This weekend, while we were at NXNE in Toronto living it up ten words at a time and America’s beardos were totally feeling the superjam at Bonnaroo, Minneapolis was holding its own annual festival, Rock The Garden. Forgoing its usual all-local music lineup, the festival instead filled this year’s bill with geographically disparate indie rock all-stars such as Metric and Dan Deacon, letting Duluth “slowcore” trio Low stand as the only native Minnesotans.
Instead of playing fan service to the home-state crowd, one of Low’s largest ever in Minnesota, with songs off their newest, acclaimed Sub Pop album, The Invisible Way, the band instead used their thirty minute set to play exactly one song: 1996’s “Do You Know How To Waltz?” Already a 14 minute dirge on record, the band reportedly stretched the track out to double its length by way of whirring, low-volume instrumental purr.
The reaction at the festival and on social media was swift and unforgiving, spanning the spectrum between disgust and confusion, particularly among listeners to Minnesota radio station 89.3 The Current, which broadcasted the entire performance live. As the performance slowed to its final moment of ambient hum, singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk leaned in and offered a three-word explanation to the baffled crowd as sparse as the set itself:
“Drone, not drones.”
An obvious reference to unmanned airplanes dropping bombs in the Middle East, Sparhawk’s comment suggests an overt political motivation for the anti-performance, at least as subversive as Bradford Cox's 40 minute angry, spiteful version of “My Sharona” directed at a heckler at a 2012 Atlas Sound concert. But, speaking to the Star Tribune, Sparhawk insisted the performance wasn’t meant to be a provocation:
“We weren’t really trying to do anything ‘punk’ or pull one over on people,” he said. “It was a big show, so we wanted to do something big and different. If I was there in the audience, that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see a band do.”
Their fans would evidently beg to differ.