Souptown night on Thursday had plenty of excitement, but felt a little less hectic than Wednesday, giving fans a breather before the weekend's full-on Homegrown onslaught.
At the Soupb4Supe potluck/performance at 2104, it was a game of “How many singer/songwriter dudes can we fit in the kitchen?” The unofficial Homegrown event saw punk drummers rubbing shoulders with country singers and dozens of music (and soup) fans. Jeffrey James O’Loughlin showed off his new, first-ever flip phone. “It’s easier to book gigs now that people can get ahold of me.” Let’s hope that means more shows for one of the Duluth music scene’s finest singer/songwriters.
New this year, the DTA Trolley made the rounds between Superior’s venues, with music from a crown-wearing King J-Lar followed by Hanna Cesario. Crowds at the Spirit Room and new Homegrown venue the Cedar Lounge ebbed and flowed from manageable to overstuffed. An impassioned performance from Venus de Mars at the Cedar started with an a cappella number that temporarily quieted that bustling bar.
Thirsty Pagan was already overflowing by the time Teague Alexy and Erik Berry, the first act of the night, took the stage. Fans could make it into the restaurant, but getting to the bar where the action was was nigh impossible. Fortunately they were selling individual slices of their famous pizza to ease the wait.
Fresh off covering Joy Division with Alan Sparhawk, Pete Biasi changed gears at the Main Club with his electronic solo project, Raw Space. Warm light from a puppy lamp set the mood, as dissonant samples and drum machine loops veered into the rawest of spaces. “You need to call your supervisor.” exclaimed Biasi, “because it’s too raw.” There is truly no better hype man for Raw Space than Raw Space.
Things got dusty at 10pm with DJ Nola, who did some serious crate-digging for some groovy needle drops. Selections of funk, dance, and house got the packed Main Club moving, and then, out of nowhere, a person in a puppy costume appeared; the status of party was officially confirmed.
Claustrophic fans had the option to flee Superior to the roomier Reef Bar in Duluth, where Dan Dresser opened the night. Jen West and Emily Haavik guested for his set of impassioned pop.
Next up, Starling of Athens, Toby Thomas Churchill’s atheist project, borrowed Dresser’s band to open his show with a theatrical, revival-tent style plea on behalf of reason over religion. After running through a repertoire that included songs with titles like “Fatwah is Here Again,” Churchill ended with one last rant on Christianity, referencing Christopher Hitchins and Socrates to bolster his case.
Dirty Horse brought their self-described brand of “Pontoon Rock” to the Main Club— think music best served with beer in hand on a warm day out on the lake. Powerful guitar licks and nostalgic choruses kept heads nodding and smiles on many a Homegrown face.
Just down Tower Ave, it was a more somber affair, as Brian Ring sang selections from his Lion or Gazelle project. A paper tracklist, an acoustic guitar, and no shoes were all Ring needed to add a beautifully mournful vibe to the Cedar.
During a soulful pop/rock set from The Fontanelles back at the Reef, frontman Dave Mehling announced that he’d lost a cribbage bet and had to perform George Michael’s “Faith,” which he did, complete with an introductory hip shake. Later the band circulated through the crowd handing out beer cans full of beans and labeled “Your very own The Fontanelles beer can shaker” before launching into a cover of Ween’s “Voodoo Lady” that had audience members boogie oogie oogie-ing. They wrapped up their set with an original tune, "Ghost," that had fans (including Gaelynn Lea right up front) singing along before being called back for an encore.
At the stroke of midnight, Big Wave Dave the Ripples hit the Main Club. Moving from the door towards the stage, the temperature in the room easily shifted up five degrees due to the mass of sweaty bodies and cheap drinks. “This is the most people I’ve ever seen in a sauna,” shouted Big Wave Dave after their first song to the throng of excited faces and gyrating hips.The soulful singer, backed by a full band including a four-piece horn section played out their set with “Shout” by The Isley Brothers. Big Wave Dave lowered with the crowd, whispering “shout” as he laid flat on stage before popping up, building the energy into a dance explosion.
Today’s festivities seemed geared toward the venue hopping, as Fitger’s, downtown, Canal, and West Duluth are all options. Amazing Grace, Beaner’s Legacy Glassworks, Sir Ben’s, and Sacred Heart all present all-ages options, featuring artists like Secret Badass, Low, Emily Haavik, Strictly Hammers, Marquis Mark, Black Diary and more.
As for the 21+ crowd, they have options on options. Heaven’s Gate at the Rex, Aimee Tischer at Blacklist, Blackwater Tribe at the Blind Pig, and more prove to challenge feet and encourage trolley usage this Homegrown Friday.
For our full gallery from Day 5, click here.
KUMD's Homegrown Music Festival coverage is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.