Thursday is traditionally Souptown night for the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival, with most shows happening in Superior and a pre-game soup potluck with music, dubbed #SoupB4Sup at 2104. In a way, this year’s Thursday activities were more like a normal Homegrown than previous nights, with a small gathering of soup-eaters and livestreams at 2104 plus live, in person shows across the bridge at Earth Rider.
The live shows started earliest, with the Misisipi Mike Allstars kicking off night two of what Earth Rider is dubbing “Starfire’s Unofficial Birthday Bash” during Homegrown week. The crowd trickled in as the evening went on, with some light sprinkles that did nothing to chase away the good vibes.
Next up, SonofMel performed, backed by Slideman, who played forlorn guitar riffs to accompany SonofMel’s vivid tale of horseback travel through the Middle East. A train passing during the set just added to the atmosphere. The artist led the crowd in a “Happy Homegrown” chant.
Adam Herman was the next act on the bill, but, as he put it, "my whole band showed up, so we're the Slamming Doors". They played songs from their recent Brown Bears releases including "Villan" (which sparked some dancing in the crowd) and "Goddamn, Duluth."
Gavin St. Clair also shared recent material during his solo set on the venue's second stage including songs from his 2020 EP Goodbye and "Miracle by My Side," a new song that will be on his next release.
A Black-eyed Snakes show is always cathartic, but never more so than after a year of minimal human contact . The tent filled up with newly-vaccinated fans ready to release the pent-up energy of a year of social distancing. The band broke into "Church Song" right as an incredible sunset appeared behind the grain silos. If things weren't entirely back to normal, normal was at least in view.
At 2104, Thursday marked the most unexpected and eclectic evening of the week. If anyone had been expecting Aurora Baer to start the evening with a solo acoustic performance, they were in for a sweet Homegrown surprise. Minutes before going live she tweeted “Wildcard debut...Alan, Veikko, Kat and I are debuting new material at 2104.” She then proceeded to tear through a rocking set of tunes from her forthcoming EP, Out of My Mind, backed by Alan Sparhawk of Low (who produced the EP) on guitar, Veikko Lepisto of Woodblind on bass, and Kat Fox on drums. (Sparhawk then headed out to Superior for the aforementioned Black-eyed Snakes set.)
John Bankson played the first of two brief between-act sets from the kitchen, first playing old timey tunes on the banjo and later breaking out some lap steel.
The next performers would have been perfectly at home on Homegrown’s Experimental Tuesday night. Alex Hecker and Ryann Daisy Swimmer performed four long, experimental pieces, creating feedback with pedals, tablets, and an amp, playing a bass clarinet, and making sounds into long PVC tubes.
A stripped-down, or as Jacob Mahon put it, “throwback” version of New Salty Dog ended the night with just the four original members and Adam Johnson back on bass, as he was when the band first started. As the band wrapped up for the evening, Mahon said, “Let’s go polish off that soup, huh?” a fitting end to #SoupB4Sup, and the last 2104 livestream of Homegrown week.
Coming up tonight:
7pm Homegrown will unveil the first of two collections of artist performances that have been submitted by performers and will stream at duluthhomegrown.org.
Earth Rider continues its Starfire Unofficial Birthday Bash:
5pm Kyle Ollah Band
5:45pm Betty Danger
6:30pm The New Norm
7:15pm Superior Siren
8pm Father Hennepin
Although there's been no plan for a kickball game announced for Saturday, we imagine that, like last year, a few people might show up at Chester Bowl to reminisce. This year, maybe someone will bring a ball or two?
Coverage of the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival on KUMD is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund