Weekend Music Preview: The Basilica Block Party

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July 4, 2011 // UPDATED 1:28 pm - July 7, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

Now in its 17th year, The Basilica Block Party has become a summer institution in Minneapolis. The outdoor concert started as a fundraiser for the restoration of the Basilica of Saint Mary, and has continued to raise funds every year for the ongoing preservation of the historic building. The Block Party also raises funs for the St. Vincent de Paul outreach program, which provides food and shelter to those in need. 

Of course, for music fans, the main draw is the two-day concert by local and national bands. The Basilica Block Party kicks off tomorrow at 5 p.m., rain or shine. National bands on the lineup include David Gray, The Jayhawks, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Drive-By Truckers and many more. There are also several local bands on the bill, and we spoke to Gabriel Douglas of The 4onthefloor about what it’s like to play such a major event.

 It was an honor to say yes,” says Douglas, the lead vocalist, songwriter, guitarist and one of the bass drummers of The 4onthefloor. “This is the biggest thing we’ve done. I’m looking forward to seeing Lissie. Both bands on our stage, Citizen Cope and Drive-By Truckers, I’m huge fans of both of them. I’m especially a fan of Patterson Hood of Drive-By. He’s my favorite songwriter of the band.”

It’s not surprising that Douglas mentions Drive-By Truckers as a band he’s excited to see. In the few years The 4onthefloor’s gutsy, blues-inspired bar rock has drawn comparisons to Patterson Hood’s outfit. Douglas proclaims his love of old blues, Motown and Stax Records, certainly a similar inspiration to the rootsy Americana of the Truckers. Of course, The 4onthefloor haven’t made a name for themselves simply because they’re one of the few bands in the Twin Cities producing high-energy bar rock rather than indie rock, pop or hip-hop. The four bass drums on stage at their shows had a little something to do with it as well.

It started with me and James [Gould] sitting on each other’s guitar amps in the extra bedroom of the house, just tapping out the beat on the guitars,” says Douglas. “Real Delta blues, raw stuff. We were really liking it, but I wanted to be able to set the tempo of the songs, so I wanted a bass drum on stage. And then it evolved to if I have a bass drum, everyone wanted a bass drum.”

The multiple-drum thing is a neat hook and lends drive to the music, adnd Douglas doesn’t bristle at that the concept is a gimmick. “It’s a gimmick, but I think we’re better than that,” says Douglas. “I think the songs can stand for themselves.”

The strong and growing fanbase for The 4onthefloor’s live shows suggests that Douglas is exactly right. This weekend, approximately 25,000 visitors will find out for themselves.

Tickets for the Basilica Block Party are available through Ticketmaster and at the main gate of the event at the corner of 16th Street and Hennepin Avenue. Gates will open at 5 p.m. each day. Visit basilicablockparty.org for more information.