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Festivals of the 2000s: Pivotal Moments in Harriet Island’s Music History

January 26, 2024
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Harriet Island, nestled in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota, has a rich musical history that has been marked by pivotal moments, and the early 2000s were no exception. These years saw the island transform into a vibrant hub for music festivals that left an enduring mark on both the local community and music enthusiasts from far and wide. Join us on a journey through time as we revisit three of the most iconic festivals that graced Harriet Island during this era: the Vans Warped Tour 2002, River Rocks Music Festival 2008, and River’s Edge in 2012.

Vans Warped Tour 2002 on Harriet Island: A Wet and Wild Musical Journey

On August 9th, 2002, history was made as the Vans Warped Tour descended upon the scenic Harriet Island in St. Paul, MN. Known for its breathtaking view of the St. Paul skyline and the serene Mississippi River flowing nearby, this beautiful regional park proved to be an unlikely yet perfect setting for a punk rock extravaganza.

Vans Warped Tour 2002 concertarchives.org

The day started swelteringly hot, with temperatures soaring into the 90s by noon. The musical journey kicked off at 1:30 p.m. with the Alkaline Trio gracing one of the main stages. Their tight performance showcased their unique take on pop-punk, although the intense midday heat presented a challenge for both band and audience.

Flogging Molly 2002 musicmattersmedia.com

Yet, the most unforgettable moment of the day arrived when Flogging Molly began their set at 6:00 p.m. The light sprinkle turned into a torrential downpour, creating an extraordinary sight as thousands of punks danced in the rain to Irish punk tunes. The pit was a frenzy of mud and mayhem, and Flogging Molly’s tight performance elevated the experience to legendary proportions.

As the rain persisted, fans migrated to the other main stage to catch NOFX, only to discover that the rain had caused a power outage. What followed was a serendipitous and eclectic jam session, with members of various bands playing impromptu acoustic sets, including tunes from NOFX, Bad Religion, Weezer, and Bob Marley.

Despite the weather challenges, the 2002 Vans Warped Tour on Harriet Island remains a cherished memory for attendees. It was a day that exemplified the spirit of punk rock and the resilience of music lovers who braved the elements for an unforgettable musical journey.

River Rocks Music Festival 2008: A Weekend to Remember

The McNally Smith River Rocks Music Festival 2008 was a standout weekend in Harriot Island’s musical history. Held on the picturesque Harriet Island in September, it brought together an impressive lineup of artists across two unforgettable days. Friday featured a range of acts, from the energetic White Iron Band to the multi-genre magic of Ozomatli. Jakob Dylan’s folk-rock and O.A.R.’s melodic tunes further enriched the night. Saturday’s eclectic mix included indie rockers The Alarmists, local hip-hop sensations Heiruspecs, and the genre-blending prowess of The Roots. Mike Doughty’s soulful performance and Live’s anthemic rock hits rounded off the evening. A surprise addition to Saturday’s lineup added to the excitement, and the festival showcased the talents of McNally Smith College of Music’s students, alumni, and faculty. As festival-goers left, they carried with them the joy of live music and a deeper appreciation for St. Paul’s thriving music scene.

Jakob Dylan and Semisonic play at River Rocks 2008 on Harriet Island. Source 

Remembering River’s Edge 2012

The River’s Edge Music Festival in 2012 left an enduring mark on both music enthusiasts and the music landscape of Harriet Island history in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over two unforgettable days, this festival not only showcased its diverse lineup but also left a lasting imprint on the local music community.

Raspberry Island at River’s Edge Music Festival. Source
Coheed and Cambria play the main stage. Source

Featuring renowned bands like Tool, The Flaming Lips, Coheed and Cambria, Brand New, Sublime with Rome, and beloved local favorites such as Motion City Soundtrack, the festival drew a broad spectrum of music aficionados. The festival’s eclectic mix ranged from Tool’s intricate musicianship to The Flaming Lips’ visually stunning performances, complete with Wayne Coyne’s iconic hamster ball antics, and Brand New’s heartfelt, introspective lyrics.

Motion City Soundtrack lead singer Justin Pierreat. Source

Enduring Impact

These festivals’ impact extended well beyond its captivating performances. They elevated Harriet Island’s status as a prime venue for large-scale music events, garnering the attention of event organizers and artists for future shows. With its picturesque location along the Mississippi River, Harriet Island became a favored destination for music enthusiasts and the community, fostering social connections and camaraderie.

Additionally, the festivals’ economic ripple effect benefited the local area significantly, boosting patronage for nearby businesses, restaurants, and hotels and invigorating the local economy.

Today, the early 2000s serve as an enduring source of inspiration, continuing to influence Harriet Island’s role as a host for music and cultural events. Its history lives on as Harriet Island remains an integral part of St. Paul’s music scene, contributing to the island’s cultural richness and serving as a testament to the timeless appeal of live music and community engagement.


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