When Brother Ali last took the 605 Summer Classic stage in 2013, things didn’t go as planned. A huge crowd clamored to see the Minneapolis-based hip hop artist, and he was ready to give it his all, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
“There was a really bad electrical storm,” he remembered. “We were really excited and the crowd was amazing. It was rainy and windy, but people were out there anyways. We were all dedicated to having a good time and sharing that moment together, but then the electrical part of the storm went crazy and the promoter was worried for everyone’s safety. They ended up shutting it down after a few songs.”
What followed was a harrowing late night trip back to Minneapolis for a frustrated Ali, one which he now admits was ill-advised. “The storm got really bad and there were times we thought the car was going to tip over. It really was not a good idea for us to drive home in that storm. So it’s a really profound memory that I have – remembering that tomorrow isn’t promised and we really can’t take anything for granted.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Ali is ready to finish what he started when he headlines the second and final night of Sioux Falls’ annual summer kick-off party June 25. For those who have yet to see a Brother Ali performance, he says to expect to experience a wide range of themes, moods, and emotions. “When I perform live, the thing that runs through all of my songs, it all comes back to being hopeful. It always comes back to love. I think that’s something that I offer, where in a lot of modern music, especially hip hop music, there isn’t a lot of overt celebration of love. That’s what my shows are.”
In addition to finding resolution, Ali is looking forward to the diversity that comes with festival season. Jake Luppen, vocalist and guitarist for Minneapolis-based indie ensemble Hippo Campus, agrees.
“I think it’s cool to see people coming together at those events,” said Luppen, adding. “There’s so much light you can really see everybody and everybody’s faces. It’s a cool environment. It’s unlike anything else. Where else do you get the vibe of ‘we’re all together in this massive space and it’s all about music’?”
He says his band’s brand of indie rock fits perfectly with the music fest atmosphere. The sound is what he describes as “summery.” “It’s music our friends can dance to. We have a wide variety of influences. Little Comets, hip hop, we’re all over the board. Usually, we prefer things that are upbeat and make people dance.”
2016’s Summer Classic, presented by University Center and Carnaval Brazilian Grill, will follow the established formula of “one night Indie, one night hip hop,” although most music fans are likely to enjoy both lineups. Erin Castle of Sioux Falls-based Americana group Union Grove Pickers says her band’s music often transcends tastes.
“Older people and younger people tend to like our music, but we write what we feel,” she said, adding, “It’s not like we’re here for a certain group of people. We write what we like.”
Union Grove will take the stage midway through Friday evening, after Maddie Todd and Gordo Ji’Bang, and followed by Heatbox and Hippo Campus.
“Gordo Jibang has been really fun,” said Castle of the Sioux Falls-based duo. “They’re awesome to watch. Elsa actually stepped in and played for us at the Orpheum show we did last this spring. She is so incredible. She has such an interesting voice and she and David are a really cool pair. They’re doing something different than we’ve ever seen in Sioux Falls before.”
Castle smiled as she looked at the evening’s lineup printed on a ticket. “Strawberry and the Jam is a blast. Strawberry is such a free spirit. Just a ray of sunshine. Hippo Campus, Heatbox. We’ve never gotten to play with this kind of lineup before. I hope that we get to appeal to people who’ve never seen us before.”
Saturday begins with the second annual All-South Dakota Beer Tasting, featuring around a dozen breweries representing all corners of the Mount Rushmore State. The Sioux Falls Roller Dollz will be onhand running a dunk tank, JAM Art & Supplies will have make-and-take crafts, and Rich Rislov will provide musical entertainment. That night’s music lineup includes Strawberry and the Jam, Sol Fredo, Down Lo & Deploi, Nikko McFadden, and Brother Ali.
It’s a weekend that many have waited for since last summer, but for Ali, it’s been three years in the making. “I just feel really grateful to be able to come back, because that felt like an unresolved kind of event. I’m really glad that they invited us back and we get to perform and have a great time.”
Tickets are $10 per day or $15 for the weekend. Saturday’s admission includes the beer tasting. Find more info at 605summerclassic.com.