The last time I attended Rock The Garden at the Walker Art Center Wilco was the headliner. We went with friends who had Walker connections and got to sit in the VIP section and I remember that Josh Hartnet put in an appearance. That’s mostly what I remember… oh, wait, someone brought their annoying child and she was busy being annoying the entire time.
So it was time to create some new R.T.G memories this year… I got very, very excited when it was announced that MGMT would be playing so I pressed Keith’s Walker membership into service (basically telling him he had to buy us tickets).
What I realized about R.T.G. is that you don’t have to like or even particularly care for the bands that play to have a great time. It’s worth going just to people watch on a sunny day. The crowd is laid back, everyone on their respective blankets, enjoying Walker-esque “festival food” like Barrio tacos, mock duck banh mi from Joe’s Garage (thumbs up!) and Summit beer.
What happens over the course of the afternoon/evening is that you start to bond a little bit with the people around you, assuming that you are too lazy to move locations once settled somewhere on the hillside. The event is basically a very extended picnic with a bunch of people you don’t know. The strictly hardcore position themselves upfront and stand for the bands; those who are more interested in listening to the music while sipping a beer and watching planes fly over the Walker will be further back. When I say bond, I don’t mean you’re sitting there exchanging stories and making Facebook friends. I simply mean that after four or five hours with these people, you start to develop a cozy narrative for them all.
Take Geek Man, for example. What was he doing there? He was 40-ish with reddish, puffy hair, red beard, wearing the kind of pants that zip off just above the knees to convert into shorts, a loud, red Hawaiian shirt, hiking boots and, once it got chillier in the evening, a forest green Eddie Bauer oxford. He was very animated during the first two bands but by the time Sharon Jones And the Dap Kings and MGMT played, he was content to lie on his blanket, cuddled in the lap of his lady. There was a round disc of something in his back pocket that we spent some time musing over. What it a can of chew? A compass? Carmex?
Then there was Female Chris Farley. She had blond, curly hair, very 90’s in style, which was dyed red in sections. The effect was that it looked like her head was bleeding and the blood had seeped out through to her hair. She was wearing: knee length leggings under cut-off jean shorts, a black tank covered by an 80’s style graphic tee covered by a flannel shirt. She wanted to dance! She wanted to bounce! She wanted to hug! At one point she trapped a female friend in an embrace and I could read her lips saying, “I love you so much!”
We were also visited by The Skinny Frenetic, a woman who knew a guy we were sitting by and came down the hillside to “visit.” Clearly, Skinny Frenetic wanted to impress this guy. She was working so hard! She had on a pair of narrow turquoise-colored pants that I would have been lucky to get my arm into and I heard her make reference to them as being “the new kind of pants.” Really, is that what’s in store for us? She also liked to hop around, dance and smoke many cigarettes. Actually, I guess her real nickname should have been Urban Attention Seeker. I heard the women behind us discussing her and her attempts to dance The Twist to every song played.
The beer line was predictably long. I stood in line with two women pressed up against me, one of them talking on her cell phone. She just kept saying, “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God…” Then she said, “This is so terrible I can’t even, like, process it.” When she finally got off the phone her friend said, “What happened?” and she said, “Ted is dead.” Or someone is dead, I couldn’t catch the name. She didn’t sound all that concerned. But then she called someone else and said, “I have to tell you something. I hope you’re sitting down because this is horrible. Ted is dead. As in passed away.”
When I wasn’t keeping up with the cast of characters, there was much summer fashion to note. If I attend R.T.G. next year, I will want a camera so I can go around and take pictures of all the amusing, arty or nerdy t-shirts. There was everything, from a Google Maps t-shirt to one that simply said “Where Fun Goes To Die.” There were a lot of t-shirts from Threadless.com and many with retro 1980s squiggles on them.
This leads me to the topic of rompers, also referred to as “jumpers.” Prepare for a romper digression.
A romper is a one-piece outfit that is generally shorts and a tank or tube top. Many rompers are floral and the ones on sale today have elastic at the leg hems, creating kind of a… babyish effect. I’ve seen lots of references to rompers online, for sale on websites and in fashion mags this year. What I failed to realize is that some women were going to take the romper seriously, which makes it hard for me to take them seriously.
If you’re in your 20s and have an awesome bod, I guess romp away. I saw one romper made of dusky blue cotton that was tastefully designed and looked good on the young blond wearing it. Enjoy your romper time!
But then I saw some rompers that really disturbed me. The romper does not provide a lot of breast support. So if you’re a larger gal, the romper can tend to sag or pull in places that simply draw attention to problem areas. One woman tried to disguise her romper top disaster underneath a scarf but you could still see “leakage” from the side.
The back end of a romper generally doesn’t have pockets, which can cause it to look like a giant diaper or diaper cover. Unless of course you have a totally flat ass. Then the loose romper fabric simply hangs down, pouching just south of one’s ass, making it look like a full diaper or a depleting balloon.
For some, the ill-advised romper begs to be traded for aÂ cute skirt. This is what happens when Urban Outfitters sells them and Top Shop touts them as “pure summer fun” modeled by UK waifs: women will buy them regardless of body type.
Kate Moss can wear a romper. Kiera Knightley. Sienna Miller seems like she’d have her own line of rompers by now. You know Lindsey Lohan has rolled out of a club (literally) wearing a spit-up covered romper. One would not be shocked to see J.Lo in a romper made of peach spandex.
If you have the build or personality of any of these women, you’re romper material. I’m not saying you have to have a tiny butt or even smallish boobs. After all, it helps if you can fill out the romper without it looking like you’re overflowing the romper. You just have to be reasonable about whether or not you can pull it off or if you should stick to boring (but flattering) skirts.
A quick word about hats. The straw fedora is big. More for women than for men. Floppy straw hats are also big, both literally and trendwise. I saw a woman sporting a straw fedora and a romper. It was so much trend coming at me I almost fell over. I’m not at all against the straw fedora. It can look super cute. The most successful one I saw was a straw hat paired with a sundress with a full yellow skirt and neutral, tank-style top. Very well done.
OK, OK, enough of the fashion… What about music??
Retribution Gospel Choir… I’m not a fan but I might be tainted because of my dislike for Sparhawk’s band Low ever since a Christmas-time concert that ended with me wanting to go home, drink a bottle of whiskey, slit my wrists and let them bleed all over the kitchen floor while I stuck my head in the oven. De-press-ing. Geek Man really dug these guys though. It was one of the only bands he stood up for.
OH – I forgot to mention the Hawaiian shirt rival to Geek Man. Another guy turned up in a loud, red Hawaiian shirt just like Geek Man’s and they were sitting only one row apart. This rival’s shirt was open to reveal his chest, which was adorned with several strands of beads. Totally different approach. At one point I noticed Beaded Hawaiian Shirt Man noticing Geek Man and the similarity of their shirts and I’m pretty sure he thought he’d done a better job on presentation.
OK Go – I think this is what the crowd needed after Retribution Gospel Choir. Some of our friends said they don’t like OK Go because they’re all gimmick. A few gimmicks were on display: one song done with hand bells, lots of confetti pumped into the air. But I liked it. I’m not that familiar with their music but yes, I’ve seen the videos. At a concert like R.T.G., I’m firmly of the belief that you give the kids what they want. This is not a gig at a club where a band tries out new music. And this is not the place to NOT play that hit everyone loves because you as a band have moved on to new material or a new emotion.
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – She really gave it her all. I love some of their songs. I wasn’t feeling it as much as other people and I think it’s because they are the kind of band I’d enjoy most seeing at a venue like The Orpheum or even The Varsity. The wow factor would be higher in an enclosed space where you felt completely connected to the performance. It felt as if some of their energy drifted out into that huge space and dissipated before it could reach everyone on the hillside. I’m not saying they sucked. Not at all. How could they suck? For me, their music is what I’d like to listen to on a front porch, dance to at a party or play at a dinner party, not at an outdoor concert. From reading comments other places online, many people felt they should have been the headliner though, so I’m probably just a weirdo.
MGMT: This is the band I came to see and I wasn’t disappointed. To me, it felt like they were trying some new stuff out but they also played their “hits.” You could tell the “hits” because everyone went crazy, the entire mass of people jumping around like one massive organism, which was very cool. The open field at the Walker is an amazing space, situated so that you can see the Walker, downtown, the sky, the Basilica in the background and being there with all those people as the sun went down seemed like what summer is all about. Coming out of your cave and enjoying yourself. And then to have the soundtrack to that be “Electric Feel” and “Time To Pretend,” how could it get any better? When they came back out for their encore, including “Kids,” it was much darker out and I’d lost track of Geek Man and Female Chris Farley and everyone else in the crowd, which was a good thing because I felt somehow less inhibited and let loose with some aerobic kicking.