This spring, Trampled by Turtles finalized plans to host a new music festival, featuring a hand-picked lineup of nine local and national acts, headlined by the Duluth folk-rockers themselves. Months later, on Saturday, Sept. 20, the fledgling Festival Palomino finally saw daylight…and storm clouds and lightning and wind. Despite challenging weather that revealed the venue’s Achilles’s heel, the inaugural Festival Palomino brought some of the very best in Americana to two outdoor stages at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park, rounding out festival season with twang, energy, and style.
As blankets and tote bags began to speckle the grass, Milwaukee’s Field Report took to the Stars Stage and previewed starry, hypnotic tracks from their forthcoming album Marigolden, out October 7. Across the field on the Satellites stage, Minneapolis’s own Erik Koskinen energized a growing crowd with his bluesy, no-nonsense country.
A particular highlight of the afternoon was Louisiana quintet Hurray For The Riff Raff (above), who bounced through a charming and dynamic mainstage set with fiddle, banjo, double bass, and a big wooden organ. Frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra’s pure-yet-gritty vocals made the tunes feel especially earnest on the live stage: husky and commanding, then delicate and fluttery.
Next came the most delightfully surprising set at Festival Palomino: Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaries’ red-hot funk and soul spicing up a day of Americana. Bradley (above), obviously a seasoned band leader, graced the stage wearing a glittering black jacket with a rhinestone eagle adorning the back and sang with larger-than-life intensity. As the brass section rang out, Bradley burst into an epic dance break that would’ve made Tina Turner jealous. Seeing the folkie-heavy crowd gently shake their hips in response was an adorably awkward sight to behold.
Then, as the Apache Relay (above) finished up their set on the Satellites stage, a hard rain fell and we were ushered inside the Canterbury grandstand. “We’re expecting 35-mile-per-hour winds,” they warned. “Spirit Family Reunion will play in about 20 minutes inside,” they promised. Problem was, nobody could find them.
Like something out of a sci-fi novel, bluegrass music fizzled in and out of the loudspeakers in Canterbury’s maze-like corridors, coming from who-knows-where. I asked a security guard if he knew where the band was playing, to which his response was basically “they’re somewhere downstairs but the room is probably full, so I’m not going to tell you where.” Lots of fans, understandably, opted for the casino instead.
A few hundred people did manage to track down Spirit Family Reunion (above), who deserve extra props for giving it their all under challenging circumstances. They managed to put on a fun, raucous show—featuring a live washboard and an appearance by Ryan Young of Trampled by Turtles—in what felt like a crawlspace under the bleachers. The crowd included plenty of good sports who said things along the lines of, “this will make a great story” or, “this is a really unique experience.”
Miraculously, the rain stopped just in time for The Head and The Heart (above), who proved that arena-sized folk is not only possible, but that they’ve mastered the art. The sound that Josiah Johnson, Charity Rose Thielen, Johathan Russell, and company achieve in-studio grew ten times its size on the Stars Stage on Saturday night.
Low (above), Duluth’s favorite slow-burning hometown rockers, braved the icy wind with a bold and enchanting set, beginning with two new songs and their gorgeous rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Their set also hit an energetic climax during an especially sinister performance of “On My Own,” where lead vocalist and guitarist Alan Sparhawk nailed a heavily distorted solo, nearly tossing his cream-colored guitar over his head as the stage lights turned a deep red-orange.
Finally, curators and headliners Trampled by Turtles (above) took to the main stage for their roots-rock extravaganza’s grand finale, treating throngs of fans to their signature hyper-speed bluegrass and sweet, string-focused folk. “Are You Behind the Shining Star,” from their latest release Wild Animals, rang out beautifully from under a cool, starry sky, and their 2010 hit “Wait So Long” helped to cap off the debut of the band’s actualized festival dreams.
As is expected of any event in its inaugural year, Festival Palomino had its kinks, particularly when it came to mobilizing and catering to such a massive crowd. However, Trampled by Turtles were thoughtful in their top-notch selection of artists, who delighted thousands of festivalgoers from two outdoor stages (and one makeshift indoor stage). For future festivals, I’m most excited to see how Trampled by Turtles can diversify Palomino’s sound—like Charles Bradley’s soul explosion and Low’s haunting, distorted rock helped to do this year. All in all, Festival Palomino’s predominantly Americana sounds were well suited to the changing scenery and crisp air, and the festival felt like a perfectly appropriate—and quintessentially Minnesotan—farewell to summer.
Writer KT Lindemann is a writer based in the Twin Cities, and a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota—Morris. Photographer Bridget Bennett is a student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.