This year's virtual Duluth Homegrown Music Festival ended with a showing of Charlie Parr's Duluth Cider performance from early in the pandemic, at a time when artists were just figuring out the livestream thing. Despite playing to an empty venue, Parr gave an engaging performance that was worth a second look, or first look for those who'd missed it the first time.
Following Parr was a repeat of the four-plus hours of new material compiled for this year's Homegrown. The Homegrown committee did an excellent job of compiling an eclectic mix of virtual local performances that couldn't quite fill the void of live music, but came close. One benefit of a virtual Homegrown is having the option of watching it at leisure; all of this year's Homegrown livestreams are available on the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival YouTube channel. The virtual content also gave former Duluthians the chance to follow along with all of the festivities from afar; there was chatter from Homegrown committee members online about finding a way to continue to incorporate some virtual content into future festivals.
While things weren't quite back to normal in 2021, in some ways, with just one venue, Earth Rider, for live music for just a few nights, this year's festival felt a little like a throwback to Homegrown's early days, when it was a little party Duluthians threw for themselves once a year, and where you'd see everyone you knew. As the festival expanded to 8 days and over 200 acts and began drawing large amounts of out-of-towners, it lost some if its intimacy; you could go all week without running into a good friend, depending on your musical itineraries. It was fun, but bittersweet, to recapture that early spirit of Homegrown; here's hoping 2022 finds us back to crowded bars rubbing elbows with strangers and celebrating all of the creativity Duluth has to offer.