Night 4, Westside Wednesday, once again showcased the wide scope of Duluth’s music scene and packed it all in to the part of town past 29th Avenue West.
Beaner’s Central was packed from the tables in back to the shoulder-to-shoulder standing room up front for an all-ages rock fest.
G’narwals, a two-man alternative rock group, picked up the pace as the guitarist and drummer switched from instrumentals to belting out lyrics. Next, up and coming rockers The Conformist Party took the stage by storm. Complete with in sync head banging, this four-piece showed had the crowd clapping along during one of the band’s more well-known songs, “Whispers” and attempting a mini mosh pit. Frontman Ryan Walker, enticed the crowd to show up for a music video shoot for their song “Sleeptalkers” this Saturday with the promise of beer, pizza and tunes as they closed out their set.
Up next, the Fabulous D-bags promised gritty punk and lots of on stage beer chugging. They graced the crowd with a new song, announcing,“This is a new one, it’s short and loud with no words,” (at least none decipherable) as the 30-second, rambunctious tune bounced through the mosh pit. They closed out with a cover of The Queers’ “Like a Parasite,” chug their beers, throw out some pieces of advice about getting arrested, and joined the crowd before the night was over.
It was a more sedate (but still enthusiastic) audience at Clyde Iron Works, where Rich Mattson and the Northstars were the main stage openers, followed by Gaelynn Lea. Her ethereal performance was backed by her Murder of Crows bandmate Alan Sparhawk, Al Church, and The Fontanelle’s Dave Mehling. (Mehling actually streamed a good chunk of the performance live from offstage.) Lea introduced a new tune, “Bound by a Thread,” and the set culminated with a lovely, extended chamber pop jam on a Finnish fiddle tune.
Next up, the Social Disaster threw a beach party, complete with towels, sunglasses, bucket hats, and denim cut-offs. Lead singer Rachel Phoenix confidently prowled the stage in sexy sailor shorts and a pin-up ‘do, running through old favorites and introducing a new tune or two. Partway through guitarist Jesse Hoheisel casually kicked off his shoes, which seemed innocent enough until he began shedding more clothing throughout the set, eventually stripping down to swim shorts and a tank top. Near the end of the set inflatable beach balls were launched into the crowd for fans to bat around to the pulsing beat of “Chokecherry,” and a horn trio made up of Dave Adams (aka Big Wave Dave) and members of Red Mountain joined in for a song.
Festival founder Scott Lunt’s band Father Hennepin’s sets always feel like a reunion, with familiar faces stretching back to the infamous 30th birthday party that started it all. “This band is 20 years old,” Lunt marveled from the Mr. D’s stage. “I can’t think of ANYTHING I’ve done for 20 years.” The Bottle Jockeys brought their revved-up retro rock, punctuated by lead singer Chad Lyon’s wisecracks, to Mr. D’s to close down the night.
Over at the Kom-on-Inn, moody post-rockers Chase Down Blue gave an intimate performance that featured several songs, including the title track, from Chase Down Blue’s latest release Red Five in addition to a few old standbys.
Old-time string band Four Mile Portage was up next. At first, this felt like a puzzling bit of scheduling for a late-night Wednesday West Duluth bar show. However, as soon as the group launched into an energetic set of danceable fiddle tunes, complete with clogging from Tom Maloney and Brandy Forsman, it was apparent the crowd, young and old, was eating it up. We’ve never been to an Irish pub on a rowdy Saturday night, but would like to imagine this is how it would be.
The Stephanie Longstreet Band wrapped up the evening at the Kom-on-Inn, offering a soulful folk-rock set anchored by Longstreet’s distinctive voice. She repeatedly teased that at the end of the night the band would announce its new name; clarinetist Joseph Anderson did the honors, dubbing the group “Kitchen Slippers” before, to much laughter, the rest of the band corrected it to “Kitchen Shoes.”
One of the most odd, masterful and buzzed-about Homegrown performances came during the Low Forms set at the Gopher Lounge. Clad entirely in stetsons, flannels, and flamboyant belt buckles, the band, with the addition of Alan Sparhawk, became Cowboy Division. Think just a little bit of dust, a tumbleweed and a cowbell all added to some solid Joy Division covers. Pete Biasi handed vocal duties over to Sparhawk, who read the lyrics off paper but knew the cowbell parts by heart. Hopefully, they make a return for the Ides of March next year.
Fear of bruises didn’t stop anyone at the Gopher Lounge from shoving thy neighbor, as a moshpit erupted during Lord Montague’s set of endless riffage. A particularly intoxicated fan marked the third stage crash we’ve witnessed this week , knocking over the monitors no less than eight times.
The mosh carried over, and intensified, during Dad’s Acid’s take in the lounge. Numerous stage dives got the management on stage to tell everyone at the sludge surf fiesta to “cool off a bit.” “We need you to calm down as much as possible for this next one” said Jacob Swanson, to only minimal effect. For an encore they did a 5 second cover of “Jack and Diane” before telling everyone to “go the f*** home.”
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.