Homegrown Mondays are usually pretty chill. Dubbed “ancillary arts night,” it’s when the photo show, the first run of the music video festival, and the poetry showcase all happen. On this particular Monday, though, things got interesting when an unannounced show from Trampled by Turtles threw festival-goers into a tizzy. More on that later.
The evening got underway at Blacklist with the photo show reception, with Colleen Myhre kicking off the music. The powerful-voiced singer/songwriter, who recently told us she’s planning to quit her job and pursue music full time, was backed by her Holy Hootenanners band mates Jeff Gilbertson on stand-up bass and Caleb Anderson on keyboards. The trio ran through a soulful set that included a stirring cover of “You Gotta Serve Somebody,” the organ solo drawing hollers of appreciation and applause from the audience.
This year’s Homegrown Music Video Festival is a stripped-down affair, with only four new productions paired with some old favorites. Brian Barber, known for his quirky animated submissions, went for a more straightforward approach this time with his live performance video for Father Hennepin’s “Grace and Despair.” In case you’re wondering (as we were) why bassist Bob Olson is playing a tuba instead of his usual instrument, Barber told us that Olson didn’t realize he was supposed to bring his bass to the video shoot at the Cedar Lounge, so they improvised and grabbed a horn off the wall that had belonged to drummer Brad Nelson’s dad. That and Suzi Ludwig swapping her keyboards for an accordian add an element of fun. Wifi issues brought Monday’s first video showing to a premature halt, but never fear, there are more chances to see them, including Tuesday night at 6.
At the Red Herring, Moriah Robyn Skye debuted her new power trio MRS., in only its second performance ever. The Paper Parlor guitarist takes front and center on this project, singing her own compositions, ranging from blues rockers to ballads with emotive guitar solos. Backed by Paper Parlor bandmate Kirdan Wenger on bass and Sam Williams on drums, Skye was darkly glamorous in a long, black, sparkly dress and fingerless gloves as she masterfully played her guitar with sweeping crescendos, diverse rhythms, and nimble solos.
For the first time in many years, Homegrown’s original venue, the NorShor Theatre, opened its doors for a festival event. The Goat Hill Quartet serenaded the crowd headed into the theater for the Poetry Showcase, their classical string pieces echoing pleasantly through the mezzanine. Inside, fiddler Gaelynn Lea and guitarist Richie Townsend provided musical backing for the poets. Highlights from the showcase itself included Stacey Achterhoff, aka ice cream lady Mrs. Delicious, sharing a touching piece about a homeless woman and the hopelessness of poverty, and musicians Jacob Mahon and Laura Selner of Superior Siren performing their own spoken-word pieces.
You never know who Homegrown veteran Jim Hall will pull in to perform on one of his sets, but whoever it is, you know the roots musician will put on a solid show. This time around he had a washboard player and Feeding Leroy guitarist Lee Martin, who took the lead on a foot-stomping cover of “All Along the Watchtower” while Hall furiously sawed a fiddle. (See KUMD’s Instagram for video.)
Over at the Rex, the five men of Big Science were absorbed in creating ambient soundscapes from various mysterious contraptions, the wash of noise punctuated by bleeps, chimes, and indistinct voices. Tim Kaiser periodically spoke into an old-fangled telephone receiver. A series of orange numbers flashed slowly on the console in front of him. Tyler Scouten controlled a device with one raised hand, resting his arm on a Hamms beer can for support when necessary. We had to leave before the end of the set, but like to imagine they’re still there, weaving a mesmerizing web of sound with no end that’s continuously stretching out into space..
Back at the Red Herring, indie pop rockers Nudecolors took the stage for a rocking set including tunes from their brand new album and fueled by dual lead guitars, synth, bass, and drums. The sharp-dressed 5-piece got cozy on the small stage as their groovy guitar riffs and thumping keyboard licks fueled long jams at the end of nearly ever song. They had a suitcase full of CDs and buttons on the front of the stage, telling people to help themselves and only leave money if they wanted to, saying “Darren [bassist] is a pharmacist, so [they’re] already rich”.
Nat Harvie Trio played a secret show at Duluth Coffee Company, although they seemed ambivalent about associating it with Homegrown, opening the set with a teasing “Happy...Monday!” accompanied by a two middle finger salute.
Speaking of secret shows, whispers had started spreading around 6pm. By 8, there was a sign in the window at Pizza Luce that said, simply, “Trampled by Turtles, 21+ I.D. required.” You could practically hear the tapping as multiple fingers texted the news all over town, and a line started to form for the 10pm start time.
Eventually, with a little patience, security got all the folks waiting outside into the packed show in a venue that was practically home base for the band in Duluth until their popularity outstripped its capacity. This Homegrown homecoming of sorts in some ways felt like a scene straight out of 2007, but without the stools onstage. They ran through a set alternately melancholy, nostalgic, and energetic, playing tunes from the new album as well as old favorites like “Codeine,” to a well-behaved but appreciative audience. As always, the band’s Duluthiest song, “Winners,” drew cheers from the crowd at the appropriate times with its references to Charlie Parr and the “Pretty little city built on a hillside.” Frontman Dave Simonett repeatedly declared,“Homegrown is my favorite time of year,” and exclaimed, while the band mates took an on-stage shot together, “It’s just like old times.” After wrapping up the set with a lively “Wait So Long,” the band returned for an encore, a Grateful Dead-ish cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” featuring bassist Tim Saxhaug on vocals.
Although the Trampled set overlapped with several previously-scheduled slots, it didn’t seem to take away from those other venues. Nate Case’s Dirty Horse played to a packed house at Blacklist, throwing a pristine cover of David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” in among some jamming originals and giving a shoutout to former KUMD House is Jammin’ host Stevo. “Did you all not get into the Turtles show?” Case joked to the crowd gathered outside the open garage door behind him. Feeding Leroy followed, playing to a capacity crowd and sharing tunes from their new album Monument Valley.
Wrapping up the night, roots rockers Silverback Colony took the stage at the Rex. Lead singer Gabriel Douglas asked the crowd, “Anybody ever been to The Piggly Wiggly in Duluth?” When no one responded, Duluth native Al Church yelled from the crowd, “you have a problem with Piggly Wiggly? They have a great produce section!” “No. But I have a problem with YOU!” Douglas responded with a laugh, saying “I’ve never been there either” before launching into a song allegedly inspired by the old Duluth Piggly Wiggly.
If we learned anything from Day 2 of Homegrown, it’s pay attention. You never know when something unexpected will pop up during any given night of the festival. One note from Monday-the Amy Hzl show originally scheduled in the guide for Monday will actually happen on Saturday, May 5 at 10pm at Pizza Luce.
This Homegrown Week on KUMD is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.