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Homegrown Music Festival 2023: Day 1

Jeremy Nelson for the North 103.3

The 2023 Duluth Homegrown Music Festival began with the Children’s Showcase at Dovetail Café in Lincoln Park on a cool, cloudy morning. The front of the venue and nearby lampposts were festive, covered with big red bows, not in honor of Homegrown it turns out, but for a movie that was filming scenes at the venue the next day. Thanks to bubble machines and balloon animals provided by the Duluth Children’s Museum, the many youngsters in the audience made for an energetic and attentive crowd for perennial kid favorites Dan the Monkey Man and Steve's Overpopulated One-Man Band as well as new young performers like Avery Sorenson.

The morning started with an aerial performance from Izzy of the Phoenix Flyers, done to Superior Siren's "Swamp Creature."

The Hermantown Pep Band topped off the showcase, making a raucous entrance from the back of the Café in the spirit of a New Orleans Second Line and brought a fun party vibe with big band renditions of Crazy Train and Bad Romance among many other fun takes on popular songs. Their set ended with a "promposal" between two of the band members.

The traditional Duluth Mayor's Reception kicked off the evening events at Hoops. Mayor Emily Larson made a Homegrown Proclamation for the City of Duluth and recognized festival founder Starfire’s contributions to the event over the past 25 years to thunderous applause in the crowd. Afterwards, Babie Eyes performed, followed by Indigenous hip-hop artist Darren Sipity. He took the floor with a DJ providing dope beats to accompany his original raps. “I rap about Natives a lot. People don’t really do that these days,” he said. The set also included nods to A Tribe Called Quest and Mac Miller and a lot of humor; “Elvis Presley inspired me to rap,” he joked, before launching into a song using a sample from the King. When audience members started dancing behind him as he performed, he quipped that he didn’t know he had back up dancers for his set. Sipity also led the crowd in a cheer for Minnesota’s legislature voting to legalize marijuana the previous week.

Skarlett Woods held a packed Teatro Zuccone crowd captive with intimate songs and her stellar, jazz-influenced guitar style. She started the set with Bob Dylan cover and an audience singalong. Impressively, she made a trumpet sound with her mouth to add a beautiful texture to a song she said she learned from a friend during her time in Oregon.

Sunday night of Homegrown traditionally highlights new bands, and the Power of the Puss was as new as they come, announcing that their set at Blacklist Brewing was only their sixth show ever. What they lacked in polish they made up for with humor and personality, donning cat-themed hats, playing sometimes quirky originals and wrapping up with a covers of jeremy messersmith's adorable "Everybody Gets a Kitten" before getting raunchy on a cover of Khia's "My Neck My Back;" the audience ate all of it up.

Black and white image of a woman wearing glasses and a tiger-striped hat holding a tambourine in the air with her left hand while shaking a maraca in her right.
Stevie Twining
The Power of the Puss at Blacklist Brewing

Back at Teatro Zuccone, Minorbirds had a gorgeous set at Zeitgeist with a stellar backing band providing groovy laid-back cosmic Americana vibes to beautiful harmonies. They played a lot of new songs that are set to be released soon on their forthcoming album.

Singer/songwriter Sonofmel was the first performer at Carmody. He gave the audience a Homegrown assignment: "Meet two people you didn’t know before you walked in the door. It makes everyone’s light shine a little brighter." No word on how many new friendships were formed during his set.

Cyr and the Cosmonauts were the next act at a still-busy Blacklist Brewing. With the floor in front of the stage crowded during their eclectic set, a couple found space to dance in the hallway just outside the brewery's main room.

A woman playing trumpet and a man to her right playing guitar and singing into a microphone under stage lighting.
Stevie Twining
Cyr and the Cosmonauts at Blacklist Brewing

It was all new bands at Pizza Luce, starting with Elmore Fontaine. Rumor has it this artist, who's released some songs on Bandcamp as a solo artist, put together a band specifically for this Homegrown performance. The results were well-received by the crowd, who enjoyed a set heavy on spacious instrumentals. The were followed by metal band Pronoya, who inspired a fan to jump through the window of the Pizza Luce bar onto the stage for an attempt at stage diving.

A band on stage
Christine Dean
Elmore Fontaine performs at Pizza Luce for New Band Night

Back at Carmody, a super-sized Woodblind filled the small stage and got the tightly-packed crowd grooving to their good vibes to finish the night there.

A band performing on a stage under green stage lights with a crowd packed around them.
Stevie Twining
Woodblind performs at Carmody.

Coming up on Monday, Duluth Coffee Company announced that Jacob and Owen Mahon of New Salty Dog will host "Mahon Mornings" there, performing with special guests every day at 11am. It's a continuation of an unofficial Homegrown tradition started by Actual Wolf, who was unable to make it to Duluth for Homegrown this year.

Most of the musical action Monday night is centered around Lincoln Park, with shows up and down Superior Street. Some events, including the Poetry Showcase, will happen at Stage Four at the Depot downtown.

Coverage of the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival on the North 103.3 is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Christine is The North 103.3's Music Director, a host of Music Through the Day, and the producer of Live from Studio A. One of her favorite things about her job is the opportunity to share music from the Twin Ports’ many talented local artists. In her spare time she takes full of advantage of Duluth’s outdoors opportunities.
Shane German comes to the North 103.3 via community radio station WYCE in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was the Music Director for 6 years. He's excited to explore a new city, and new terrain - and to engage with a new community.