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ISSUE 121 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/2/2008

Lutefest: Fun, folk and festivities

By April Wright
Variety Editor
and Cody Venzke
Variety Editor

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spring at St. Olaf. It's a distinctive time of year. After months of winter, the campus is finally coming alive. The days are longer, the grass is green and first-year men are running around without their shirts on despite the fact that it's only 50 degrees outall are indisputable, inevitable signs of the first weekend of May.

Well, at least in theory. The past week or so has really dampened the spring spirit. Although we can still cling to hope we haven't actually entered an eternal winter, the plain, scientifically verifiable facts indicate otherwise. Despite a few bright days of 60 or 70 degrees, the snow and the cold have persisted, even into the final days of April. The days no longer seem so long and the grass no longer so green. But somehow those first-year men are still running around without shirts.

But we're Minnesotans. Well, about half of us are. We can endure even the harshest winter conditionsexcept snow in April. That's not really acceptable. But regardless, we trudge on through the wind, the rain and the snow. As Oles, we have traditions to maintaineven those from south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Perhaps the greatest and most revered of these recently established traditions is that of Lutefest. For the uninitiated, Lutefest is an outdoor music festival established five years ago that occurs each year during the first weekend of May. With an outdoor stage and music all day, Lutefest is a celebration of the music (generally solid), the season (in theory), and even our burgeoning hormones (again, reference the shirtless campus golf aficionados despite the fact we haven't seen the sun in six days). But enough of my gentle mockery. The point here is that Lutefest always assures a day filled with entertainment, friends and outdoor activities (how can you have live music and not throw a frisbee around?).

This year, the festivities will begin on May 3 at 12:30 p.m. on the south lawn. Although we fully support an entire day spent groovin' to the sounds of campus, regional and national artists, we understand that tests, papers and even finals might have to be addressed at some point during the weekend.

Hence, we proudly present our annual break down of the Lutefest line up. Artists this year include folk, jazz and even techno. There's a little something for everyonenow, if only the weather would cooperate.

12:30 p.m.: The Shamen Comprised of Benjamin Baker '09, Jacob Dalager '09, Christopher Hanley '09 and Christy Mooers '08, The Shamen have been playing together since 2005. The jazz group recently garnered accolades for their performance at the St. Olaf Lindy Fest. Boasting members from the school's top music organizations, the band often plays jazz standards in addition to original compositions.

The Shamen are the first band of the dayarrive early to snag some pavement for swing dancing.

1 p.m.: 2 Cruel 4 Skool 2 Cruel 4 Skool started out in 2006 as an indie techno-pop group, but has since evolved into something & else. Since their beginning as a sort of silly band, Lucas Scott '08 and Laura Olson '08 have grown up sonically and lyrically. The addition of Kellen Haines '08 and Tyler Nordmark '09 promises more innovation in the future.

Where the band originally lacked a sense of seriousness, the project has evolved into a more souful musical effort. Scott's hiccupping, bouncing vocals call to mind Spencer Krug of Sunset Rubdown. Fans of independent techno, electropop and noise rock will definitely enjoy 2 Cruel 4 Skool.

1:30 p.m.: The Sextones Oh man, I hope it's sunny out because John Eugster '09, Alex Robinson '09, Whit Noble '08, Adam Burman '08, Bob Sander '08, Matt Groen '09 and Brett Wergeland bring the party wherever they go. The one and only St. Olaf ska band got their act together earlier this year and made a big splash with powerhouse performances in the Pause Pool Room and at the Battle of the Bands.

The Sextones have the energy and hook-laden songwriting to get a crowd moving. Nearing the end of the year, we all need to loosen up a little. The Sextones are an awesome soundtrack to drunken outdoor revelry with your closest buds.

2 p.m.: Masses With Masses This Lutefest will mark Masses With Masses' triumphant return to the outdoor festival. Made up of Matt Germscheid '08, Eric Tvedt '08, Eric Graalum '08 and Ben Manning '08, the group boasts a sound influenced by the spacey jams of Modest Mouse and the instrumental wails of Sonic Youth.

The band recently recorded their first album, [i]Everyone Knows the Song Goes Like This,[/i] earlier this year, and they'll be having a release party on May 9 in the Pause. Seize this opportunity to check out the new songs before the rest of the world.

3 p.m.: A Night in the Box A Night in the Box is one of the most promising, talented local bands. Imagine the Soggy Bottom Boys from "O Brother, Where Art Thou," mixed with a harder rock sound, and you've got ANITB. Their banjo-laden sound is traditional enough to please bluegrass enthusiasts, but progressive enough to entertain fans of more contemporary music.

The band's first album, [i]The Hustle, The Prayer, The Thief,[/i] broke barriers with its inventive sound and passionate delivery. But what really takes the cake is their live show. Singer Clayton Hagen and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Travis Hetman jump around with infectious levels of excitement. I've seen A Night in the Box four times now, and they're better, more polished and stronger each time I see them.

To add even more awesome to the mix, A Night in the Box is releasing a new album, [i]Write A Letter,[/i] on Tuesday, May 27. For old fans, this means we might hear a couple new cuts. Of all the Lutefest bands, I am the most excited for A Night in the Box. Get there on time to catch all the magic.

4 p.m.: Bon Iver Bon Iver is one of the most widely-blogged about artists of 2008 so far. Since the re-release of his much-acclaimed debut album, [i]For Emma, Forever Ago,[/i] the Eau Claire native has become a staple of Radio K and The Current, boosting his local stature to god-like proportions. Bon Iver, whose real name is Justin Vernon, has played a string of sold-out dates across the country and will be hitting the road with Iron & Wine this month.

Musically, Bon Iver is very difficult to categorize. [i]For Emma, Forever Ago,[/i] is a folk album that builds a haunted atmosphere not seen often on records with such simple instrumentation. Vernon's vocals border on soul music and wash over the record in a way that exudes loneliness and longing. Expertly crafted and produced just the right amount, Bon Iver's sound relies on solid writing, something that translates incredibly well to a live set.

Bon Iver is a great choice for the Lutefest headliner. While the choice may be met with most Oles asking who Bon Iver is, I think most people will be pleasantly surprised by the set. His set will appeal to fans of Nickel Creek's down-homesy folk, to stuck-up vocal performance majors and to fans of earnest, genuine songwriting. Bon Iver has songs perfect for cuddling with that special someone. Other are excellent soundtracks for munching down a burger and enjoying the (hopefully) lovely weather.

As for the weather, anything might happen. Forecasts have called for highs in the mid 40s with a possibility of rain  or even snow (you should shudder at the mention of such a thing). Should the show be indoors, remember to bring your student ID for admittance. But who knows. I hear that weathermen and weatherwomen make bad predictions from time to time, and if the music gods are so willing, this will be one of those times. Independent of cold fronts and snow showers, however, Lutefest 2008 looks to be promising. So pick some bands, set aside your reams of chemistry notes and enjoy the music.

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