When it’s a Tuesday night and the venue that’s hosting music at 6 is already at capacity with a line out the door by 6:05, it must be Homegrown.
Jen West’s last-minute set at Bent Paddle was the first indication of how busy the night would be. Minor grumbling aside, festival goers didn’t seem to mind much, knowing that the beauty of Homegrown is that when one venue is full, there’s always another act to see down the street.
Sir Benedict's Tavern still had a wee bit of room for the 6pm performance by Sing! A Women's Chorus. The group sang a lovely mix of songs old and new, including a fun medley of the traditional "What'll I Do with the Baby-o" and Low's "Don't Drop the Baby." They also did what every pub performer ought to do: they led and united the crowd in song.
Old Smugglers won some new fans at Amazing Grace with their Tom Waits-sings-sea-shanties vibe. The duo’s set ended with the crowd swaying, arms raised, singing along to the tongue-in-cheek yet melancholy refrain “We all walk the plank alone.”
Over in Lincoln Park, Morrow occupied Bent Paddle’s makeshift stage at the taproom. The pop/rock four-piece formed by Heather and Andy Morrow played to patrons filling the room and mingling along the walls and at tables. Be careful of the front one, warned one woman, “The music practically punches you in the face.” This proved true when Heather belted out Elle Kings “Ex’s & Oh’s” as the sun was starting to lower over the West End.
Meanwhile, at Vikre, another over-capacity crowd meant a short wait to see Dance Attic’s set. “They’re having so much fun it’s impossible not to like them,” said one fan, summing up the appeal of the accordian and guitar duo who perform charming songs about outhouses and “Fizzy Yellow Beer” while garbed in matching purple western outfits.
Back at Bent Paddle, DJ Path Annu spun some house and funk electronica. David Bowie’s “Fame” echoed through the room over clinking beer glasses as conversations and card games began to pick up again. Almost out of nowhere Kat Fox, alongside a Pokémon-clad fellow, spat some heated bars over the beat to close out the set.
At PRØVE Gallery, all-ages punk and metal night had an unlikely theme: North Shore Bank. Monster Mob began the night dedicating songs like “WOLFCOP,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Human Centipede” to the financial institution. Immediately after was Torment, whose lead singer could be seen wearing a North Shore Bank hat for the first half of a raucous set. Whether the wall of death or circle pit was actually sponsored by NSB remains to be seen.
Of Duluth’s many bluegrass-inspired bands, Borderstone is the most traditional, from their covers of ‘30s and ‘40s tunes by the likes of the Delmore Brothers down to the matching suits and hats they wear onstage. “We don’t have songs about boats, or lakes, or Don Ness, but we do have a song about a bear,” said guitarist Ryan Morgen before the quartet launched into the country classic “Ole Slew Foot” for an appreciative Amazing Grace audience.
Closing out PRØVE was Mind Control, who opted to begin their set with a 15 minute spoken screed on the dangers of social media use as an echo chamber for opinion. They then launched into a blistering set of hardcore to reinforce the diatribe.
Dubh Linn was partially lit and very well-attended for the Farsights, who ripped through originals before welcoming an unlikely collaborator to the stage: Ryan Nelson’s dad, Al. The elder Nelson played guitar and sang selections from the Byrds, Sonny Curtis, and Bob Dylan. “This is what I call having fun with your clothes on,” remarked the senior Nelson, while his son gave him the obligatory comedic Ba-Dum-Ching on the drums.
Tuesday night at the Sports Garden in Canal Park, one of the largest venues featured in this year’s lineup, proved to be a highlight of the week so far. Fearless Moral Inventory kicked off the night just before 9:00pm with a refreshing and spirited performance. The Black-eyed Snakes, Alan Sparhawk of Low’s raucous blues side project, energizing the wall-to-wall crowd with powerful vocals and heavy instrumentals. The set culminated with Sparhawk repeatedly launching himself into the audience from the stage.
Superior Siren was next, shifting the mood from frenzied to soothing with their layered folk pop . Lead singer Laura Sellner’s warm voice wrapped itself around the crowd as the band performed several songs off their upcoming release. The set included a cover of Radiohead’s “Go Slowly,” featuring a surprise guest appearance from Sparhawk.
Finally, Alamode (formally Play Date) got a late start but were worth the wait, with lead singer Nathan Holte’s stage presence spreading an all around good vibe. As per tradition, Holte took off a few layers of clothes and made damn sure everyone was dancing along, the perfect energetic ending of the night at the Sports Garden.
Rick McLean was next up at Dubh Linn’s, backed up by Jake Swanson on heavy bass and his brother on drums (though McLean did ask if Al Nelson could be in his band as well). Cheeky song titles abounded, including “Snark Attack” and “Million Dollar Country Song”. The lighthearted atmosphere continued as McLean donned a goofy pair of glasses to distract from his penchant for closing his eyes during songs.
It was 1am and Dubh Linn’s barely showed signs of thinning, as a dedicated crowd stuck it out to singalong with the 9-piece a Band Called Truman. “THANK YOU FOR STAYING OUT ON A SCHOOL NIGHT,” cheered lead singer Leon Rohrbaugh to an audience that more than likely didn’t have school the next day. Work the next day, however, may be proving difficult.
For our full gallery from Day 3, click here.
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.