Lots to hear in local music sceneAs the ever-expanding list of performers at the annual Homegrown Music Festival proves, the Twin Ports has a lot of musicians.
By: Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune
As the ever-expanding list of performers at the annual Homegrown Music Festival proves, the Twin Ports has a lot of musicians. Whatever your tastes, there is a band or a solo performer that has something to offer, many of whom are producing work that matches or exceeds the quality of similarly styled, well-known national acts.
Of course, some of the best area bands are, in fact, national acts. Sub Pop recording artists Low just celebrated their 20th anniversary, and they’re still at cruising altitude. Their most-recent album, “The Invisible Way,” was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and they’ve toured with that band as well as others such as Death Cab for Cutie and, yep, even Radiohead. They’ve even been covered by Robert Plant, for crying out loud. If you have yet to see them or frontman Alan Sparhawk’s other projects such as Retribution Gospel Choir, Black-eyed Snakes or The Murder of Crows, make sure to do so.
Trampled by Turtles has become legitimately huge in recent years, maybe even surpassing Low as far as popularity goes. The band members have been on “Conan” and Letterman, they’re pals with My Morning Jacket and they fill large venues across America. Their modern-bluegrass sound fits in nicely with your Lumineers and Mumfords, but they’re way better than those bands, eschewing pop slickness for gutbucket rawness.
Charlie Parr is another big gun — he’s a guy who sits in a chair, hunched over a guitar, croaking out hobo blues like something off an Alan Lomax recording. He plays a lot around town, so there usually are plenty of opportunities to sit only a few feet from a real craftsman as he plies his trade.
Take a trip to one of our fine drinking establishments in the area to check out The Acceleratii, a finely tuned machine of a band that kicks out a kind of rockabilly-surf that’s led by a singer who actually is more of a ringmaster.
If you like the hard stuff, go check out a Wolf Blood show. The band members got the city a-titter after they nuked brains during the Homegrown, and they’ve been playing gigs in every nook and cranny in town, recently. They’re like a crusty doom-metal band, and they whip up a sonic storm that few local acts have ever been able to produce.
Wino, WI is a foursome led by Greg Cougar Conley and Marcus Matthews, two guys who used to be in a band called Puddle Wonderful, one of the greatest area bands to ever kick out a jam. Wino takes its unique chemistry and songwriting and amps it up.
Local hip-hop group Equal Xchange is a live band led by rapper Ray the Wolf; if you’re into more cerebral rhymes, check these guys out. It’s not super-removed from what Atmosphere did as a live band.
Beyond these groups, there are umpteen zillion other local musicians worth investigating, and any of them also could’ve been singled out for their quality. Consider the preceding a kind of quick-start manual for the Twin Ports music scene, if you will. For more information, peruse the Homegrown website or search “Duluth” on Bandcamp.com to look for in-depth information on local artists and to hear the sounds they make. Whatever your fancy, someone here can tickle the heck out of it, to be sure.
Tony Bennett reviews music for the News Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.