Duluth Homegrown 2022: Hot takes on all 45 venues
From Amazing Grace Cafe to Zeitgeist Zinema, two insiders gave us the lowdown on the sprawling music festival's stages.
DULUTH — Homegrown is back, in a big way. After a 2020 COVID cancellation and an online festival in 2021, Duluth's signature music festival is presenting eight days of fully in-person shows this spring.
"When I saw the artwork first completed, by Emily Koch," said festival director Melissa LaTour, "I got teary-eyed because I kind of resonated with hugging the chicken."
The domesticated fowl is a symbol of Homegrown, which is why LaTour and board member Dereck Murphy-Williams described their borrowed Lincoln Park space as this year's "Chicken Shack" festival headquarters. Sitting in the Shack on April 20, LaTour and Murphy-Williams talked about the energy around the festival, which originally launched in 1999.
"There aren't a lot of places that can do an eight-day festival (with only) local music," said LaTour with pride. "The criteria is we go Twin Ports, Duluth, Superior, kind of the Iron Range ... we will invite people that were from here that moved away to come back and play if they're available."
Over the past quarter-century, the Duluth music scene has grown — and changed. "It's way more diverse" than in the 1990s, said Murphy-Williams.
"There is a lot of focus on banjo," LaTour admitted. "But there's a lot of other music, too ... there's metal here, there's hip-hop, there's old country, there's everything."
Homegrown does for the Duluth music scene what the Minnesota Fringe Festival does for the state's independent theater scene: Artists who might have been drawing only modestly are showcased to outsized crowds at the popular festival. "Then," observed Murphy-Williams, "throughout the year, more people may go to their shows."
This year's thick Homegrown Field Guide fills 75 pages with profiles of the artists playing this year; it takes a mere three pages to list all the venues, but that still makes 45 distinct places programming will be presented. Since even hardcore Homegrown heads might not be familiar with all of them, LaTour and Murphy-Williams agreed to share concise thoughts on each and every one.
The venues are grouped by geographic area, with maps from the Field Guide. Three of the areas are served by free bus or bus that resembles a trolley (sometimes venues in their own right) on select nights; see duluthhomegrown.org for details on schedules and ticketing.
Downtown Duluth (West)
Lake Superior Railroad Museum (in the Depot): "That's going to be for the children's music showcase. It's just a fun little historical part of Duluth that is fun to incorporate into the scene." (LaTour)
Duluth Public Library: "We're excited to have Gaelynn (Lea) on that stage, because it's very focused, and she's also coming out with a book on disability. And we thought, what better place to put her for a little showcase coming off 'Macbeth' in New York, then at the Duluth Public Library. And we wanted to make sure that was a free thing for people. We do a lot of free programming; I'd say about a third of our programming is free for the public." (LaTour)
Sacred Heart Music Center: "That's a beautiful, beautiful venue. It's a great sit-down place to catch music." (LaTour)
Owls Club: "That's a private club for members of the Owls fraternity. We're excited to use them. Our technology director and a few other members of Homegrown are members there, so we wanted to try it out. It's an old funeral home, so it's got kind of this cool vibe inside. You have the circle where the coffins used to be, and it's ... definitely retro looking." (LaTour)
Downtown Duluth (Central)
Annex du Nord: "Brand-new. I worked for a record label, Chaperone Records, in town and Bob Monahan owned that record label. (Annex du Nord) is his place ... Bob is always very innovative with spaces, so I'm excited to use it." (LaTour)
R.T. Quinlan's: "You want to go where everybody knows your name ..." (Murphy-Williams, singing)
"I used to cocktail there way back in the day. That was the '90s bar. It was packed. Everybody coming through touring used to go there ... it's a long narrow hallway with a bar, and then a downstairs with the stage." (LaTour)
Dubh Linn: "Dubh Linn's is good because they balance both music and stand-up comedy. So we had more comedy acts that applied this year than in the past. We had a ventriloquist, and then we had a couple of other stand-ups ... we moved them a little bit because we didn't want to stick them in an obvious spot. We like to kind of shift things around. But Dubh Linn's has been around for a while." (LaTour)
Legacy Glassworks: "Sometimes the music is inside the shop; sometimes it's outside the shop. They recently went to a 21-plus, so we have to look at the programming a little bit differently there. ... Most of the time people are outside because the shop is smaller, and they'll watch or listen to the music outside. It's a nice little gathering of people." (LaTour)
Duluth Flame Nightclub: "That's the area's LGBT dance club. They do drag shows, usually. When college kids want to go and dance, they go there." (Murphy-Williams)
"We used to have them, and we brought them back this year. It has a dance-y feel when you get in there." (LaTour)
Blush: "Tiny little gem! It is a small space, and probably the most inclusive venue that we have in this city. They do a lot of promoting; they bring in a lot of music that's new. People love playing there." (LaTour)
Pizza Luce: "Thank God they came to town." (Murphy-Williams)
"They've been around since almost the very, very beginning. They were one of the first (venues) added after the NorShor and the (Fitger's) Brewhouse. ... The way that the place is, with the stage there and then they have the bar, you can be in the bar and still watch the band, or you can be in the main room. ... Always very energetic when the shows are there." (LaTour)
Zeitgeist Arts Atrium, Teatro, Zinema: "It's an arts and culture venue, three in one. A cafe, a live theater, a movie theater. They've done theater, they do improv, they do music, they've done drag shows." (Murphy-Williams)
"We're putting a drag show there this year. It's coming back to Zeitgeist. The beautiful thing about the Atrium is when you're walking, if there's foot traffic, the entire building is windows. I think it's just going to be a beautiful performance. (Teatro) is one of my favorites to sit down and watch, because it's a little sit-down theater, but it's very dark in there — very focused, too. So your eye is just naturally drawn to the stage. Even if it's full, you're not looking at the people around you. You're just zoomed in." (LaTour)
Carmody Irish Pub & Brewing: "They're a staple bar of the downtown area. At different times they've been different things, like an industry hangout. They've always done music." (Murphy-Williams)
Fitger's Spirit of the North Theater: "I performed in (Spirit of the North) doing theater because it's literally a theater, but without a backstage. That's an interesting one, because it actually seats like over 100 people, but that's a seated theater." (Murphy-Williams)
"They're a return this year. We had one venue that had to bow out because their construction's not due (to be completed), so we had to think fast and that was one of the first places we reached out to because we used them in the early days. And they were excited to get us back, so it's going to be a trial run again." (LaTour)
Rex Bar at Fitger's: "I just love that because it's a basement bar and a really super old building. The majority of it, when you get in there, is a dance floor." (Murphy-Williams)
"It's huge! It's a good party place." (LaTour)
Sir Benedict's: "Sir Ben's is always, always busy. Always high-energy; during Homegrown it is off the chart. The windows are open; people are sometimes sitting out of the windows. The patio is full. You can hear the music three blocks down. And the food is amazing." (LaTour)
The Port Town Trolley: "Those can almost be as crazy as an inside venue. Sometimes people get on to be carted to another venue, and they just end up packed because people stay on there and listen to the musician that's sitting on the trolley playing. Sometimes you're standing waiting and you can't even get on it, so those can be fun to ride around on." (Murphy-Williams)
"I have video of our mayor, Emily Larson, leading a 'Row Row Row Your Boat' singalong." (LaTour)
DECC Harbor Side Ballroom: "This is uncharted territory for us. But Dan Hartman, who's the new executive director, came from the Glensheen mansion. And Dan and his team that are now at the DECC, they did the Concerts on the Pier ... and we'd have a lot of local music there. So I think it's going to be an innovative, awesome partnership." (LaTour)
Hoops Brewing: " Dave Hoops was the original brewer for the Homegrown Ale out of the Brewhouse in Duluth. We are super excited to have him. He does the mayoral proclamation programming. He's one of my favorite Homegrown personalities." (LaTour)
Ripple Bar: "It's in a hotel next to Hoops. Whenever I go to shows, it's always hopping. People are dancing and having beverages, and there's a lot of nods to the Grateful Dead." (LaTour)
Vikre Distillery: "It's very classy. And a shout-out to them for donating 100 gallons of hand sanitizer to us for the festival!" (LaTour)
Amazing Grace Cafe and Grocery: "It's been around for a long time. It's very community attended. A lot of the regular customers of Amazing Grace will go there, and it's a nice starting point to get your day kicked off." (LaTour)
Canal Park Brewing: "That's our wind-down. That's our end of the festival. We go there to chill, and there's music playing. The staff is amazing. Everybody goes there kind of for that final wind-down of the festival." (LaTour)
Wild State Cider: "They're newer to our venues. ... Definitely a smaller venue, but the energy does not sacrifice there. It's a great place." (LaTour)
Ursa Minor Brewing: "That's another fun neighborhood bar in Lincoln Park and another one we're excited about because during the pandemic, a lot of these places it was sink-or-swim so they (added) a lot of outdoor seating. ... It's a great gathering space, and they have music, I think, just about every day there." (LaTour)
Duluth Cider: "They're fun. They have a special cider coming out in honor of Homegrown this year. ... The logo is super cute." (LaTour)
The Caddy Shack: "This one's very near and dear to my heart. They're very into their neighborhood . They took a place that was interesting and redid it and turned it into a really great venue to go see live music." (Murphy-Williams)
Bent Paddle Brewing Co.: "They're a pioneer (in today's Lincoln Park). ... They're more family-friendly, so oftentimes there's games and you can get food delivered, so there's families eating and hanging out there." (LaTour)
Clyde Iron Works: "That's just a giant venue. It's always a big show there during Homegrown." (Murphy-Williams)
"When we walk into a show at the Clyde, with the capacity you'll see the most of the attendees there, and that's where we can really look down on heads and go, 'We did the job. We got it through.'" (LaTour)
Minnesota Whitewater Rafting Shuttle: "That's another nod to (owners) Stephanie and Chris (LaFleur) over at the Caddy Shack. Part of the sponsorship package that we work with them is that they give us the bus for the Lincoln Park night. That one's a little interesting, and you can tell that people like to get on it for the fun factor because the bars are literally next to each other, within walking distance, but people will still get on to ride this around the block a couple times. It's a big red bus." (LaTour)
The Main Club: "That is the area's most historic LGBT bar. The old location went through a fire and burnt down and then the original owner moved it and now it's under new ownership. The oldest LGBT bar in the Twin Ports area. A lot of history there." (Murphy-Williams)
Empire Coffee: "It's an all-age venue. The owners graduated with my daughter from school, and they are super supportive of the music scene. They brought a piano in there just so people could come in and play piano. We don't do just all underage artists there; we try to mix it up." (LaTour)
The Spirit Room: "That's a fun cocktail bar." (LaTour)
"Cocktails and tapas!" (Murphy-Williams)
Earth Rider Brewery Festival Grounds/Cedar Lounge: "(Earth Rider founder) Tim Nelson and (director of brands) Brad Nelson were directors of Homegrown way back in the day, and they're super supportive. They have a lot of music there year-round. ... It's great to have a large venue in Superior, because we didn't have that previously. Our largest venue we used is the Main Club, which is great, but you still hit that capacity issue. Whereas Earth Rider (Festival Grounds), we have a little more movement." (LaTour)
Izzy's BBQ Lounge: "Superior people think about it as an eatery, a kind of a greasy barbecue pit, but it's a fun place to see music. Sometimes the performers are surprised if they get booked there. They might go, 'Why am I at Izzy's?' But then after they play, they're like, 'Please put me back, because it's really fun.'" (LaTour)
Reef Bar: "The Reef Bar is the venue to go if you don't want to go over the bridge for Soup Town Night. It's well-attended; a lot of people go there and hang out. We always put some good programming there, too, and it's usually a dancing crowd. It's a huge bar. You see it from the front, but it goes way back." (LaTour)
Chester Bowl Park: Site of the Homegrown Kickball Classic, "and our Wrong Notes pep band shows. If we had to describe the word 'shenanigans' for the duration of the festival, come to kickball. Daytime shenanigans." (LaTour)
Kom-On-Inn: "This is probably my favorite. I always looked at it like, 'What's going on there?' And then when I started going in there, it's super cool. It's just the most oddly shaped long hallway of a bar. It has this dance floor and stage at the very end, and there's old murals of old Duluth painted on every wall and the whole bar. It's a super cool bar, kind of an unexpected little gem." (Murphy-Williams)
Mr. D's Bar and Grill: "That's just another really nicely sized West Duluth venue. It's just been around for a long time. That's also a hub of venues down there. All those West Duluth ones are like right in this little triangle — 'the Triad,' I think people usually call it — so they're a staple West Duluth music venue." (Murphy-Williams)
Gopher Restaurant & Lounge: "That's a neighborhood bar where cover bands usually play. ... It's a fun place to go because it's big, and they're excited to have people from the other end of town that never attend there. I frequent there almost every weekend." (Murphy-Williams)
Jade Fountain: "My memories of Jade are when I used to go there with my grandparents to eat dinner. And it's since been bought by a couple of people, and it's kind of a swanky lounge now and a really cool vibe for DJs. I mean, anything could go in there." (LaTour)
"I used to live in Minneapolis, and we'd go to the Red Dragon all the time. ... It just reminds me of that Red Dragon feel from back in the day." (Murphy-Williams)
Wussow's: "Old-school, great coffee shop. Always music playing there. You're gonna definitely know people when you go in there. The whole neighborhood goes there." (LaTour)
This story was updated at 3:25 p.m. April 29 with a replacement map reflecting changes to the downtown trolley route. It was originally posted at 8:01 a.m. April 29.