As much as I love the Twin Cities’ abundance of summertime art fairs and outdoor festivals, about the time the dog days roll around, I get increasingly impatient for the onset of fall. It’s nothing to do with weather, really. I just miss the meaty, big-ticket theatrical productions and ambitious art exhibitions the cooler months bring with them.
My favorite music festival of the year, Concrete and Grass in Lowertown’s Mears Park, is the perfect bridge between the two arts seasons. It’s St. Paul’s last big blowout music-in-the-park event of summer, and the festival’s eclectic mix of musical styles and artists heralds what comes next for the city’s performing arts.
Concrete and Grass, now in its fifth year, celebrates the opening of St. Paul’s performance season and is jointly presented by the Minnesota Opera Company, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) and the Schubert Club (all three of whom are Knight Arts grantees), as well as the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Ordway Center for Performing Arts.
The lineup of live performances this weekend reflects the diversity of the organizations behind the helm. Over the course of the three-day festival, listeners will be treated to the acoustic fare of Dave Pirner (formerly of Soul Asylum) and singer/songwriter Freedy Johnston, accomplished vocalists from the Minnesota Opera and the rock/jazz fusion of Bomba de Luz; listeners will groove to Brazilian beats (Alma Brasileira), reggae (New Primitives) and rock (McNally Smith’s Speed’s the Name, Alison Scott, Jimi Behringer Band), capping off the festival with world-class classical music from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and this year’s Schubert Club scholarship competition winners and finalists.
The vibe at Concrete and Grass is pleasantly bustling but mellow, and it’s always family friendly; you can come and go as you please. Even with a big turn-out, Mears Park offers plenty of room to take a seat in the grass or pull up a lawn chair, while you let the kids splash around in the park’s little creek and run around among the trees. I just can’t think of a more civilized way to bid farewell to summer and greet the start of the city’s new performing arts season.
Concrete and Grass: Lowertown Music Festival takes place in Mears Park, 221 E. Fifth St., Saint Paul, Minn. Friday through Sunday, Sept. 9, 10 and 11. Admission is free and open to the public, thanks in part to support from the Knight Foundation.