by Maddy Siiter
Duluth’s second annual Super Big Block Party (appropriately named “Super Big Block Party 2”) was the cathartic end of summer finale everyone needed. With bands from both Duluth and Twin Cities on the bill, it was an afternoon to wave goodbye to the season and feel the last bits of anything you wanted in the heat.
Sarah Krueger, a Duluth native, opened the day. Alone on electric guitar, I arrived just as she started in on my favorite Krueger song “Lustrous” with the hookline “I still believe that everything can be lustrous like before.” Her combination of folk and blues vocals were the perfect invitation for those just strolling in to sit on the sun soaked pavement of the early afternoon and get ready for the day.
Minneapolis trio Bad Bad Hats came next, delivering their sweet pop melodies to a growing crowd, playing songs from both their 2015 record Psychic Reader and 2013 EP It Hurts. New songs were also introduced and according to frontwoman/guitarist Kerry Alexander, one loosely based off of the movie A Walk to Remember. Halfway through the set, Alexander and bassist Chris Hoge switched instruments, to which Alexander said, “this has never before been done at a Bad Bad Hats show,” only to lower Chris’s mic stand to her height and the octaves in her voice to jokingly sigh, “ugh this is so heavy and I don’t get to play the good parts.”
I didn’t catch the Social Animals’ set because I was eating Pizza Luce’s Baked Potato Pizza and verbally fending off a man heckling us in a parking ramp.
I made it safely back to the stage area with my unused mace still in my purse as Charlie Parr was just getting started. Though the Duluth native was sitting, he got everyone on their feet with his bluesy, gritty vocals. The songs seemed to blend together, but when Parr ended the set with a short, a capella version of “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down” it easily solidified his style and the end of his set.
Caroline Smith quickly and powerfully announced her presence in Duluth with her soulful sound on songs like “Bloodstyle” and “The One Thing” from her 2013 release Half of Being a Woman. Her vocals were even more resonant live than on the record, so I was surprised by the difference after hearing her live for the first time. Smith also included a booming cover of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” that the whole block yelled in unison to. She ended her set with her and Lizzo’s song “Let ‘em Say” (unfortunately without Lizzo).
The last act I saw of the day was Low. No matter how many times I hear songs like “The Innocents” and “Spanish Translation”, (“All that I thought I knew then, flew out the back of my head, into the river it bled, everything was within reason, falling away like the dust”) I feel like I have no choice but to let the swell of emotion radiating from Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker pull me in whatever direction it wants. Just like it was Homegrown Music Festival again, Sparhawk took to yelling into his guitar pickup as “Pissing” progressed, which caused some confusion but overall support from the crowd.
During moments like these, with such sharp contrasts in genre, emotion and style, I can’t do anything but feel something and maybe everything at once. That’s exactly why events like these exist.