The lowdown on Lowertown

This year’s Lowertown Music Festival impresses with a roster that boasts both local and international artists.

Raghav Mehta

The majority of Twin Cities block parties and festivals have come and gone, but this yearâÄôs St. Paul Lowertown Music Festival has the remedy for your midsummer malaise, delivering a lineup that includes internationally recognized names such as Mason Jennings and Frank Turner, as well as local breakthroughs such as Peter Wolf Crier. A&E narrows it down to the best of the best. Mason Jennings Unless youâÄôve been living on the moon for the past decade, youâÄôre probably already at least somewhat familiar with MinnesotaâÄôs Hawaiian-born harmonica handler. Before relocating to the Twin Cities, JenningsâÄô musical endeavors started in Duluth. Today, the Midwest folk hero sits on Jack JohnsonâÄôs (aka the Jimmy Buffet of our time) label Brushfire Records. Unlike Johnson, JenningsâÄô songwriting is sophisticated and above average. On the downside, he still seems to attract the same obnoxious bro-like contingent to his live shows, so plan accordingly. The most intriguing thing about Jennings is his ability to create accessible pop music and poignant folk ballads without seeming hokey or overblown. Standout tracks: âÄúCrown,âÄù âÄúBlack Wind BlowingâÄù Tapes âÄòn Tapes Tapes âÄòn Tapes is the most worthwhile act on this bill. Fronted by songwriter Josh Grier, the Minneapolis four-piece is a noisy ball of nervous energy that recalls the glory days of the PixiesâÄô âÄúBossanovaâÄù âÄî not to mention, GrierâÄôs vocals are freakishly similar to Frank BlackâÄôs. In modern terms, itâÄôs like listening to The Walkmen but with, you know, charisma. After reaching buzz-worthy status with a four-track demo, Tapes âÄòn Tapes exploded onto the scene with their breakthrough lo-fi debut, âÄúThe Loon.âÄù Returning more polished and refocused, the band averted sophomore slump dread with the release of âÄúWalk It OffâÄù and are now in the midst of a Midwest tour. Standout tracks: âÄúInsistor,âÄù âÄúHeadshockâÄù Cloud Cult Known for their colorful live shows, this collective of tree-hugging extroverts are sure to draw in a big crowd. Cloud Cult began as a solo project by environmentalist-turned-singer-songwriter Craig Minowa, who was experimenting with sounds that included household items like buckets and couch cushions. After recruiting additional musicians for live shows, the band has since evolved into one of the largest, weirdest and most respected Twin Cities acts of the past decade. Minowa sings with a high-pitched yelp over sunny, orchestral arrangements, making Flaming Lips comparisons unavoidable. Whether theyâÄôre in a solar-paneled vehicle, recording their album on an organic farm or using sustainable materials in their CD packaging, the groupâÄôs commitment to the environment is inextricably linked to their music. Standout traks: âÄúAlien Christ,âÄù âÄúHappy HippoâÄù