Trampled by Turtles’ first annual Festival Palomino in Canterbury Park exceeded my expectations. The biggest treat of the festival was none other than the self-proclaimed Screaming Eagle of Soul. Otherwise known as Charles Bradley (and his Extraordinaires), the soul-funk R&B singer gave the Midwestern audience a taste of James Brown-fused-Otis Redding. Although I wouldn’t say Mr. Bradley’s genre is largely present in my personal collection, after hearing him, I was embarrased I hadn’t heard his music before. His voice is something to marvel at; without taking his screams over the top, he had great control and range. Bradley had great stage presence; even if he bites some moves from James Brown, he managed to entertain the crowd with his moves whenever his mouth wasn’t on the mic. The pseudo-James Brown act shouldn’t come as a surprise: Bradley began his music career by impersonating the well known soul singer.
The Screaming Eagle of Soul and his Extraordinaires stole the festival. Maybe it was the hip thrusts, or maybe the energy Bradley and the talented group of musicians behind him brought. Whatever the reason, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires were the highlight of the day. Don’t let my affection for the Screaming Eagle of Soul take away from any of the other performances. Erik Koskinen’s ‘Pretty Girls’ provided the perfect balance-lyrics full of cars, girls and drinking without slipping into the modern country protocoled sound. Koskinen and his band were professionals: their set was clean and sharp. The Apache Relay brought some beard to the party, in the form of a kick-ass guitarist that could be mistaken for Action Bronson. This hip group of guys was having fun, which allowed the audience to loosen up to their interchangeable lyrics and analogous sound.
Spirit Family Reunion drew the short straw for the day, but only because of the weather. When the main stage drew its biggest crowd yet, in anticipation for The Head and the Heart’s performance, a stage manager announced that the whole festival was to move inside of the race track’s building while a thunderstorm passed overhead. The manager compared the happening to Woodstock, and people began to flood the inner workings of Canterbury Park’s monstrosity of a grandstand. The result was Spirit Family Reunion performing collectively with one mic, on an improvised stage, in a crowded room that was clearly not meant to hold thousands of people. The thunderstorm proved to be a huge inconvenience, but passed nearly as quickly as the manager had predicted.
The clouds parted and the sun shone down on the infield of the track, beckoning the festival-goers to return to bigger stages and better acoustics outside. Patrons were held to wait at the gates until security finally gave in. Everyone giddily and ecstatically ran towards the main stage. There wasn’t any pushing, nor was there competition to get up front; people were just running for the sake of it. Watching the sun come out and the audience reassemble was beautiful. Perhaps the stage manager wasn’t completely hysterical with his comparision to Woodstock.
Festival Palomino didn’t have anywhere near the star power of Woodstock, but The Head and the Heart was a huge attraction. It seemed as though most people in attendance were either there for them or Trampled by Turtles. When the Seattle natives took the stage, the crowd was ready for them. The indie-folk fans lost it when ‘Lost in my Mind’ came on. The Head and the Heart’s performance was everything fans were waiting for. The subtle keyboard sounds were heard just as legibly as the main singer’s “ooh oooooohs,” and acoustic guitar riffs were studio quality. For a band with many stringed solos and ballad-like lyrics, they more than held their own when squeezing whatever rock tones they had in their indie-folk repertoire. Charity, the violinist/vocalist, captured the eyes of everyone who wasn’t dialed in on the lead singer/guitarist, Jon Russell. They owned the stage and their audience, but not the festival.
No, that privilege quite literally belonged to the native Duluthians. Although I enjoyed Low’s ‘Just Make It Stop’ from a distance while chomping down on a Walk-a-Taco, I’m not referring to those native Duluthians. Trampled by Turtles were the last to go on, and they brought the ruckus. The festival had waited so long for this epic, fast-paced performance, and for good reason. I had never seen Trampled by Turtles live before Saturday, but what better place to experience them for the first time than at their first annual Festival Palomino? The first annual notion was stressed quite a bit and I hope this was the first of many Festival Palominos, because The Turtles are a blast to see live. The band’s twangy yet strong harmonies are hard to come by in today’s Mumford & Son-ization of indie-folk. They did a great job selecting the festival lineup, and closed out the day with one hell of a hip-swaying good time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this festival increase in size and attract some bigger acts in the years to come. See you next year, hopefully, for the second annual Festival Palomino.