Low. why?

            They had a job to do, just like everyone else on that stage. Sound techs, camera people, crew workers who carried equipment and wiped the floor, you name it. Everyone showed up and did 110%. Bob Mold did 120%, the guy busted his ass off.

            Probably could’ve got away with a few more Drone remarks had they played more than one song.

          • Mark

            I think you underestimate the discipline & commitment necessary for musicians to play long minimalist pieces like that. Not that something being “difficult” makes it necessarily “good,” that’s in the ear of the behearer, so to speak, but to imply doing this piece was in any way lazy is, well, lazy.

          • Lazy Drone

            Oh no I get it. Seen a few noise shows myself, not at a huge outdoor festival though.

            I bet they were trying to break a world record for the longest time one can play 3 chords through a delay pedal in front of 15,000 people before a riot broke out.

            They were so close to getting the plug pulled on them. If you look at the photos you can see a dude with a yellow notepad desperately trying to get the front man to read something scribbled in giant letters on it.

            They didn’t care cause it was Art in progress. There is a point when the audience will realize that they are being made fools of and that’s just that.

            Props to the bass player however he was sweating and looked like he was ready to quit 15 minutes in.

          • Mark

            “They were so close to getting the plug pulled on them. If you look at the photos you can see a dude with a yellow notepad desperately trying to get the front man to read something scribbled in giant letters on it.

            They didn’t care cause it was Art in progress. There is a point when the audience will realize that they are being made fools of and that’s just that.”

            Saw a reference elsewhere in this thread about Dylan at Newport in ’65 & you sound like one of the angry folkies. (Not comparing Low to Dylan, but that part of your post struck me as apropos of that moment)

      • Will

        Ah, but how many tickets were “closed” once Low was announced as one of the acts? Low undoubtedly is interested in “my money” — their music is a commodity to be consumed. People have every right to feel that they didn’t get their money’s worth without being called shallow, etc. Good grief.

        • Mark

          I think viewing music, especially in a live setting, as “a commodity to be consumed” is shallow. Sorry. I just do. Recordings could be viewed that way, sure, as they are essentially product, but live shows are an experience & if you prefer your artists to be predictable, there are plenty of those on the Current’s playlists.

  • Tim Miller


    I became a Low fan in 1996. Today they have made me very proud once again. Long live slowcore.

  • Hil

    I don’t really understand how insulting the people who didn’t like Low’s set or knocking the Current as mainstream really furthers the dialogue. The Current is a listener supported station so they’re going to play what the listeners want. Thats how they get their funding. Maybe that leads to some radio friendly hits but it also makes them the station that played a new song by Black Sabbath, last week. It means they play Ella Fitzgerald right after Macklemore & Lewis and then they play We Are Scienists. You can say it’s another Cities 97 but I’m pretty sure a “hardcore” cities fan wouldn’t agree.

    I didn’t like Low’s set and none of the people I was with did either. We weren’t Low fans before and we weren’t converted. I think that’s the difference here. At a showcase kind of event, bands have an opportunity to bring new fans into their base. Metric added me on Saturday. Low didn’t. That said, I don’t think Low was required to. The band can play what they want and let the listeners fall where they may. It doesn’t make me less of an art lover to say I didn’t enjoy the sound. I still like art and I still enjoy thought provocation. I didn’t like Low.

    I have been going to Rock the Garden since the first show and to say its been dumbed down by the Current is patently ridiculous. There have been years of big names and years of smaller bands. The point is appreciating music in our city, in a beautiful space. You can complain about a set or a band or the Current but if you’re going to waste what could be a fabulous Summer Saturday by insulting everyone whose taste differs from yours or whose agenda isn’t written to an idealized aesthetic then what are you really bringing to the party?

    • Will

      Indeed — excellent post. I recognize that they made art, and made art that I didn’t enjoy (as a Low fan). Why is my reaction some kind of art crime!

      • James Hendry

        you have to accept everything. thats how art works… for the past 50 years…

    • Babs Santini

      How is playing a new Black Sabbath song even remotely “daring” or “imaginative” radio? They are one of my favorite bands, but come on. They have been a massively successful baby-boomer favorite for nearly five decades.

      • Hil

        Really? How many stations are playing it? And I really am asking the question.

        • Babs Santini

          They play it plenty right where you would expect it. On KQRS.

          • Hil

            So it was kind of daring for the Current to play it, in my opinion…

          • Babs Santini

            Because it might potentially alienate their incredibly middle-of-the-road indie rock demographic? Like, say, perhaps a not-terribly abrasive meditative drone piece at a festival?

          • Hil

            Sure. You can call it a middle-of-the-road indie rock demo, if you want and I assume since you’re here, that you count yourself in there as well, but it’s not really a mainstream choice. It makes the station interesting and at times unconventional. If you want edgier playlists, they are out there but they’re not getting commercial or listener funding.

        • Will

          Agree. And why not play Black Sabbath? They’ve played old Black Sabbath as well. I like hearing So What? and KISS’s “Love It Loud” played back to back. I like the interest in all sorts of musics. It isn’t perfect but it’s far more interesting than KQ or Cities 97!

    • Your comment is one of the most balanced here at the moment. We all agree Low was entitled to play anything they wanted in any way they wanted… but we also agree they could have done more to have people attending RTG become, if not a fan, at least someone who can say “I saw them live and liked them”.

      Leaving any argument of entitlement out given the ticket price, I feel Low missed a great opportunity to grow their fan base considerably. Would that be doing fan service? Most certainly. But it would also mean that they can keep playing their own kind of music for much, much longer.

      • Babs Santini

        They have a giant fanbase worldwide already and have been well-known and touring for nearly twenty years. They have played with Radiohead in arenas and have been covered by people like Robert Plant. They are more than worthy of taking an occasional risk, especially at a MODERN ART MUSEUM IN THEIR HOME STATE. I have not found their “song craft” interesting in a long time, and I thought this was a great way to display that they still have the adventurous taste that got them their initial fans and started their entire trajectory.

        • Will

          I suppose a “if not there and then, when to play this piece?” argument could be made…

          • I think all the arguments about this specific performance can be boiled down to exactly that.

        • The way you phrase it, you’re basically saying “they have enough bands already and don’t need anymore”. Personally I’ve never heard them outside of The Current or internet radio and I can guarantee you very few people know of them in Mexico, regardless of their worldwide fame.

          • Jason

            I think you meant to say that Babs believes they have enough FANS (not bands). It is true that many people who listen to music of this kind know of Low in likely every rock music-loving country you can think of, and they have successfully toured the world. It doesn’t matter if you know people in Mexico who have never heard of them or anywhere else. The point is that they are SUCCESSFUL at what they do and have been doing it for 20 years, and living amongst us the entire time. It appears that you, like many others, wanted them to play something other than or in addition to the one long song they played, but this is exactly what Low does live. This is why you ask Low to play your festival, to be engaged, to not simply regurgitate their few radio-friend hits that you’ve heard 3 times a day for a year straight. A band should not be expected to simply play the songs that you know from the radio, which is the radio station’s fault for programming heavy rotation, and your fault for not be familiar with what Low does live, with only a 30 minute set. Does a band that has played here countless times in the last 20 years have to prove themselves to an all hometown crowd and THE supposed “local music” station audience? This isn’t the Jingle Ball, or maybe that’s what the RTG moaners wish it was?

          • I heard beforehand they had a reputation for doing long songs of the sort, but I didn’t really expect them to pull off this sort of thing at the festival. I’m not saying they’re not successful, I’m saying they can be even more successful than they are now.

            I just feel they missed an opportunity, is all.

          • worthless recluse

            Don’t you think they might have priorities and motives other than being “even more successful”? Artistic ones perhaps?

          • Not saying at all they don’t have them. I guess I’m just reflecting on the practicality of it all, since in order to obtain artistic achievement oftentimes you have to first obtain some modicum of commercial achievement.

            This gig at the Walker could have helped them obtain the second, which in turn enables them to seek the first.

            Again, this is just how I see it. Too often people complain about artists selling out but rarely realize they have to sell out sometimes in order to keep being an artist instead of getting out of the business and becoming one of us who watch from the pit in front of the stage. The vast majority of comments here implicitly reflect on this fact: The set was daring and they are to be applauded for it *but* it was the wrong event for it, even if the venue is an art gallery.

          • worthless recluse

            You don’t earn the right to get weird by putting in time getting paid. If you care about what you’re doing, you do it to whatever extent you can even if it means playing to twenty people for the rest of your life. I know countless people who are pursuing uncompromising musical paths with nothing that could be described as commercial achievement. Obviously there are people trying to make a living as musicians, and of course that involves compromises, and there are many degrees of that – but being outré isn’t something people “get to do” after becoming household names (Radiohead notwithstanding). I’ve seen so many great musicians striving against massive obstacles that I’m not going to applaud people who dumb down for financial reward.

            As for the Low set: I’m not very familiar with the band but from the comments I thought they’d done a half hour drone or something. Listening to the stream, I see it was just a long song with noise / drone bits. Maybe Low are trying to push past audience expectations a bit, maybe it’s a little aggressive, but with the music business as it is, there’s little point in pandering to potential fans. Better that they have the balls to do what they’re passionate about.

          • James Hendry

            Theyre not that successful.

          • Matthew Kretzmann

            I am sure that they are as successful as they would like to be.

          • Corey Morden

            Who are we to measure someone else’s success? Like Matthew K there says, I’m sure they’re as successful as they’d like to be. They get to tour around the world, make music for a living, play sold out shows…as a musician and friend of many more musicians, that’s honestly more successful than most, and is honestly what most people want. Most artists wouldn’t say they’re not successful because their record didn’t debut at #1, or because it didn’t sell 95 million copies.

  • Che

    seriously folks, please please please lighten up and think out of the box for 40 seconds. i’m a low fan, have seen them several times and would have enjoyed the set everyone expected, but i was excited and happy to have seen the bold and interesting thing they did instead – probably a once in a lifetime thing. i walked away at the end of the set with a huge smile on my face and am really stunned that it is at all seen as “controversial”. yes, people paid to see them play music. and they did play music. and people got to see something they hadn’t seen before. why is that so upsetting? laziness? closed-mindedness?

  • Reid Anderson

    I don’t care if a band plays its hits or not, but doing a 27 minute performance is weak. Would Low have ever tried this when they were first starting out, playing gigs for peanuts in bars? No way … they would have never been asked to come back and would have never attracted a following. You can call it “punk rock” or “artful”, and maybe it is that, but it also smacks of laziness and shows a lack of respect to the audience. Low is free to do what they want, but this does not seem like a great way to build fan relations. Also, these artists get paid big dollars to perform large events like this, and I would feel morally “not right” to enter the contract and give a 27 minute performance…but that is just me.

    • Craig Freeman

      Well, that’s all the time they had, so…

      • Will

        So turn a 14 minute song into a 27 minute song?

        • Craig Freeman

          I was responding to the complaint that “a 27 minute performance is weak” and that it’s not morally right to sign a contract and give only a 27 minute performance, when that’s all they had. I’ve said elsewhere in this thread why I enjoyed the performance and won’t rehash it here.

          • Will

            (oh, sorry — nevermind)

      • Reid Anderson

        So their allotted 60+ minute time slot turned into 27 minutes? Sounds like a poorly run even then. Glad I didn’t waste money on it.

        • Mark

          Inclement weather had something to do with it, I believe.

        • Craig Freeman

          They never had 60+ minutes. It’s a single stage event so there needs to be equipment breakdown and setup in between each set. Add to that the fact that they got a late start while the pools of water were removed from the stage, and their set got compressed even more.

          • Reid Anderson

            Yeah, this is why I don’t pay to go to large events like this. I would rather see one band play a 2 hour set than attend a 6 hour event that is half set up/take down and sound checking. I know that is my preference. I still stand by the statement that a 27 minute set is weak, but see now that Low likely had no say in that matter. It seems like most of their true fans aren’t too upset about it, so good for them.

    • Mountain Battles

      You might want to read a little more about Low when they first started out…

      • Reid Anderson

        Fair enough. I am basing that part on my own knowledge of most local bands and their origins.

  • Drew

    As far as the “set” that Low did on Saturday, I missed most of it. In fact, I missed it on purpose. I don’t like Low. I find their music boring and self indulgent. So the fact that they played a boring and self indulgent set is no surprise to me. That being said, from an artistic standpoint, I thought that it was a bold decision to play what they did and if you didn’t like it, too bad, so sad (I realize that I’m contradicting myself here, but I can see both sides of it-maybe because I’m not a fan so I’m able to be more objective?). Again, speaking from the artistic side, if artists can’t take risks, they wont grow. And what Low did was to take a risk, I don’t fault them for that. Being unwilling to take risks is why so many musical acts that have been around forever get stagnant and their later work becomes uninspired. As much as the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration sucked (IMO), I still applaud them for trying something new and different. It may pay off for them and their fans in the future because they stretched themselves creatively. That stretching in the past may inspire new creativity that will be successful in future projects.

    If you paid $55 to see Low, that was your stupid choice, get over it. I’ve seen plenty of shitty performances in the last 30 years (from headliners and warm up acts alike) and I just take it in stride. If one out of five bands left me unimpressed/unsatisfied with their performance, I’d call it a pretty good concert. In the end, they all balance out to an overall great personal history of live music, the vast majority of which I have experienced here in Minnesota.

    I guess, in the end, my thought is why get so bent out of shape over it? So it wasn’t the best show you’ve seen, big deal! If the band you are watching sucks, go get a beer, or french fries, or go walk around and people watch and come back when they’re done. There’s more to come, so give up on whatever it is that sucks and wait for the next act.

    • I got to RTG about 5 minutes into their set. Listened for 10 minutes, decided I could go have a tasty burger and still enjoy the drone.

  • anarchodandyist

    One musician I have been keen on for a long time is Richard Youngs, and despite being an active British musician it took me a few years to find a gig of his to go to, in Edinburgh, supporting Beirut, who had selected him especially. Beirut are huge, whereas Richard Youngs is an outsider of sorts who has produced dozens of records for a small number of avid fans. Some of them have been quite accessible and worthy of wider audiences, others not so although I still enjoy them. So he got on the stage at the Edinburgh Apollo in front of a couple thousand, correcting the fact the ticket stubs had printed his name as “Young” rather than “Youngs,” and descended into a few extensive a capella songs, and a few very loose, slow acoustic guitar numbers. His final piece was a slow a capella song which had at least 14 stanzas, interspersed by drawn-out pauses. The crowd of mostly teenage/young adult indie fans mocked him from the first song and were louder than him towards the end.

    Now Richard Youngs isn’t a stupid man, and he has long aimed to provoke certain crowds once he gets a gauge of them. If most haven’t heard of the warm-up act, they won’t invest that much hope in them. The kids in the audience who created such a tense atmosphere in trying to bait him came off as dickheads, and I doubt he gained too many fans that night. To this day I still love his music no less, and having raved about him to my gig-mates before the event I later gave them all a listen to his studio work; they all seemed to like it and one became a proper fan. Most will probably remember him from the gig as THAT warm-up, but compared to many high-capacity, expensive gigs I’ve seen, where warm-up acts tend to seem self-aggrandising in their opportunity for a “big break” and chosen to complement the sound of the headliner, ultimately flying straight by you and not affecting you whatsoever, Youngs did summat you may not see again and lasted in people’s memories. Like Low I guess more people were turned off than charmed, but if you deny the occasional challenge or surprise in your listening adventures then you may as well listen to shopping centre jingles.

  • Bryon Wistrom

    I did not attend but I did listen to the stream and wish I could of been there.

    Legally, it comes down to whether or not the set length is put into the contract.. If they were required to play a certain set length and didn’t, the artist leaves themselves suspect to not get paid. (Usually you just pay the artist anyways, thank them for their time and if you didn’t like it, don’t book them again) I imagine that was not the case and if it was, it shouldn’t of been a surprise. Either way, I give Low props because it sounded like they supplied quite an experience. If the crowd wanted more, they should of shown it, thats how an encore is suppose to happen! It sounds like the “fans” were more disappointing than the artist…

  • disqus_x34Mm3sBtA

    god forbid a band try something out of the ordinary…in their home town…at an art museum…at a festival put on by public radio. Its really revealing about people who pretend to be interested in “local music.” Don’t like LOW? no problem, everyone’s entitled to their own musical taste and opinions. But to say that what they did wasn’t art or was grounds for a refund is so far off the mark its laughable.


    Thank you Low. F-king brilliant.

  • Envoys

    This recording is beautiful. Can’t wait for Low to come to Leeds, UK, in November.

  • Gigi

    The recording is more enjoyable to me than the live performance for some reason. Maybe the vibe of the crowd made what they played seem menacing or confrontational, though Low intended it to be beautiful. I love Low and think their music is haunting. It is definitely a performance I will remember, though I am not sure I enjoyed it much in the moment, which is too bad.

  • Chris Carlson

    I have to admit, on Sat, I didn’t get the Low performance either. I wanted to hear a band that I love and tell everyone know how great they are. I wanted to them to represent for all the people who don’t know them and was a little disappointed. But today I get it a weird way. I still kind of wish they’d done a traditional set but I understand where they are coming from. I think it was more about me and my expectations for their show rather than about the show itself and the band. Bands don’t exist for us to consume and they shouldn’t churn out their hits for us just because. Low enhanced my experience yesterday, especially when I think back today. But then for me, I love Low. I’m an unabashed, uncool fan and I’ve seen them a bunch of times and will go see them again as soon as I can! I trust them. I get the messed up nature of their set because of the rain. So today I say, OK it wasn’t what I expected but that’s good right? This ain’t like going to Target and the insinuation that music should be about customer service offends me. All we are really owed are musicians who care and take chances and grow and are honest and challenge us. If that’s not what we want, there are plenty of other stations that throw that stuff out for consumption. And, can’t we all do crazy stuff once in a while? And its Low. For me anyway, they have a lot of cred built up with me so I love them no less today.

  • Jo

    The current has made the claim that this performance was unexpected. Low fans claim that this is not uncommon for performances by the group. The research of performers and knowing what to expect is definitely called into question.

    I also wonder if the current’s implied consent of this year’s performance will lead to more performances that are based in making an “artistic statement”. If so, Will there be boundaries placed on What is acceptable ? And who will make those decisions?

    • Mark

      God forbid!!

    • MarthasVineyard14

      I knew this was a gag when you said “Low fans”. Puh-leeeez.

  • rogerniner

    I wish I could have seen this live. ‘Waltz’ is the song that made me fall in love with Low.

  • Georgina Walker

    I’ve seen Low countless times and this is one of my favourite tracks. I wish I’d been there.

  • Do they not have weed in Minnesota?

  • rogerniner

    Yeah, stupid band, for playing a deep catalog song, providing people with 27 minutes of an opportunity to reflect, to absorb, to be lost within sound and the environment, I can’t Instagram that!

  • MarthasVineyard14

    Who could possibly give a shit what Low does? They fired Matt Livingston, who was the only fun one, and keep releasing what seems like the same unlistenable dreck year after year. Low: Your band is stupid, your songs are bad, your egos are ridiculous, your religion is REALLY stupid, your wife is ugly, and you suck suck suck – Go away, you navel-gazing cocksuckers – God, you make Sonic Boom look like Public Enemy – Please go suck privately.

    • Faux Paul Allen

      Way to go 89.3 the current! This is your listener base! ^^^

  • Kristin Koziol

    Even having been in that crowd I am still trying to come to grips with what I experienced. I immensely respect and appreciate what Low did, but I have a hard time accepting that I outright paid to witness a political statement.

  • AJ Lance

    A band has the right to play whatever the hell they want. They are the artists and if they feel that a one song set is what they need to create the art and beauty of music, then so be it. Bands do not need to template their shows based on the approval of the majority of the people. If that was the case every single show would be the exact same.
    9:17- Band takes stage just late enough to be considered fashionably late
    9:18- Band plays grooving number to get crowd moving
    9:22- Band thanks audience and tells them how glad they are to be in whatever city they are in.
    9:23- Band plays a few flowing songs always progressing up to new material
    9:49- Band plays “new” material for a little while to the disdain of most fans
    10:03- Band tells audience that (insert city name here) is their favorite city to play
    10:05- Band plays hits and the sing-a-long numbers so nobody feels like a douche for not knowing the deep-cuts
    10:45- Band thanks crowd for their best show ever and exits stage left
    10:49- Band reappears to play encore of the two songs most people waited all night to hear and a jam outro
    11:21- Goodnight and good luck
    Nobody is owed anything at a show but whatever that band wants to play. That is their right as artists.

    • Jesse Donat

      So they have the right to take our money and not perform, as the scam artists Low did?

      • Mark

        There is recorded evidence that Low performed. You just didn’t like it, which is totally fine.

  • Jake

    I was there. Like many people, we didn’t get there until midway through the set, due to rain and traffic. The main vibe among the crowd was mostly of confusion. And then it was over.

    Although I support the right of the artist to play whatever they want, this was nothing but self-indulgent wankery. They basically opened the show, since the first act got shoved into the parking garage. So you have thousands of people at an outdoor festival ready to party after it finally quits raining. And then they play noise for a half hour like a stoned 16 year old in his garage who just figured out what a feedback pedal is.

    Low needs to save this stuff for the small indoor club shows. Playing it outdoors while it was simulcast on the radio just wasn’t the time or place, it just left 90% of the crowd frustrated and confused. Great, you made a statement. If a tree falls in the forest…..

  • Mike Smith

    A good article on why the decision by the band was doomed from the start as either an artistic or political statement. The only thing they succeeded at was showing complete disdain for the audience. While the defenders simply appear to like different for the sake of being different http://mnmusicthoughts.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-low-point-of-rock-garden-2013.html

    • Mark

      Here you go, The Current. Feeding your audience years of MOR pablum has resulted in this submoronic blog post by a person who doesn’t know what “pretentious” means.

      • Mike Smith

        A rabid defender of a poor performance who can’t even be bothered to use a dictionary. I am shocked. Shocked I tell you.

  • Jesse Donat

    With Dan Deacon performing in the parking which we had no way of knowing, and Low refusing to perform at all, I genuinely feel *legally* we are entitled to 2/5ths of our ticket price back.

    • Mark

      Congrats, The Current. This is your audience.

      • Faux Paul Allen

        I’m sure he feels good about it since he donates $5 a year.

  • Louis LiveMusic

    somebody should watch “lost in translation” and wonder what is owed when you pay for performance…. bahahaha i want no fan that feels like i owe them something, its quite contrary… when Zed Tempo plays… they owe us $5 to $10 dollars every time…. bahhahahaha

  • Nick Nihil

    AHHHHH!!!!! I’m pissed that I wasn’t able to see this. I would feel privileged and ecstatic to see this set. That’s a life-altering piece of music by a brilliant band.

  • Matthew Lusk

    I don’t think anyone really needed to hear them play Drag again, and have half the audience shriek at every note that differed from the original recording. The musicians, they’re the ones who get to make the music.

  • Sarah Jeffrey

    For the same reasons I don’t enjoy Prince, Sonic Youth, or any hippie jam bands, I did not enjoy Low’s set at RTG. My attention span is short – be it a product of my environment or mind set – and I cannot seem to “get into” long periods of noise in a musical set. That being said, as a classically trained musician, I can endure and actually enjoy lengthy songs if they have a point. Seeing as that I don’t use any illegal, recreational drugs, I feel that I missed out on the set that Low played. Maybe if I had been on some sort of mind-altering drug, I may have gotten more into or enjoyed their set that much more. As a fan of Low and many of Alan’s side-projects, I enjoy the beauty and simplicity of vocal harmonies and thoughtful lyrics I have come to know from them. I also enjoy their shorter songs and things that have an end. This was too much for me and as a lover of many different genres of music, I have to say this is my least favorite style. I will continue to attend Low shows and do not feel that I deserve any money back but was disappointed that of all their songs, they chose this one to highlight at RTG this year. They do not owe fans anything and can play what they enjoy in the moment but it wasn’t my favorite and I should be allowed to express my opinion as loudly as the arrogant assholes that condemn those for stating otherwise.

  • Dark Dark Dark

    Thank you Low for your significant contributions and continued commitment to navigating the intersections of music business and art. We love that you’ve helped make a path both at home and in far-off places, and added your name to the list that only Prince and The Replacements got to be on before.

  • Bloodie stools

    If someone has to tell you it is brilliant it surely is not.The word art is used to justify the most the most disgusting attacks on our Midwestern morals(Mapplethorpe). We are preached to that the Emperor has such beautiful cloths but some are able to see he is naked.

  • mplstransplant

    Now that I think about it and read more I get what Low was trying to do
    conceptually. The problem is that on Saturday, sitting on the hill, the
    music was not sonically interesting. While they were trying to make a
    big statement, the sound was timid and they were unable to reel in the
    audience. Thus the performance was confusing and unsatisfying as a
    listener. If a band is going to go all out conceptually, they also need
    to do it with the music. It needed to be louder and bolder. The sounds
    Low used to translate their concept to the audience didn’t work.

  • marc

    Don’t like a band taking chances, and just doing what they do? Go down the street to your crappy neighborhood bar and listen to the band playing some goddamned Steve Miller Band covers; that is about the size of it. Low is too good for these cretinous artless whingers.

    • Kyle Witherrite

      get off your high horse! Go LOW JK for realz

  • Donovan Hart

    Punk isn’t dead, or is it?

  • “Do You Know How To Waltz” is probably one of the best tunes in their catalog. Glad to see they brought it.

  • Bryan Basnight

    I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Low a number of times and have always been impressed. Though a little bewildered by the set that afternoon, I have since listened to the set here. I have to say I’m a little pissed at myself for not paying closer attention when they first took the stage. Had I locked in at the count-in, I’m sure I would have enjoyed a nice live moment there. Live and learn.

  • Stuart Hazard

    Headline contest, I’ll start.
    Low Blows
    RTG Laid Low
    Bob Mould Saves RTG From Low Blow

    Most of the Low defenders seem to forget that the artist without an audience may be pure, but no one knows it. There is an inherent obligation between artist and audience, and in this case, Low abdicated their side of the agreement. Ask anyone in show business; Yes, your job IS to entertain. This was not entertaining. Neither was it musically interesting. It was background for something that wasn’t there to be supported. As was mentioned by the gentleman sitting behind me on the hill, this radio station has done more to promote Low than anyone else, and this was a slap in the face.
    Previous posters have mentioned the Sex Pistols notorious performances or lack thereof. What was the term most frequently applied there? Arrogance.
    The musician climbs the ladder of success only to despise those who got him there. That will not lead to a lengthy career. And frankly, I may tell the story of “being there”, but never with the intent of encouraging another’s attendance.

    • Mark

      What would you say to people who found it both entertaining and musically interesting? Surely someone as musically savvy as yourself has some knowledge of minimalism.

  • Eric Boyer

    Good lord we really do have it easy. Are we that fucking entitled that we can consider a band not entertaining us properly as some kind of affront to decency. We really *are* doomed. Hey, I got news for ya: YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.Bravo, Low. BRAVO for showing these self-important twits what’s truly important. “Done. Not drones.” That just might have to be my epitaph if you don’t mind, Alan.

  • Chaos Eject

    They managed to shock, that’s rare. Although I didn’t realise audiences had such a low shock threshold.

  • Roger Wilco

    The audacity of this band!! I can’t believe Low played music in one segment of 27 minutes, instead of 9 segments of 3 minutes each, or 7 segments of 4 minutes each, of 6 segments of 5 minutes each, or 3 segments of 9 minutes each.

  • Noelle DeHarpporte

    Art is art in all forms. Musicians can easily be pigeonholed into a single performance mode. To me, seeing something truly unique and inspired by new thought would mean more to me than seeing a band perform the same old song in the same way that it does when I listen at home. If you want a band to precisely meet expectations and deliver familiarity, stick with pop groups who are carefully stripped of individuality and groomed to please the masses. What Low did is art and it had a message. I would have be extremely happy to have seen that set. Be careful with expectations…its a dangerous way to go about thinking you are right.


    Anyone who says that “Low didn’t play” that day does not know who Low is. Go see Mumford & Sons or Coldplay if you don’t want to be challenged.

  • Mike Magoo

    Makes sense to me. Low earned their stripes by alienating mainstream indie/punk crowds for years forcing music requiring earnest restraint on them. Now that everyone is a hipster and indie rock connoisseur it takes a bit more to alienate them. If they need to be “rewarded” for their ticket purchase with a greatest hits exhibition, there are numerous touring classic rock dinosaur acts they can get in their Jettas and go see. Kudos to Low for continuing to be Low. Most will piss and moan. A dozen will seek out the old records. That’s how Low has always survived, no?

  • Wilbur Ince

    Damn artists! We need performers. Don’t they understand that music is a commercial transaction?

    Musicials OWING us something = FAIL.

  • Jen

    A few thoughts…

    If you’re a longtime fan or even just pretty familiar with Low, what they did was not particularly shocking. Listening to the stream today (I wasn’t at RtG), I love what I hear. Would I have loved it as much if I were at the event? Not sure. But if I didn’t, so what?
    At a 5-set festival, any given concert-goer should probably not expect to sing along with and adore every last song from every act. Imagine that crowd. Do you want to be there?

    It is far too easy (and cynical) to make broad criticisms about the unsophisticated musical taste or artistic sensibilities of Current listeners/Minnesotans/Midwesterners. Guess what? People are different. Some people love the unique and eclectic. Some people like familiarity and repetition. Elements of the Current and Rock the Garden appeal to the whole spectrum. So if you find the Current feeling maybe too mainstream for your keen artistic senses, or you find the Low set just too “pretentious” or “confusing” for your comfort level, take a moment before reacting as though A) everyone should feel the same as you do, and B) if they don’t, they are either an entitled whiny “dadrock” fan, or an obnoxious elitist art snob.

    Peace, y’all.

  • amsb

    The only thing an artist owes us is to be moved in some way. And everyone was, whether they are content with it or not. They owe us nothing.

  • manure2

    The Mpls music scene is willfully and intentionally stagnant. Tends to idolize things that happened long ago. And be incredibly slow to embrace anything new. That is why bands leave. Don’t blame Low for doing new stuff. That is how it should be.

  • John

    I was out of town, so I couldn’t go. Sounds like it was a memorable day. That being said, I went to a show that Weezer headlined ten (maybe more) years ago in Ames, IA, and their entire set clocked in at something under 30 minutes. I certainly walked out pissed, and remember thinking it cost me more than $1/minute to watch the show. I vowed to never go to another Weezer show, and haven’t had any trouble keeping that up (I’m pretty sure I’ve bought at least one Weezer album since then as well).

    So, does the band owe you something, yep, they do. If they didn’t, why pay for the show at all? Did Low fulfill their obligations to the fans? I think they probably did, much like Weezer did in my example above. Assuming I was planning to go to Low concert, and if I knew ahead of time that this is what they were going to do, I probably would cancel. I would also likely be unhappy (as many appear to be) with the show, and would simply not go to another show they were performing.

    Basically, they fulfilled their obligation, but may have done so poorly, and lost some fans in the process. I guess it depends on what the band’s goal is – to be commercially successful, to play what they want and hope the fans like it, to play what they want regardless of what the fans want/expect. All are valid goals, but each comes with a cost – in the first, “selling out,” in the second and third case – losing their fans.

  • Raul

    Different strokes for different folks. I just listened to the “one song set” and I loved it! I wouldn’t want EVERY show to be like that, but I mean c’mon! As a musician myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that concert goers/music listeners don’t realize this is what we do DAY IN AND DAY OUT. We get bored of playing the same stuff the same way. In addition, I think doing something artsy like this is good for the the audience AND the band. A concert is an experience. Most people just want to hear what they know so they don’t feel awkward. The problem with that is that you don’t allow yourself to be immersed in new experiences. I would’ve totally just closed my eyes and let myself go at that set, had I been there. It sounds fantastic. Again, I won’t knock anyone who disliked it, but seriously. Give it a try? What have you to lose to be open? I’m just saying…

    • Jo

      A lot of feedback from folks who did not pay $60 a head to see the performance live in person. I think the recording sounds fine too. From where I sat on the hill it sounded awful.

  • Alex Bliss

    I think your conception of what a band “owes” you is based largely on whether you consider their performance to be entertainment or art. An entertainer is judged by the enjoyment of the audience and therefore an entertainer “owes” you this enjoyment (it’s what you paid for). Art isn’t held to the same criteria as art can be successful even when it makes you angry, uncomfortable, or despondent. In the age of mostly free content, often on demand, our sense of agency and privilege can make it seem like everything is about us. Entertainment is a monologue where art is a dialog. Some people just prefer the sound of their own voice and get angry when interrupted or contradicted. One of the great dangers of intensely curated personal experience is that it becomes impossible to enjoy happy accidents.

  • Kenneth Clark Loggins

    As a fan of LOW since the early 90s, maybe one of the biggest fans of the band you’ll ever come across, hearing them play this classic piece, particularly in a festival setting with a limited time frame to work with in a town where they had just played a few months back…I couldn’t be more happy with how they chose to use their time.

  • Amy Jo O

    Let’s take a minute to discuss how great that denim shirt is.

  • Steve Scott

    Good for them. It’s not like people are complaining about the sets Prince has been laying out recently & he’s tending to jam on thoroughly these days.

  • I wasn’t sure how Low was going to pull of this RTG, having such a minimalist style amongst such loud, power groups like the rest of the bands. They were sandwiched between Dan Deacon who had a set that shook the pillars of the parking garage and Bob Mould’s band who wailed on their instruments in true punk style, and yet Low’s set is the one that left everyone’s ears ringing. They set themselves apart and I’m dang proud of them for having the courage to do this.

    Either way, I had a great time and I garnered a new love for Metric.

  • bob hicks

    I think context matters. If Low were doing a show where they were the only performers, or a show where they were planning to play for an hour and a half or two, I’d find it totally acceptable that one of their drone-o-riffic tunes is featured. But in the context of a festival setting, where the entirety of their 35-minute performance is one long piece — in opposition to what most audience members (reasonably) expect — it’s just pure self-indulgence to go into drone mode. Low didn’t have to pee into a plastic cup at RTG, but what the hell…

  • Rob Del Medico

    Zetes Johnson is a moron. What does he mean by “they didn’t play”. They very clearly did – just not what he wanted to hear. Unless he is that stupid that he didn’t realize that it was indeed, an extended version of a Low song they were playing.
    Festival shows are the best place to branch out, anyway, as the short sets often make picking a setlist awkward, especially for groups that have long songs and only 30 minutes to play. Fans have every right not to like it, but lol at anyone who thinks they have a ‘legal contract’ guaranteeing them the show they wanted to see merely because they plunked down money for a ticket. I didn’t go hounding Rush for money when they played one song from the 70s era last month.

  • Jeff Saphin

    As a performer. I see it this way: It depends what their goal was, to satisfy an Artistic urge to play what satisfied them, and in doing so make some sort of a statement? If so, then I understand that, though at their level of success, it seems less a bold move as a pretentious one.
    This was a prime opportunity to win over more fans, and by making the choice to use the limited set time to play a song almost as long as that set seems a tad unwise in the light that one of the main goals of an artist or band is to grow a larger fan base. Save that sort of set for a for a room of true fans.
    be obscure when obscurity is appreciated…

  • Grace

    Wow, people are getting super nasty over this. Aren’t we capable of having an intelligent discussion without name-calling? Maybe Low should be praised for taking advantage of the spontaneity of a live setting and for giving the fans a unique and unrepeatable concert experience. Maybe they hit and missed and left some fans feeling like they didn’t get to see the show they paid a lot of money to see. Either way, it’s sad to see how pretentious some people are getting over this. If a fan at the show didn’t like this set, they aren’t simple minded, “un-challenged,” suburbanites with no taste, and it’s not very flattering for the self-labeled “REAL FANS” to be slinging these insults. The Current isn’t about being judgmental and mean.

    • Rob Del Medico

      Fuck you

  • livefromtimessquare

    LMAO at anyone going to a Low show for “the singles”

  • CooperNick

    > does the price of the concert ticket directly reflect what kind of experience the concertgoer is about to have?
    Well, no. If that was all true, fans would have to fork over more
    money on their way out the door if they witnessed a life-altering show,
    or one that provided them with three encores instead of the typical one
    or zero.

    You are leaving off the main financial feedback loop for crap performances: The fans don’t buy tickets to future shows, and venues stop booking them. (disclaimer: I’ve never intentionally or knowingly heard this band).

  • FunkyMF

    Not trying to be snarky, but does it make sense for a dj of the station to ask if a band owes us something for the price of a ticket if they didn’t pay for a ticket in the first place? Of course I’m guessing that the current djs didn’t have to pay for a ticket.

  • Charles Anthony Eilers

    I feel like I have missed out on the lively debate but wanted to add my two cents anyway. I listened to Low’s set live (thank you Current) from the comfort of my own home. I did not know much about Low but wanted to hear what Rock the Garden had to offer. I kept waiting for Low to rip out of their melodic wall of sound, as I have witnessed so many bands do over the years at live fests. They never did. And at the end, I was satisfactorily fulfilled and impressed. Nice job Low! All the other stuff about money and what you are owed is not important

  • Sasha Dada Duchamp

    People are complaining about this? Can’t they just go out and buy the new Matchbox 20 album instead?

  • iguitaround

    This reminds me of the kerfuffle when Sufjan Stevens played a show at the Orpheum in 2010 and focused almost exclusively on songs from his new album The Age of Adz, which most attenders had never heard before and which were nothing like his previous few albums. The crowd was largely restless, overwhelmed and confused. Many left early and many reviews were quite negative. However, many (myself included) really loved the show and appreciated the experimental nature of the music. I wrote a review of that show if anyone is interested. http://stargazinginwinter.blogspot.com/2010/10/sufjan-stevens-at-orpheum-theatre-in.html

    The bottom line is that artists are artists. They don’t owe the crowd anything other than a show. It would be completely different if the band kept the crowd waiting for a few hours, showed up drunk, could barely play their own songs and then stumbled off the stage early (which many bands do, actually). This show was a well thought out expression of Low’s current mental state.

    Besides, no one is talking about any of the other performances at Rock the Garden. This one was special.

  • Brian F.

    I feel like this is Low’s “Four Organs” moment due to the split audience reaction and the unconventional nature of the piece. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Organs.) BTW, I love “Four Organs” and Steve Reich.

  • Guest

    I feel like this is Low’s “Four Organs” moment for the split audience reaction and the unconventional nature of the piece. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Organs .) BTW, I love “Four Organs” and Steve Reich.

  • TonyLoyd

    In the end, it’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it? Their performance was strong, so either you strongly liked it or strongly disliked it. With a performance like that, they did not leave much room for neutral ground.

    For me, Low’s performance seemed more like performance art than a concert performance. When I bought the tickets, I understood that I was going to a concert, and therefore I had certain expectations. For me, Low was not what I expected, so there’s a mismatch between my expectation and what was delivered. I didn’t enjoy it and I am sad that I spent 27 minutes of my life listening to it – and paid money to do so. It might make me a artistic neanderthal to admit it, but I just didn’t get it.

    All of the other acts delivered in an epic way. The Current and the Walker Art Center are to be commended for an amazing concert. When tickets for Rock the Garden go on sale next year, I’ll be at the front of the line. However, the next time I see Low on a billing, I’ll probably wait until they go off stage before I show up. They’re just not my cup of tea.

  • Jake C.

    I haven’t heard this particular “set” but I have seen Alan Sparhawk play live. He put on a pretty damn good show, playing hits and other songs that got the crowd into it, BUT, he did do some kind of 15-20 minute jam/solo and it sucked, big time. I love jam bands, and solo’s from guitar, drums, fiddle, banjo, etc., but this was not my cup of tea. It sounded downright terrible, like if a 5 year old picked up a guitar and just started messing with it for 20 minutes. So if was anything like the crap I saw, I can fully understand why people are pissed. I was at least lucky enough to see how good him and his band can be live when they actually play their songs.

  • bishely

    This is the first I’ve heard about it, but to simply answer the question this article boils down to: no, a band doesn’t owe its audience anything.

    Purchasing a ticket is a kind of lottery. You’re showing that you support what the band has done in the past and that you want to see what they do in that particular moment. If they choose to do something you don’t like, you get (righteously) annoyed, moan to all your friends and never again make the mistake of paying to see them. If they do something you love, you enjoy a transcendental experience, evangelise to all of your friends and likely spend a few hundred quid on subsequent tickets, chasing that particular dragon whilst always quietly knowing they’ll never top that one gig where they really moved you.

    Of course, audiences are big mobs of people, and big mobs of people can be rather intimidating for a band, particularly when they’re screaming “Teen Spirit!” (for example) every twenty seconds while you hopelessly try to persuade them that, hey, some of your other songs are worth listening to, too. So inevitably the end result is the band stymied by its own success, bowing to the demands of the crowd of people they probably don’t really like or want as fans (but, frustratingly, pay their mortgages).

    Now, I don’t think the solution is for audiences to simply accept everything they get, nor for bands to swing either way between the extremes of just playing their ‘best of’ and the two newest singles or otherwise ‘doing a Low’ and giving the audience something they don’t necessarily want. What I do think would help is if audiences generally stopped feeling so entitled. Yes, you paid money for your ticket, and yes, you didn’t get what you expected. But other people may well have got that, or better, whilst witnessing the exact same thing you did – your experience, and your money, is no more valid than theirs. If you go to a bad gig, feel free to whine about it, but enough with this concept of being ‘owed’ – you’re paying for art, not commodities.

  • Corey Morden

    as a huge fan of Low, and being in Canada, I honestly wish I was there. They performed one of my favourite songs, and they performed it in a manner that I (and many others) would have LOVED to have seen. If you didn’t like it, fine. Just let the people who DID like it enjoy it.

  • kristoffer knutson

    I was not at the Low RTG show but I was at the Uptown Bar years ago when Evan Dando “played” a set to the packed house. Only thing is, he was so f’cked up that he couldn’t stand at the mic so he sat down at the edge of the stage and sang a cappella for what amounted to the 15 or so people surrounding him. Being in the back of the room, I was pissed but I’ll always remember that show. I say, ‘Good on ya, Low’.

  • Sam Quincy

    Only question that has any clout in my opinion is the question of contract. What did Low get paid? Did they fulfill their obligation as far as time was concerned? Did they have a set time that they had to fill at all?

    If these are clear, then I’m good with it. I liked it, listened to it at home, but liked it.

    Good message at the end, too.

  • Sinclair

    I do not nessecarily blame LOW as a band. They are niche to this part of the country as I have been to many-a festival in my time I have come to know this. There is a festival for any band that would fit to what they play. I am not a LOW fan by any means but I am a fan to differing styles and as LOW’s style permits they are a breed apart. That said, when I look at the marquee of the venue that says ‘Rock the Garden’ where is it that they are playing??? Who is it that they are playing for?? and How do you play there?? Frankly, the “The Garden” is the scuplture garden in the shadow of The Walker ART Center. Therefore, expect the unexpected, right?? ART is the unexpected and ART provokes. The problem I find here is that this is sold as an ‘Outdoor Concert’ and there are tickets and t-shirts and water bottles and liqour and food stuffs like ANY old concert show so in essence this becomes like any other concert. Therein lies the problem. Put on those expectations it clearly upset some people cause it was not a ‘concert’ albiet it should become and ‘event’ with an air of unexpectedness. A concert would entail set list and encores and banter back and forth…this looks like it was not the case of their performance. LOW has an abundance of places to play and to be recieved for their talent and here in this gluttonous spectical they chose be unexpected and to make a political statement with that as well…..not to PUNK but very ARTFUL as expression. I piss on the promoters of this event for keeping their eyes on ticket sales and not realizing the sense of billing this as an event of unexpected music moments an ART affair instead. To just make a better catchline maybe…..so as not to confuse…..cause it looks like it has……

  • Brad Conley

    After seeing Low’s first-ever show 20 years ago in the basement of the Electric Fetus in Duluth with at most twenty people sitting on the floor (and very shy young man named John playing bass), it was obvious this was the creation of an incredible new band. You can’t take these guys for granted.

  • Kyle Witherrite

    I guess I have to download this album to figure out what the f is going on here.

  • Gray

    I am pretty appalled by all of the fallout from this. Low took a difficult situation of a rain-shortened set, and tried their best to make something memorable of it. I think they accomplished that, and I can understand how plenty of people didn’t think it was the greatest thing ever, but I find it hard to knock them for trying. A set of under half an hour barely qualifies as a local opener at most shows; were they supposed to act like that’s perfectly normal and play a stupid little five-song set that everyone could talk over?

    Instead they did something that could work on any number of levels:

    1) As a middle finger to organizers who thought it reasonable to ask a band of Low’s stature to wrap up in under half an hour, or even better

    2) As a blissfully perfect act of trolling, which happened to point out in a single song how ridiculous the whole apparatus around fostering local music and encouraging creativity is, if it can’t handle anything but standard indie-rock shows consisting of replaying the most recent album. Not to mention that, as others have pointed out, this simple thing seems to have made most people at the Current act like this is some crazy, unforgivable act as well.

    But I take Alan at his word from the Star Tribune interview that they weren’t intentionally going for either (1) or (2), as successful as they could have been there. Instead, they pulled off

    3) An impressively unique, memorable experience. Unlike pretty much anything else they could have crammed into such a short set, what they did was something beautiful and moving (in my opinion) but undeniably memorable.

    And yes, they owe concertgoers nothing, but even having a discussion focused on that is missing the point. I’ve been to bad shows before. For example, I’ve seen Alejandro Escovedo live seven or eight times, many fantastic. The last time I saw him, he insisted on playing songs almost exclusively from his last album, which I think is full of pretty stupid, poorly written songs. I was annoyed, and will think twice about seeing him again in the future. But he was true to himself, and I respect that.

    What Low did was completely different. They faced a difficult, ultimately pretty ridiculous situation (be done in under 30 minutes!), and instead of taking the easy, forgettable way out (“well, we’re going to play two singles and a couple of older songs for you and be on our way”), they gave the concertgoers something they couldn’t get anywhere else.

    I’m pretty disappointed in the Current for failing to support them at least for that.

  • Bob Loblaw Law Blog

    As a longtime Low fan who has seen them live a good dozen times, I would have LOVED to see them play “Do You Know How to Waltz?” I know many Low fans who feel the same.

  • Danny Cornell

    Wish I had been there! If you want a conventional song-by-song-like-they-are-on-the-album set, contact the band’s management and book them specifically on those conditions. Something off the wall and original is the whole point of this rock n’ roll lark. Entertainment? That’s Simon Cowell’s department….

  • sparkler81


    Never heard of them until now……