The first installment of SoundTown Music Festival in Somerset, WI, had a lot riding on the shoulders of 2,500 attendees. The new management of the former Float-Rite Park Amphitheater tried to revamp the arena’s image after years of Ozzfest-induced damage to the grounds and its reputation in the town of Somerset. And what better way to do it than to bring in beloved local bands with a Flaming Lips cherry on top? Granted, it’s not quite the same when a 40,000-person amphitheater is about five percent full, but who notices when you’re in the front row reaching for Wayne Coyne?
Only 30 miles from the Twin Cities, SoundTown presents a feasible music festival option for Midwesterners who are expensive plane tickets away from live music hotbeds like Oregon, California, Austin, TX (which is practically a state), and New York. Though attendance was so sparse the ticket-sellers slashed prices from $50 per day to $25 in the week before the event and at times I felt ashamed of my Minneapolis brethren for not coming (only 30 miles? For 25 dollars?) to see The New Pornographers and Okkervil River, I kind of enjoyed feeling like an intrepid festival tastemaker.
They’re already planning the lineup for SoundTown 2012. I’m hopeful but skeptical that listeners will suddenly realize that SoundTown is a bargain. As Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit said, “We’re halfway between Minneapolis and Madison, two of our best rock and roll audiences on earth.” If the bands are already halfway there, surely Midwest music fans can do the same, especially when you can still tube down the Apple River and eat Foxy Falafel all in the same day!