We're 19 years in to Duluth's annual celebration of local music, and we're happy to report that the scene appears to be as vital as ever.
Sunday marked the opening day of Homegrown. The Children's Music Showcase started last year at the Red Herring Lounge, giving former scenesters, now parents who no longer get out regularly, the opportunity to participate in Homegrown with their offspring. This year’s venue was the more family-friendly Duluth Children’s Museum; while mom and dad may have missed the mimosas and bloody marys available last year, the young ones had a blast, making music with Robot Rickshaw’s robots and squealing and jumping on the climbers and slides of the museum ship to the sounds of “Three Blind Mice” and other kid favorites. Dan the Monkey Man was interactive as always, with a band of kids playing along in the front row with live mics, all kinds of percussion and even toy guitars.
After a short recess, Homegrown festivities continued in the evening at Teatro Zuccone. Singer/songwriter Kristy Marie opened the night with a recently-assembled 8-piece band featuring some regular collaborators plus a cross-section of Duluth’s music scene including Marc Gartman on lap steel and banjo and Erik Berry of Trampled by Turtles on mandolin. Special guest Emily Heart (Kristy Marie’s bandmate in Bird by Bird) and Heart’s young daughter and Marie’s son and daughter also joined in, and the set came to a hypnotic end with a repeated mantra accompanied by harmonium and Ziola of local dance troupe Tribal Alchemie whirling at the front of the stage.
Just a few blocks down, the Blind Pig was wall to wall packed around 7 p.m. as Mayor Emily Larson— with a little help from the good folks from radio theater show Take it With You— declared the beginning of Homegrown with a throwback to middle school-esque choir round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with a special homage to the festival.
It’s not every day the mayor of Duluth is your opening act, so Paper Parlor certainly made the most of it. Dressed to the nines in jazzercise garb, the Parlor led the Pig in a quick group stretch before laying down their funky guitar licks to get the room amped and moving. Lead guitarist Moriah Skye rocked a stage presence almost as electric as her guitar, which reverberated through the packed room above Duluth’s old City Hall prison.
The set highlight was “Raving Madman” from their latest live EP Guac n’ Roll; the lively track quickly dissipated into a psychedelic trance—a perfect lead in to Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” Roaming into the crowd, Skye let each guitar chord lead her to the middle of the floor before sauntering back on stage.
Opposite of Paper Parlor, Carebears Carebears, Yeah took the stage back at Teatro. In true Homegrown fashion the five witty and charming women dressed as actual Care Bears for their set, which included songs about donating plasma to afford their favorite local coffee and our state’s excessive politeness: “I saw you seven blocks away/I held the door for you anyway/you’ve always got a friend in Minnesota.” They finished the set with their big “hit”, “Co-op,” about their burning desire to work at Duluth’s Whole Foods Co-op (which, fyi, despite the co-op name tags they wear, none of them actually do).
Back at the Blind Pig, old friends and coworkers reunited between sets as conversation filled the sweat- and beer-stale air. Cue Abe Curran and the Blue Rooster, a three man band oozing blues guitar and velvety twanged vocals. Originals and covers of The Black Keys’ “My Mind is Rambling” and Band of Horses’ “Funeral” shifted the crowd from bright and thrashing to closed eyes with bodies swaying.
The ten members of Mahtowa’s finest gospel band, The Holy Hootenanners, filled up the stage to end the night at Teatro Zuccone. They kicked off their performance with Pops Staple’s “Somebody was Watching,” signaling the healthy dose of soul they’ll mix in on their next album, due out in a month or so. Judging from their set, the album will be a mix of soul and country gospel tunes heavy on the harmonies. The stage got even more crowded when the band brought three young horn players out for a tune, and then invited five “Hoot kids” out to sing for one number. The band ended with a raucous, footstomping “Drinking with the Devil" to carry the crowd home or on to the next venue.
Around 10pm, and just a block down, things at Pizza Luce got weird. Kat Fox kicked off the night with a boisterous set for the packed pizzeria, complete with rapid fire raps, getting a stage crasher booted, and a sign that simply read: “don’t do bath salts,” Kat capped off her purr-formance with an homage to the infamous scene in Carrie as her hype-woman poured (fake) pig’s blood over her ("I'm so f***ing sticky”she posted to Facebook afterwards.) She could later be found roaming Luce with a squirt gun filled with champagne.
In a year in which several perennial favorites are sitting out Homegrown (Charlie Parr, Red Mountain, Trampled by Turtles, etc.), it’s especially rewarding to discover new blood on Duluth’s ever-changing music scene. The two bands who ended the night at the Blind Pig are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Young electro-pop band Boreal Forest brought to mind the dream pop of the ‘90s, while the Latelys laid down an appealing groove that showcased the soulful vocals Jenna Harting.
“We’re gonna be a punk band.”
“What like INXS?”
Now when you think Dave Adams, “punk” may not immediately come to mind, though the Big Wave Dave frontman proved his soulful soul translates (really) well into a completely different context in new band the Unlikelys. Channeling '70s and '80s punk in spirit and actuality, they ripped through originals as well as a cover of “Police on my Back” by the Clash. The band's stage banter was arguably some of the best of the night- from guitarist Leon Rohrbaugh: “IF YOU GOT 5 MINUTES YOU CAN HEAR OUR NEXT SEVEN SONGS.”
It should be noted that two birthdays were celebrated at Pizza Luce --Unlikelys bassist Christopher Modec Halverson led the bustling parlor in song for his significant other, and Kat Fox wanted you to know that it was the 13th birthday of the film Mean Girls. Turns out she does go here.
Pro Tip: A few lineup changes have happened since the Homegrown Field Guides were printed; when in doubt, check the online schedule at duluthhomegrown.com.
Tonight is definitely the night to catch performances and art outside of the music real. The Homegrown Music Video Fest has its first night at Teatro, the Poetry showcase is at Sacred Heart, and the photography exhibit at the Red Herring all provide some festivities outside of the music.
Other performances of note? Maddy Siiter takes on the Red Herring, Steve Sola plays Sir Ben's, and Woodblind ska out at the Rex.
For our full gallery from Day 1, click here.
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.