Social media clued people in to one of the Homegrown Music Festival’s many unofficial events, a Wednesday afternoon living room show at Washington Galleries with music from Superior Siren and others leading up to the main event, Westside Wednesday.
Homegrown’s official West End/West Duluth onslaught began at 6 with Mahtowa, Minnesota’s finest country gospel practitioners the Holy Hootenanners filling the upstairs stage at Clyde Iron Works.
Downstairs, Teague Alexy played his first set of this year’s Homegrown (he’ll be performing solo on the trolley Saturday at 8pm) with a local star-studded cast of friends including Marc Gartman, Alan Sparhawk, drummer Tyler Dubla, Actual Wolf, and Woodblind’s Veikko Lepisto.
Low was up next with a characteristically mesmerizing set including haunting numbers from last year’s Ones and Sixes, a honey-voiced Mimi singing lead on a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” and a slow-building “Pissing” that peaked with Alan Sparhawk going into a guitar frenzy, attacking the instrument with his teeth.
And then? Red Mountain.
Imaginary pre-show band meeting:
Anton: Hey guys, we have a big show coming up, what should we all wear? I’m thinking silver sequins and all black, maybe some leather?
Erin: Yes! I have the perfect, shredded black catsuit. It will blow people’s minds.
Soren: Can I wear my assless chaps?
Anton: Perfect! How about you, Matt Mobley?
Matt: I think I’ll just go with a sport coat
Anton: Well...okay. Um, do you mind standing in the back?
The catsuit WAS a mind-blowing highlight of the night, but of course, Red Mountain isn’t all about the wardrobe; it’s about joyous individuality set to music. The songs (including some new tunes and a cover of Low's "Sunflower"), the dancers, the horns, the confetti cannons, and the steady bass line provided by the low-key Mr. Mobley all added up to the perfect celebration of a Homegrown music community.
A hop, skip, and jump farther west a varied punk showcase was underway at Beaner’s Central, where owner Jason Wussow was heard to say “We got our first noise complaint.” Emo, psychedelic, and hardcore all blended into a thrash- and energy-filled night kicked off by KUMD’s the Basement favorites Gin Street. Notching off blocks at punk show bingo was easy as mohawks, moshing, and crowd surfing all were staples of the set. A standout was Pizzaghost’s final song, marking the end of the band as a member readies to leave town. Frontman Jack Klander literally tore the keys off his keyboard (getting a little blood on them in the process) and tossed them into the crowd.
Just across the way were shows at the Mr. D’s Bar and Grill, and the Kom-On-Inn where Rick McLean, known for his raucous acoustic punk, pulled out the electric guitar for this Homegrown set. Jacob Swanson of the Social Disaster joined in on bass.
At the Gopher, Superior native Erik Pearson, known for his work as an artist (he created the murals at Red Mug and Spirit Room), showed off his music chops in Homegrown for the first time as part of the well-dressed duo the Old Smugglers. Kraig James & The Campfire Stars played next with Tony Petersen of the Social Animals sitting in on banjo and a simulated campfire “burning” out of a drum.
Those are just a handful of highlights as the festival snowballs towards the weekend. Tonight, Thursday, is Souptown night, with a pre-fest unofficial Soup B4 Soup potluck gathering at 2104 until 8, then the action heads (mostly) across the bridge to Superior. Rockers Paper Parlor are promising to make a big announcement at their show at the Red Mug at 7. Ann Kathryn brings Tobin Dack on board for the first time to accompany her piano pop at the Spirit Room at 8. Rob May, author of the classic Giljunko tune “Mohawks,” makes a rare appearance at Thirsty Pagan Brewing at 9:45.
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.