Soup Town Thursday truly made the Homegrown Music Festival a party for the entire Twin Ports as the center of the mayhem shifted to Superior.
First, though, the annual unofficial Homegrown SoupB4Supe afternoon gathering at 2104 in Duluth brought together soup aficionados and music fans alike, with a soup potluck and performances from Sarah Krueger (who’s not on the official schedule this year) and others.
The official activities kicked off over the bridge with early evening shows at the Spirit Room and Red Mug Coffeehouse. Hordes of music lovers shifted up and down the stairs for alternating sets. Steve Sola did a lo-fi solo blues set on guitar and drums and upped the Prince cover count with a version of “When Doves Cry.”
Flanked by pottery and local art, Paper Parlor glammed it up on the small Red Mug stage with colorful clothes including the front man’s shiny purple leggings and the guitarist’s sparkly silver skirt. They spiced up their straight-ahead-rock set with a token ska song titled, appropriately, “Token,” that came with an invitation for the audience to do some skanking. During their set the band announced they’re one of a handful of acts chosen from a field of hundreds to take part in the 2016 Hard Rock Rising competition, and will be performing at Minneapolis’ Hard Rock Café on May 18.
The coffee shop skanking continued as the Potluck Communists took the stage. The teenaged band announced that they were missing a few members, but even with a smaller lineup managed to get the crowd jumping with their ska set. Back upstairs at the Spirit Room, Ann Kathryn brought Tobin Dack on board to flesh out her moody pop vocals and keyboard with bass and electronic touches.
Rob May, formerly of Giljunko and notorious as the man who wrote their beloved “Mohawks,” played a stripped-down punk set with guitar, drums, and, on one tune, kazoo. He joked about being a magician for his ability to make a bottle of whiskey disappear in a single night.
Meanwhile, back in Duluth, two formerly local favorites now based in the Twin Cities took the stage. Portage was first, giving audiences a chance to check out new material from their forthcoming album Creatures, due out on May 28. Next up, Dirty Horse gave a rocking performance led by a poncho-wearing Nate Case. Homegrown audiences will get to see another side of Case tonight when his quieter alt-country project, Lowland Lakers, performs at the Underground at 7.
The Duluth Dolls Burlesque group made their annual Homegrown appearance with a Minnesota-music heavy show at Superior’s Flame Nightclub. Dancing to songs from Duluth’s own Red Mountain and PLAYDATE, as well as selections from Minneapolis’ Dessa and Polica, they then closed out their set with a Prince tribute, complete with a medley of his tunes and a Prince-costumed mistress of ceremonies, before ending on a group dance to “Breakfast Can Wait.”
Some of the dolls stuck around to assist local rapper Kat, grooving to the anti-misogyny number, "Kat Calling.” Stray (Kat) observations at the show include the fact that the rapper, her dj, and backup vocalist/hype woman all wore cat shirts; “MEOW” screams echoed from the crowd after the rapper finished her first Homegrown set.
Just down Tower Ave, the Main Club was abuzz with christmas lights and rock selections from Songs of Shipwreck and Man on the Moon. While it was easy to note the “Welcome Bears” sign at the venue— accompanied by some risque stuffed animals— Thursday proved that the chicken was welcome in Superior as well.
A few blocks down, the Thirsty Pagan filled a packed house for Black River Revue, who incorporated the third most interesting instrument selection of the festival— next to Tim Kaiser’s homemade armory and Adam Sippola’s didgeridoo— opting for percussion in the form of silverware. Hitting two spoons together never sounded so good over banjo-driven, backwoods bluegrass. Capping off the night at the Main Club, electro-metal-new wave band the Surfactants (including lead singer Marcus Matthews, flying in from Los Angeles for the occasion) played a reunion show that, sadly, will likely be their last.
Schedule indecision is sure to happen tonight, as Friday features an overwhelming amount of talent. Fred Tyson's big visual dance party arrives at R.T. Quinlan's; Brother's Burn Mountain play opposite of Social Animals; Gaelynn Lee takes Teatro; Big Wave Dave plans to make splash; and the list goes on.
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.