A freakishly hot day, a sudden, short downpour, and smoke from northern fires filling the air provided an unusual backdrop for Friday’s Duluth Homegrown Music Festival activities.
Early in the summer-like day, some hardy Homegrowners organized a Lake Superior dip in honor of the Festival.
Among several early-evening shows was the Lowland Lakers, whose new CD was released the same day. The band’s Nate Case invited “Picker Tim,” aka Tim Leutgeb, of Black River Revue on stage to play some banjo.
Over at Amazing Grace Bakery, Venus de Mars was well received during her set, where personal perspectives on being a transgender woman added emotional weight to both originals and covers alike. De Mars ended her performance with a haunting cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” followed by a standing ovation from the audience.
Gaelynn Lea performed a personal record three shows in one day, beginning with an afternoon in-store at the Electric Fetus. Next up was the Tiny Desk Contest winner’s Murder of Crows performance at Beaner’s Central with Alan Sparhawk. It was one of the most attentive Homegrown audiences to date, with the packed house (including a few rows of people sitting on the floor up front) hanging on every note of the duo’s interweaving guitar, fiddle, and vocals. Lea went on to play her somber fiddle loops at a solo show later in the evening at Teatro Zuccone.
Legacy Glass was a showcase for Duluth’s supportive, tight knit Hip-hop community on Friday. Strictly Hammers had tons of local talent at their show, bringing up Non Fic, then Chad Brown of LoHi + C-Silence, then the whole Lake FX crew who finished the set off with their pump up song, DRUGS.
Music action on the trolley began at 8 with Tyler Scouton playing a keyboard and twiddling effects knobs in the back of the bus while WDSE’s the Playlist crew recorded him for a future broadcast. Half of the Clover Street Cronies took over at 9.
At Sir Benedict’s Tavern, The Dark Underbelly made its Homegrown debut with a heavy-riffing power trio featuring drummer Nick Petoletti backing up the theatrical, avante-garde recitations of his dad, Robert. True to the band’s “Dark” moniker, lyrical subject matter included serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”
Just after Al Church took the stage at Pizza Luce, a line started sprouting out the door. Those lucky enough to get inside were treated to a show with a festive atmosphere including a dedication of his tune “Birthday Party” to a tie-dye sporting woman in the audience named “Wow.” He got the crowd moving, closing out his set by getting the audience to do something called the clock dance.
Although Fred Tyson kept his clothes on this year, his always-anticipated set was, as usual, an over-the-top spectacle featuring backup dancers, feather boas, a frilly shirt, and funky soul jams.
Two competing shows, the Social Animals at Pizza Luce and the Brothers Burn Mountain at Tycoons, provided audiences with equally energetic choices. The former kicked off their show with a cover of “Man,! I Feel Like a Woman” and added in Prince’s “Kiss” for good measure, while the latter ended their set with their customary extended drum jam.
Dance Attic, featuring accordion player Suzi Ludwig of Father Hennepin and Fractals guitarist Jimi Cooper, went above and beyond for their Homegrown set, debuting matching, fringed, and embroidered Western wear made by Cooper’s bandmate Darryn Wallace. They handed out 3-D glasses for proper viewing of special, hand-made 3-D posters; the glasses also gave a trippy look to the band’s colorful light show and a Lite Brite board spelling out their name. Midway through a set that included an ode to hoppy beer and an original called “The South Shore Polka,” they turned on a bubble machine framed by a picture of Lawrence Welk.
Showcasing the eclecticism of the Twin Ports' music scene, experimental bands Portrait of a Drowned Man and Reflectivore gave strong back-to-back performances at the Rex.
Early in the day Al Sparhawk hinted (via Twitter) at a forthcoming surprise show. Later another tweet confirmed an after-hours Retribution Gospel Choir set at the Red Herring Lounge. By the time the trio took the stage at 12:45am, festival goers were running on fumes and food trucks were running out of tacos, but that didn’t stop fans from packing the venue. After the trio finished with a heavy, extended jam, Sparhawk sent the crowd into the night with “I’ll see you on the field. Keep drinking kombucha.”
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.