by Maddy Siiter
Duluth celebrated their 18th annual Homegrown Music Festival last week. What started as a birthday party with only a few bands has turned into an 8-day, 200-band festival in venues all over town. As a steering committee member and performer, it’s an actual holiday. I got little sleep, did barely any school work and survived off of various forms of pizza for over a week.
Disclaimer: As a minor, I obviously wasn’t able to witness all the things that should probably and rightfully be labeled as “highlights”. A lot of cool stuff happened at 12:30am when I was in bed, dreaming of not failing my MCA tests the next morning.
It went like this:
Mayor Emily Larson officially proclaimed the kickoff to the festival by calling out “Happy Homegrown” into the microphone and cuing local ska-band Woodblind to begin their set.
I had band practice for my own performance on Saturday and didn’t get a chance to go out because I had a lot of homework to do. (Thursday was like this too so I lived vicariously through everyone else on social media.)
My best friend and I escaped our first mosh pit during punk band Pale in Comparison’s set. I had never dodged and weaved through a crowd of people so quickly in my life and surprisingly escaped without injury, realizing then that my under 5-foot-self should remain plastered against the wall next to someone larger than me or in the back where I can watch through someone’s iPhone while they take photos. We continued to watch–or, rather, listen–from the back and it was ridiculously good and just as loud.
Wednesday is West Duluth Night, which features venues like Clyde Iron Works and bigger headlining names. This year I watched Low from the balcony, transfixed. I was absolutely captivated hearing the talented Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker together and separately, joined by bassist Steve Garrington. Their lo-fi, indie sound drew the crowd in and Sparhawk jumping onto the speakers and yelling into his guitar pickup definitely got those talking throughout the performance to shut up (rightfully).
I was ready to really go on Friday because it finally wasn’t a school night. I got to see The Farsights play an in-store at Electric Fetus right after an intense afternoon thunderstorm. Their punk rock riffs provided shoppers browsing through the vinyl bins with something great to bob their head to.
When they were done, I venue-hopped to see Emily Haavik, who I had been waiting to catch again since she moved down to the Twin Cities last summer. Her voice is crystal clear and her Americana/folk backing band totally builds on it to create such an honest, emotional experience. I admit to totally crying last time I saw her and this year wasn’t any different. (She also has an album due soon, so keep an eye out for that.)
I played on Saturday accompanied by The Farsights mentioned above and freaked out. My electric debut so-to-speak, it was the first time we had played a show together after months of jamming in apartments and cold basements and it was an indescribable feeling when we finally got to share our work. It felt good to be loud and let my teen angst fly out after being labeled as the quiet singer/songwriter girl since I started playing around town in middle school.
I came off of my own post-show high after dancing around in a parking ramp to go see my friends in Black Diary, a female trio who deliver haunting yet blissful harmonies over simple electric guitar. The room was illuminated with mismatched lit candles on the edge of the stage. I came in hyped, but once I sat down I was sucked in by the somberness.
On the last day everyone looked like they were existing in slow-motion, but still kept going. I caught Sing! A Women’s Chorus performing for a dead-silent room half full of Homegrown fans and half of people enjoying Mother’s Day brunch. Choral music was a nice way to end my week.
I’m lucky I get to live in town that has such a supportive creative community. Everyone worked really hard, had a lot of fun and stayed safe. What more can you ask for during an 8-day all-local music festival?