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From robots to reworked garden tools, Homegrown musicians share their talents

Jesse Hoheisel (from left), Justin Kervina and Paul Connolly perform with Portrait of a Drowned Man at Beaner’s Central during the Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth on Friday night. (Clint Austin / / 3
Tim Kaiser performs at Teatro Zuccone during the Homegrown Music Festival on Friday night. Kaiser plays experimental electronic instruments that he built himself. (Clint Austin / / 3
Biochemical Characters performs at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe during the Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth on Friday night. (Clint Austin / / 3

Forget everything you’ve learned about the traditional makeup of a band.

Troy Rogers eschewed guitars in favor of robots Friday evening for his Homegrown Music Festival debut at Teatro Zuccone.

Rogers was mostly hidden behind the screen of his Mac while Jake Larson played synthesizer, Jesse Hoheisel played drums and Rogers’ creations glowed with white light and warbled near a strategically placed microphone. At one point, the composer stepped out front near his knee-high towers of light to fiddle with the volume control.

Rogers’ warbles, spirals and beeps were among the almost 50 acts scheduled to perform Friday as part of the eight-day music festival. Homegrown events continue through mid-afternoon Sunday at more than two dozen venues in the Twin Ports.

The composer’s music-making bots were part of an ambient, science fair lineup at the venue that also included Zac Bentz’s project Dirty Knobs and Tim Kaiser, who can build an instrument from an old rake and pieces of a long-forgotten electronic toy.

Bentz was bent over a table on stage at Teatro Zuccone at the center of his drone project. He wore a “Drone not drones” T-shirt and headphones, and his tinkering created the whooshing soundtrack.

“It’s like being crushed by the ocean,” festival director Walter “Walt Dizzo” Raschick said.  

Earlier in the night: Biochemical Characters, a longtime, rarely gigging band, played an upbeat country-ish show at Amazing Grace Bakery & Café.

The eco-friendly band is said to be behind the Community Garden Program ditty “Plant Some Beans,” according to the Homegrown Field Guide, but it was a song for the local roller derby club that surfaced first during the set.

“Sunburn,” dedicated to the Harbor City Roller Dames, is the take of a nice girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly — but she’s also a switchblade.

Guitar player Jay Sandal and bassist Michael Gabler switched off singing duties and all the while looked like they were either having a blast — or were in on the best inside joke of all time.

Earlier in the night, Portage played for a packed house. Singer Trent Waterman wore a kicky hat and things leaned a bit toward a blues jam. They got a standing (room only) ovation.

In the back of the room, keyboardist Dave Mehling’s bandmates from The Fontanelles made the show their first Homegrown stop. The Minneapolis-based musicians are festival veterans and said they look forward to playing every year.

“It’s amazing to see the city come to life,” Jason McGlone said. “We don’t have a lot of this.”

“It’s my favorite gig every year,” said Beau Jeffrey, who would play later Friday night at Rex Bar, then begin his bachelor party near Danbury, Wis., today.

Portrait of a Drowned Man, a guitar-heavy instrumental band, played an organ-shaking set at Beaner’s Central.

See Father Hennepin at Carmody.

Saturday's schedule