Everything you need to know about this weekend's ROCKchester festival
After two years of packing all the local music you could ask for into one day, the third installment of local music festival ROCKchester is about to flip the script. The festival, entirely comprised, from the musicians to the administrators, of people under 25, takes up the first two days in June this year. Ticket prices are lower this year (some events are even free to the public), and 28 musical acts are slated to perform this year — more than the first two years combined. The festival is in its second year at Pure Rock Studios in northeast Rochester (off North Broadway, next to Bowlocity) and all signs point to a weekend that will set the bar for local music festivals in the Med City. We’ll take a headfirst dive into each of the five separate events the ROCKchester crew has planned for this weekend.
Night One | Friday 7-11 P.M.
$10/15 day of show
Community Jazz Band
Kevin & The Keepsakes
Good Luck Finding Iris
Fauna & Flora
CARPET BOOTH STUDIOS SIDE STAGE
ROCKchester will start with some soul, thanks to a motley crew of Rochester jazz musicians and the powerful soul stylings of Kevin & The Keepsakes, a ten-piece band from the University of St. Thomas that never ceases to bring infectious energy and showmanship. After the energy is set, the electronics come out to play. Twin Cities’ synth pop guru Baby Blanket, followed by St. Paul chamber pop group Good Luck Finding Iris and Rochester’s own Fauna & Flora, all incorporate synthesizers and electronic drum pads to perfection while crafting completely different emotions. The headliners, St. Cloud indie trio Guytano, combine the synthesized sound with masterful production and soaring vocal melodies that will make the listener think a young Chris Martin burst on to the stage.
After-party | Friday 11:30 P.M. - 1:30 A.M.
$5 day of show (night one tickets are valid)
w e s t k o r e a & blacc.k lagoon
At night, hip hop takes over — and there’s no special invite needed for this afterparty. Kokou Kah, homeless high schooler turned successful college graduate, will kick off the set with a victory lap of sorts before handing the reins to the least likely dynamic duo in the festival: jazz trumpeter Luc Hans Larson (w e s t k o r e a) and spoken word poet Charles Frempong-Longdon (blacc.k lagoon). Together, they create lo-fi jazz beats that are as eclectic as they are unforgettable. Speaking of unforgettable, the in-your-face musings of Wealthy Relative come immediately after them — and then it’ll be time for one of the most unusual and exciting comedy routines in Minnesota. Rysenberg, the comedic rap project of Mayo graduate Ryan Christopherson, will put a close on the first night of a weekend of music, as well as his career. It’s a show you don’t want to miss, because it’ll be your last chance.
Emerging Artist Showcase | Saturday 2-5 P.M.
PRS Teen Group
Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not worth it — in fact, this may be the best way to get to know local musicians who will be making music in the area for years to come. Tessa Stites and Lauren Heydt get the Saturday portion of the festival underway with their own takes on acoustic music, followed by the sultry, Erykah Badu-esque croons of Elaina and the expansive, melancholic music from Bob Kabeya’s project Miloe. After students from Pure Rock Studios’ teen classes put their new skills to good use on their musical classroom’s stage, two Rochester high school baseball players show their artistic sides while closing the show: Century outfielder Sterling Homard with his own backing band, and Mayo second baseman Lucas Jahns as the frontman for indie pop cover specialists The MAC (the abbreviation is a secret).
Artist Showcase | Saturday 5-6:30 PM
In between the two music sets on Saturday, the fifteen visual artists showcasing their work will take over Pure Rock’s space. The presentation centers around three different artist panels: one for photography, painting & mixed media, and a final panel featuring ROCKchester art director Kristen Brown, ROCKchester graphic designer Andy Furness, Carpet Booth Studios manager Zach Zurn, and Cafe Steam general manager & local photographer William Forsman.
Night Two | Saturday 7-11 P.M.
$10/15 day of show
CARPET BOOTH STUDIOS SIDE STAGE
Night Two’s lineup is quintessentially ROCKchester, the essence of the first two years boiled down to four hours: good guitar work, confessional lyrics, and a headlining band with a meteoric outlook. Music starts with Hayley Anne, a stalwart of Rochester open mics with a knack for the piano and a delightfully clear soprano voice. After the full-band ROCKchester debut of Century senior Sarah Hutchison, Rochester favorite Sam Butterfass returns to the stage for the first time after opening for Jeremy Messersmith on May 18. (Author’s note: Greentop is my own project, so I won’t act as my own critic here.)
Wyatt Moran, Century junior and iron man of the festival (playing in six of 28 total sets, including four in a row Night Two) will act as the perfect entrance for Why Not, a Twin Cities trio known for frontman Henry Breen’s unorthodox bass technique and for consistently delivering one of the most high-energy sets in the Midwest. The final act to take the stage at ROCKchester will be Early Eyes, a Twin Cities quintet that, in just over 18 months of existence, won the National Endowment for the Arts’ Songwriting Challenge and booked a slot at the Basilica Block Party in St. Paul this summer, sharing a lineup with BØRNS, Andy Grammer, The Revolution, and other nationally successful touring acts.
Tickets are available at the door.
Isaac Jahns is a 2015 graduate of Mayo High School and a current journalism student at the University of Missouri. His main passions are writing music and telling people’s stories. Follow Isaac on Twitter.