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The arts and entertainment future is looking backward: 2019 starts with a strong retro lean

Todd Eckart will perform a Buddy Holly Tribute on Jan. 27 at Grandma's Sports Garden. Photo from

As Buddy Holly, Todd Eckart wears a white tuxedo jacket and bowtie, two-toned shoes, definitely the signature dark-framed glasses. The local crooner favors the old — whether it's a movie, furniture, or his own setlists filled with retro rock or the Rat Pack.

He has considered opening a second-hand shop, he said, and he has the slogan:

"If it ain't vintage, it's crap," he said, laughing as he momentarily channeled comedian Mike Myers.

Eckart is in luck. The local A&E scene is leaning back — way back. In addition to his upcoming Holly tribute, the NorShor Theatre will host a screening of "On The Waterfront," released in 1954, as part of its Classic Film Series, and dozens of musicians will play the songs of Joni Mitchell, a folk-singer well known in the mid-1960s.

Joni Mitchell in 1968. (TNS)On New Year's Eve, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra performed tunes by '80s balladeers Journey, and this week Arch Allies, a tribute band, will perform music from the same era — including Styx, Boston and Bon Jovi. On Sunday, a visiting band played Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album "Rumours" from front to back. And Zinema 2 is doubling down: It's screening "Miracle," a movie from 2004 that tells a story from 1980, when the U.S. men's hockey team won an Olympic gold medal.

The old, it seems, has become the new thing.

"It's definitely a trend," said Jody Kujawa, who is part of the trio behind the Classic Film Series.

Old movies

Kujawa said that when they pitched it, organizers of the Classic Film Series expected about 50 people per event. It has been averaging 350, he said.

The monthly series, which plays at the NorShor, started with "Casablanca" and has included "Some Like It Hot," "Rear Window" and "Singin' in the Rain" this past year.

They added a second screening for "It's a Wonderful Life" in December — ultimately drawing an audience of about 1,000.

"On The Waterfront" (Horizon Pictures)"I think there are a lot of movies that we've grown up with that we've never gotten to see in that setting," Kujawa said. "You can see a movie in your living room, watch it on a laptop. It isn't the same as watching 'It's a Wonderful Life' with 500 other people. It's a completely different experience."

Kujawa, a film aficionado, added that Zinema 2 has been filling seats for retro movies. "The Princess Bride" (1987), scheduled for Friday night, has long been sold out. In December the theater showed "The Muppet Christmas Carol," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "The Santa Clause." In upcoming weeks, "Miracle," "American Movie" and "The Matrix" will get anniversary screenings.

Old music

Eckart's Buddy Holly tribute, a fundraiser for the Duluth Armory, is in its fourth year. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party Tour stop at the venue. Forty-eight hours after playing Duluth in 1959, Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson died in a plane crash in Iowa.

Folk singer Don McLean calls it "The Day The Music Died" in his 1971 song "American Pie."

Eckart calls it "the year the music died": Elvis was in the army, Little Richard was on hiatus, then those three heavies died.

"Rock 'n' roll, that kind, was not the same anymore," he said.

It's why he performs music from this era. For Eckart, the past — at least when it comes to music — was just better.

"I think it's the cleanliness of the music," he said. "The rawness of it. Rock 'n' roll in a time when it was all just being created."

On the same weekend that Eckart is channeling Buddy Holly, Breanne Tepler and more than a dozen other musicians — Arna Rennan, Kate Isles, Lyz Jaakola — will be combing through Joni Mitchell's catalogue as part of the Duluth Does series. (In the past, Duluth has performed songs by Bob Dylan, the White Album, Led Zeppelin, Low and more.)

Mitchell, a Canadian singer-songwriter, came onto the scene in the mid-1960s and was known for tackling timely topics.

As soon as organizer Eric Swanson made the pick: "so many artists jumped on it — not only jumped on it, but were freaking out," said Tepler, who will perform a solo version of "River."

"She's hard to play," Tepler said. "I think female musicians from the Twin Ports were up for that. I think there's respect and admiration, and they're up for the challenge."

Meanwhile, she has found that nostalgia doesn't escape the young. Recently her 13-year-old daughter told her that old music is the real music.

"The stuff I'm listening to — that's on my Spotify," she reportedly said, "That isn't real music."

"She's 13, and she sees it," Tepler added.

The past will continue into the future. In February, the NorShor Theatre's concert series will hit a mid-century sound with "Irving Berlin's Rags to Ritzes." The lineup: "Cheek to Cheek," "Puttin' on the Ritz" "White Christmas" and more.

Some upcoming ways to throw back

Arch Allies

What: Tribute to Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Boston

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 11

Where: Clyde Iron Works, 2920 W. Michigan St.


"The Princess Bride"

What: Screening of the 1987 cult classic film

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 11

Where: Zinema 2, 222 E. Superior St.


"On The Waterfront"

What: Screening of the 1954 classic film

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 12

Where: NorShore Theatre, 211 E. Superior St.


"Miracle" (Walt Disney Pictures)"Miracle"

What: 15th anniversary screening of the 2004 movie about the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey team

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 12

Where: Zinema 2, 222 E. Superior St.


"American Movie"

What: 20th anniversary screening of the cult hit movie

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 18

Where: Zinema 2, 222 E. Superior St.


Duluth Does Joni Mitchell

What: A musical tribute featuring local musicians Lyz Jaakola, Arna Rennan, Breanne Tepler, Kate Isles and more

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26

Where: Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 W. Fourth St.


Tribute to the Music of Buddy Holly

What: Concert featuring Todd Eckart and his band

When: 6 p.m. Jan. 27

Where: Grandma's Sports Garden, 425 S. Lake Ave.