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Homegrown Day 3 recap: Crowd surfing and mall culture

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Alan Sparhawk crowd-surfs during a performance with the Black-eyed Snakes at the Sports Garden in Duluth late Tuesday night during the Homegrown Music Festival. (Clint Austin / / 2

Alan Sparhawk has never been one to let the size or shape of the stage determine where he will travel during a performance. He climbs, for sure. Anything that juts upward and/or out is seemingly fair game. During Tuesday's set at the Sports Garden in Canal Park, fresh from repeating a distorted-sounding "I Want Candy," he crowd surfed — like he does. He didn't get far, so he hopped back up on stage and tried it again. This time the people were ready — or at least more ready than before — and he made it pretty deep.

"Oh, wow," a long-gone Homegrown Music Festival regular responded, via text. "Old school, Pizza Luce-style Black-Eyed Snakes."


Alan Sparhawk crowd surfs during a Black-eyed Snakes set Tuesday night. (Photos by Clint Austin)

The Snakes just started in on its signature blues-rock, no fanfare — just Brad Nelson emoting on the drums — and when Sparhawk let out a primal wail it sounded like a different kind of Homegrown proclamation. They played "Don't Kick Me Out" before Sparhawk said something — either words of wisdom or something about kickball. It was hard to hear.


Superior Siren followed, a shift in vibe from adrenaline rock to a dark folk foursome that mixes Laura Sellner's unique vocals, cellist Rachel Gobin, upright bass player Nyssa Krause and drummer Emma Deaner. They played old ("Swamp Creature," with its memorable "I am after your heart") and newer ("Trying Too Hard").

Sparhawk joined on guitar for a cover of Radiohead's "Go Slowly."

Andrew Stern, front man for Fearless Moral Inventory, also went off-roading during the venue-opening rock 'n' roll set (with occasional horns). He climbed off stage, he hopped a barrier, he darn-near danced with the News Tribune's photographer. The band of Steve Karels, Corey Gice and Jim Mattson seemed stoked for the time slot.

"Our whole job is getting you warmed up for the next acts," Stern said, adding that Black-Eyed Snakes is his favorite band. "I'm melting on the inside."

There was a song about America — "make sure you dance," Stern said — and, as they wound down, another suited for people who enjoy altered reality that looped and swirled.


Alamode is part-phenomenon, part-curiousity. The pop band formerly known as Play Date (blah blah blah, a long story about a serious-sounding cease and desist letter) has discovered some sort of sequins-and-synth magic with its fresh take on a retro sound. Not quite disco. Not quite yacht rock — but kind of. A lot of this is Nathan Holte in a shiny shirt — at least until he starts shedding layers — flashing grins and dancing like he's the earthly vessel for the ghost of Michael Hutchence. Meanwhile, vocally, covering Prince would be too obvious.

Do these guys — Peter Knutson (guitar), Rio Daugherty (drums), Alex Piazza (bass), Ned Netzel (keys) — know that this area has a reputation for being beard and banjo land? Does this area know it has a reputation for being beard and banjo land? Not during an Alamode show, where these guys give a performance that would be remarkable even if it wasn't in front of their friends, and in return they're given a sort of ooey-gooey, mobbed at the mall, rock star treatment. It's all just so freaking fun.