Homegrown in Duluth: A Guide to Pacing Yourself

Chris Godsey, official Homegrown Festival chronicler, provides a handy guide should you be lucky or smart enough to find yourself in Duluth for the latest incarnation of this biggest-and-best exposition of homegrown music: it's April 29 - May 6.

Homegrown Festival
old chicken

Eight days of Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival? Good grief. Dave Hoops, head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse, can probably maintain an effective, comfortable buzz for that long, but he’s Duluth’s foremost master hedonist. Mere mortals simply won’t last to the festival’s meatiest moments if they give ’er the gas from day one.

The brief day-by-day descriptions below are designed at least in part to help you decide where and how to, as the popular chicks in the 1989 Rochester John Marshall High School graduating class used to scream, “Partaaay Heartaaaayyy! Whoooo!” Of course, those chicks were usually puking behind someone’s car after slugging a two-liter of Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler. Don’t be like them. Be like Hoops.

Day One
Sunday, April 29 | New Band Night
Sunday is far enough from Homegrown’s rawk and roll flagship nights that even serious festival-goers might be tempted to dismiss bands they haven’t heard of. But in an inbred scene like Duluth’s, supremely seasoned musicians combine to form new bands all the time. This year’s New Band Night, it turns out, features mostly veteran musicians in new packages. Crew Jones rhymers Ben Larson and Sean Elmquist formed Southwire with singer-songwriter Jerree Small, members of Fattypants combined with other scene stalwarts to make up the all-woman Winchell’s Machine, and the Black Labels’ Fred Tyson has gone solo. This line-up is just a sampling of many more new bands to be featured throughout the week.

Day Two
Monday, April 30 | Film Festival, Art Show and Open Mic Poetry
The Play Ground will host the 2007 Homegrown Film Festival, featuring a half-dozen short movies shot in the Duluth area. (A guide to those productions is on page 9.) The films will be preceded by exhibit artist Ann-Marie Stojevich’s show . Stojevich says the color red “evokes passion, spontaneity, vibrancy” for her, and “is a symbol of new beginnings.” The painter began this project with three rules: “1. I would create one painting a week; 2. I would only use red, yellow and brown paint; 3. I would paint whatever I felt like painting.” Following the art show and film festival will be an open mic poetry reading at Carmody Irish Pub, hosted by Bob Monahan. Featured readers will include Jimmy Henry, Paul Lundgren, John McCormick and Sister Naomi Tamar.

Day Three
Tuesday, May 1 | Renegade Radio Hour, Experimental Tuesday
Renegade Comedy Theater will stage a live radio broadcast from its new Superior Street location during Homegrown. The will feature the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines comedy sketches Renegade has broadcast on 91.3 FM KUWS Radio for years, combined with live music by Homegrown performers Charlie Parr and Jamie Ness. Local meteorologists George Kessler and Super Dave Anderson will also take part. Show up at 6:45 and get comfortable; the one-hour show hits the air at 7 p.m. Later in the night, just a few doors over, various musical weirdoes will play experimental music at Carmody Irish Pub, hosted by Christian McShane. Those who wish to bask in the rarefied glow of Duluth’s uber-cool music cognoscenti won’t miss I Am the Slow Dancing Umbrella’s 11 p.m. set.

Day Four
Wednesday, May 2 | Collegiate Night, Castle Night and Phat Beats Night
The Entitlement Generation just keeps getting coddled. Live music will be delivered directly to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Kirby Ballroom, and students will inevitably text-message their parents about which bands to see, whether or not to dance, and various other difficult decisions. Later on, the North Shore’s Lakeview Castle will host a concert featuring the Gallows, Hattie & the Black Frames and Rocket Ship to Nowhere. At the Twins Bar, the Hill City Rockers collective will spin wax into the night. Live Animals (featuring DJ Plumber, DJ Delgado and DJ Horsefist) will spin hip hop, funk and soul, and the Supreme Rockers (featuring DJ Horsefist and DJ Binghi) will spin reggae and dancehall tracks. MC Poet will serve as the master of ceremonies and house rapper.

Day Five
Thursday, May 3 | Starfire Lounge, Hillside Hip Hop Showcase and Soup Town Night
This is the first night of week where there’s too much happening at once. A serious combination of heavy metal, hip hop, epic/arty stuff, and just straight-up rock (whatever that is) will crawl up Duluth’s Hillside and spew out into Superior. Homegrown founder DJ Starfire — he is, as Christian metallists Stryper once beautifully sang, “The reason for the season” — will host the traditional Starfire Lounge, spinning local tunes at Fitger’s Brewhouse. The aforementioned Dave Hoops has brewed a batch of Homegrown Hempen Ale with a special hand pump cask for this show. The Brewhouse is giving away a free Homegrown glass with the purchase of each pint, while supplies last. One hour earlier, a bunch of hip-hop acts will already be gettin’ jiggy all up in the Twins Bar during the Hillside Hip Hop Showcase. Meanwhile, the infamous city of Superior will get its taste of Homegrown at three venues: Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Norm’s Beer & Brats and Bev’s Jook Joint. The latter of those two venues are part of a Heavy Metal Showcase.

Day Six
Friday, May 4 | Rawk Night
Three notable aspects of this night: 1. Charlie Parr plays twice — 9:30 at Carmody Irish Pub, solo, and midnight at Pizza Luce, with Devil’s Flying Machine. 2. The Keep Aways’ 1:30 a.m. R.T. Quinlan’s show is about as close to an authentic birth-of-the-Duluth-scene experience as you’ll be able to have without a time machine set to 199something —smoky, crowded, desperate and a few hundred miles an hour. 3. Ol’ Yeller plays the Red Lion at 11 p.m., which means that adopted Duluthian Rich Mattson’s perception of his first Homegrown performance will be clouded by $1.50 cans of Black Label. And that’s just beautiful. In all, 49 bands and two DJs will perform on Friday.

Day Seven
Saturday, May 5 | Kickball Classic and Roll Night
At high noon, a bunch of people who became musicians because they were better at drinking and smoking weed than gym class will gather at Chester Bowl Park in a strange replication of what gym class must really have been like for many of them. Yes, they’ll play uncoordinated kickball while drunk, high and hung over. In the evening, Little Black Books will tear up Pizza Luce at midnight, followed by Ray the Wolf and his former mates, Crew Jones. Those three acts in succession could be unspeakably cool. Faux-hippies should be aware of this programming note: Trampled by Turtles will play at the new Tap Room, which is the old 21 North, above the Duluth Athletic Club Bar & Grill. Those lamenting the first Homegrown without Bone Appetit since 1999 will gather at R.T. Quinlan’s, where four of the band’s former members will play. Ryan Van Slooten and Aaron Ashley take the stage with the SuperTacks, then Joshua Scheerz follows as Suddendeath, with Cory Ahlm on guest vocals. In all, 50 bands and two DJs will perform on Saturday.

Day Eight
Sunday, May 6 | Sunday Brunch
Shhh … Head is exploding, and it’s very bright in here, and … oh … what are those soothing sounds? Ah, acoustic music. That’s better.