Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Festival Palomino broadens its horizons for a successful third year

All photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR

This year marked the third anniversary of Festival Palomino, the Americana festival orchestrated by none other than Duluth’s beloved Trampled By Turtles. This year marked several changes for the young festival, which has quickly grown in popularity. Featuring the largest lineup in its history, Festival Palomino once again served as a showcase of the large spectrum of music falling under the Americana umbrella.

For the third year in a row the event allowed the people of the Twin Cities to gather together, dress in plaid, and, most notably, celebrate good music. However, this year there were some distinct changes to one of the Twin Cities’ top festivals.

Besides the most obvious difference of a change in location — from Canterbury Park to Hall’s Island — this year also saw the addition of a third stage. With three stages’ worth of performances, nearly twice the number of performers from each of the previous two years, there was hardly a moment when music wasn’t playing. The acts at this year’s festival also varied from the previous two years’ folk and bluegrass focus. This year, Palomino boasted a much more rock-heavy lineup, creating a more inclusive Americana sound.

As people arrived and staked claim to bits of field with their blankets, the Erik Berry Duo took the Blue Sky stage and provided the perfect instrumentals to kick off the festival. With just a mandolin and bass, the duo produced a remarkably complex sound. As John Mark Nelson said during his turn on the stage, “It sounded like there were three of them.”

North Carolina duo Mandolin Orange christened the Stars Stage with their impressive instrumental talent and tight harmonies. To the right, on the Satellites Stage, the Cactus Blossoms introduced their distinctly vintage country sound to the Americana mix. The brothers were positioned at the front of the stage, each with a guitar in hand, serenading the gradually amassing crowd with their close, melodic harmonies.

Margaret Glaspy marked a break from the acoustic vibe. With her powerful and occasionally gritty vocals, her music mixed a smooth R&B groove with the upbeat cadence of folk-pop.

A highlight from the Blue Sky Stage were the Devil’s Flying Machine. The three-piece band won the prize for most interesting instrument of the day for their flawless use of the theremin. The band seemed at home on the stage — especially Charlie Parr, who decided to forgo wearing shoes for the set.

Also performing on the Blue Sky Stage were The Murder of Crows. Comprising just Gaelynn Lea with her violin and Alan Sparhawk on guitar, the result was a beautifully intimate set. The overlapping sounds of the raucous rockers Frightened Rabbit on the Satellite Stage with the calmer The Murder of Crows made for a captivating contrast. For those roaming in the nowhere land between stages, Lea’s voice could be heard echoing across the field during the pauses between Frightened Rabbit’s songs.

Houndmouth and Jake Bugg both delivered high-energy sets. Bugg played with an edgy drive, while Houndmouth had a, decidedly upbeat indie sound which highlighted by saxophones onstage.

With performances by Frankie Lee, Andrew Bird, and the Brothers Comatose, the festival’s sound shifted back to more traditional folk, with an instrumental focus. Andrew Bird drew a large crowd to the Stars Stage, becoming the orchestrator providing the perfect soundtrack for those lounging on their blankets in the late-afternoon sun.

The Arcs came equipped with their own backdrop, which was unfurled as they began to set up. Many meandered their way over to the stage to witness the rock band fronted by Dan Auerbach. Both the Arcs and Elephant Revival (on the Blue Sky Stage) together provided the perfect musical accompaniment for the sunset and subsequent emerging lights of the Minneapolis skyline.

As is true every year, the curators of the festival, Trampled By Turtles, stole the show. As the last notes of Elephant Revival’s set rang out across the field, people began to aggregate towards the main stage. As everyone waited for Trampled By Turtles to emerge, fog started to accumulate on stage and slowly roll out over the electrified crowd.

TBT’s set was full of all the usual crowd favorites, as well as a few surprises. Early on in the set, Frankie Lee was invited onstage to help with a rendition of John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko!” A truly special moment was when bassist Tim Saxhaug stepped up to the mic to sing a heartfelt version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

Instead of bothering with the formality of an encore, frontman Simonett declared “we’re just gonna play until the point where we gotta go.” When their set ended, Trampled By Turtles walked off knowing they had orchestrated another truly successful Festival Palomino.

The Current’s Bill DeVille was on-site broadcasting live and talking with artists. Watch Bill’s interviews with Andrew Bird, Jake Bugg, Scott Hutchinson (Frightened Rabbit), Margaret Glaspy, and Ryan Young (Trampled By Turtles).

Writer Lillian Speakman is a senior at Hamline University. Photographer Emmet Kowler works with lights all day and takes photos after dark. See more of his work at Interface Magazine.

Mandolin Orange




Erik Berry Duo


The Cactus Blossoms


John Mark Nelson


Margaret Glaspy



The Murder of Crows







Frankie Lee


Jake Bugg


Andrew Bird



The Arcs



Trampled By Turtles