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From the established to the avante garde, block party had it al

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

The mission of the St. John Block party — to bring people together through music — came to fruition Saturday.

Music fans of all ages flocked to St. John the Evangelist Church in downtown Rochester to see more than 12 bands, representing some of the best acts from past events in celebration of the block party’s fifth anniversary, plus some of the brightest bands of the moment. Headlining the concert were Soul Asylum and The BoDeans, but several other acts, including Cloud Cult and Haley Bonar, also drew fans to the event.

"I’m a life-long BoDeans fan, but I’m not even interested in seeing them compared to all of the other bands," said Shawn Pettit, 45, of Red Wing, who had The Alarmists, Romantica and Cloud Cult on his list of must-see bands at the block party.

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Drew Sciacca, 26, of Rochester, also was drawn to the diversity of the lineup, which he said he was impressed to see here.

"I just wanted to check out the bands and to support a festival like this in Rochester," he said as he soaked up the music and the sun with a group of friends.

Music fans even traveled here from the Twin Cities, where the more established Basilica Block Party took place the same day.

The two-hour drive was worth it, according to Mike Hall of Forest Lake, who said the block party was well organized, the fans were respectful and the music was phenomenal.

"Cloud Cult is the real deal," he said.

"I think Cloud Cult is the best Minnesota rock band to come along since Soul Asylum," agreed Dennis O’Groske, who traveled from Eagan specifically to see those two bands.

Wearing his trademark sleeping mask on his forehead, Cloud Cult frontman Craig Minowa led the band through a spirited set of the avant-garde art rock that’s garnering critical praise across the country. Minowa, who grew up in Owatonna, also noted the familiar faces in the crowd, including his grandmother, who was escorted to the front of the stage for a better view. There she and the rest of the fans watched as paintings by artists Connie Minowa, who is Craig’s wife, and Scott West took form as the band played. Both paintings were sold at a silent auction following the performance.

A painting of a dove soaring above a plant by Connie Minowa went for $680 to Julie and Casey Nordendale of St. Paul, who described both the music and the artwork as beautiful. Bringing home the painting of a red-haired angel by West for $750 was Kelly Berry, 19, of Minneapolis, who said earlier this year she stood outside in freezing temperatures to be in the video for "Everyone Here Is A Cloud."

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Continuing the come together-vibe of the concert was the performance by Soul Asylum, during which lead singer Dave Pirner led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to guitarist Dan Murphy, then brought his son Elijah on stage to play guitar and sing.

Then the night took a surprise turn. As fans called for a Soul Asylum encore, event co-organizer Kurt Augustine took the mic and directed everyone to the world stage. There the Twin Cities-based pop punk band Quietdrive had set up for a surprise performance.

"I don’t even know who it is," Augustine said in jest as he introduced the band.

For fans, it wasn’t the surprise that mattered, but the added chance to come together through music.

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

St. John Block Party: http://www.sjblockparty.org

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