Best Bets: From bluegrass bands to chamber music

Find something to do this weekend in the Northland.

Four men dressed for casual outdoors activity stand (with one, third from left, crouching) in the woods, with pine trees towering behind them.
Armchair Boogie, a band who tout "their pickin’ skills and infectious grooves," are performing on Aug. 20 at Earth Rider Festival Grounds.
Contributed / Twin Ports Music Festival
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DULUTH — Live music is a common element in this week's Best Bets. Here are six Northland events to check out:

Twin Ports Music Festival

When the Albany Bluegrass Jam planned for this weekend in Stearns County had to pull the plug, Jon Miller decided to scramble. Miller, who plays guitar in Feed the Dog, booked his own band and five more from the canceled lineup into a newly-christened Twin Ports Music Festival at Earth Rider Festival Grounds. Miller said he hopes to bring the event back next year with a more musically diverse group of performers, but on Saturday in Superior, strings will rule. Feed the Dog, Armchair Boogie, Kind Country, Buffalo Galaxy, Dig Deep, and the MilBillies will play starting at 4 p.m., with a cover of $25 at the door or $17.50 (plus ticketing fees) in advance. For more information, see

Chamber Music at UMD

A woman dressed in a black coat and boots sands smiling in front of a sculpture with bright white lights.
Sayaka Tanikawa, one of two artistic directors of the Duluth Chamber Music Festival, photographed at Dia Beacon in New York.
Contributed / Maria Grazia Facciola Photography

A different kind of strings will sing at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Weber Hall on Thursday, as the Duluth Chamber Music Festival presents its first mainstage concert. This is the first year for the festival, which also includes a house show and a performance at Essentia Health. The festival's two artistic directors, Sayaka Tanikawa and Matt Young, "met as students at the Yale School of Music but now live on opposite sides of the country," according to a news release. "Duluth has become a central meeting point and a place of respite" for the two, who decided to share chamber music with the community through a new nonprofit. Debussy and Brahms will be on Thursday's program — but so will Amy Beach, Ernst von Dohnanyi and jazz composer Adam Birnbaum. For tickets ($20 suggested donation), see

Celebrity Bartender Challenge

A bartender in blue polo shirt pours a red drink into a martini glass, with lime slice garnish.
Bartender Chris Crocker poured a drink at The Boat Club in Duluth on Aug. 10, 2022.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

No, this isn't the kind of event where Don Ness and Daniel Durant grab cocktail shakers and face off. It's not about celebrities tending bar, it's about bartenders who are celebrities by dint of being good at their job. On Thursday, representatives from over 10 different local establishments — among them Vikre Distillery, the Apostle Supper Club, and the Pickwick — will step up to The Boat Club bar and mix drinks as a benefit for Minnesota Ballet. There will also be celebrity judges, but don't worry, ordinary ticket buyers get to sip the libations as well. Live music and snacks will also be on hand at each of the two sessions, at 5 and 7 p.m. For tickets and information, see

Art in Bayfront Park

Art in Bayfront Park.jpg
Brenda and Scott Tofte looked at work by quilter Diane Podgornik during Art in Bayfront Park in 2016.
File / Duluth News Tribune

You can plan ahead for upcoming birthdays and holidays while enjoying a harborside stroll this weekend at Art in Bayfront Park. A hundred-plus juried artists will fill the field with arts and crafts on Saturday and Sunday, with food vendors on site to sate your appetite while you browse. Minnesota Made will be selling the art fair's stylish official shirts, featuring a line-art interpretation of the local landscape. That's apt, since the Stillwater apparel company had its first spark when founder Sarah E. Schroeder went to a 2013 concert at Bayfront. "We saw so many Minnesota shirts!" Schroeder wrote on her company's website. "Some of the designs were great, but the quality of shirts needed some help. Then I thought, I could do this." That's the spirit! For event information, see


Punk Rock Flea Market

A black-on-white sign reads THE BACK ALLEY, posted against orange-painted horizontal siding with some yellow-painted vertical siding visible below.
Bold signage ensures you'll know when you've found The Back Alley.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

Tucked away at the end of a driveway next to Ursa Minor Brewing, The Back Alley is a Lincoln Park surf shop. But wait: there's more. It's also a coffee shop, a community hub and a music venue with a bright and welcoming patio. That's all coming together on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., when the shop hosts a Punk Rock Flea Market featuring live music, food, and vendors to help you fill out your complete punk rock lifestyle. Horror memorabilia! Vintage clothing! Artwork! There will also be vinyl — possibly both the kind you play and the kind you wear. For event information, see

Olcott Park BrewFest

A historical photograph shows the Olcott Park fountain in action.
File / Duluth News Tribune

At Saturday's Olcott Park BrewFest, a group called the Dang Ol' Tri'ole will take the stage just a day before the 112th anniversary of the first concert staged in the Virginia park. A few things have changed about Olcott Park since then — the zoo is gone, for example — but the park remains a vibrant public space. A color-splashed electric fountain debuted in 1937, a showcase of 20th century technology and WPA labor. When the fountain failed in 2013, the Olcott Park BrewFest was one of the fundraising efforts launched to restore it. The fountain has been back in action since 2019, but the BrewFest continues as a community celebration and fundraiser for park improvements and maintenance. For information and tickets, see

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at or 218-279-5536.
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