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Homegrown Music Festival goes on(line) … and off in other directions

In addition to pre-recorded videos curated by festival keepers, unofficial Homegrown-like happenings are cropping up in living rooms.

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Homegrown Music Festival (2015 file / News Tribune)

About this time every year, Kala Moria likes to create an extracurricular, Homegrown Music Festival-themed activity that runs adjacent to the annual showcase of local music, art and visuals.

One year she made Homegrown trading cards featuring musicians and other familiar faces from the scene. Players had eight rounds to build a dream musical lineup. Another year, the tuba player from the polka punk band Winzige Hosen assembled a marching band to play during the annual Homegrown kickball game.

“I like to create unofficial Homegrown things,” Moria said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

With in-person festival events canceled for the second consecutive year — officially, Homegrown will be streaming videos, poetry and live performances on its YouTube channel — Moira is resurrecting a way to celebrate the season while adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

The Second Annual Unofficial Duluth Homegrown Music Festival Scavenger Hunt asks fest fans to complete tasks such as: dress like the Homegrown chicken mascot, catch a live-stream performance, and collect roadside trash for varying point levels. Participating teams have May 2-May 9 to complete as many of the 70-plus tasks as possible.

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“Since we can’t actually go out and do Homegrown things, I can do something like that for Homegrown,” said Moria, of drawing the hunt last year. “The whole point was literally just so people could have something fun to do and keep Homegrown alive.”

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Father Hennepin is playing at 2104 and Earth Rider Festival Field this week. (2019 file / News Tribune)

Homegrown Music Festival, which Scott “Starfire” Lunt of Father Hennepin started more than 20 years ago to celebrate his birthday, is traditionally held in late April and/or early May and in recent years has featured 200 bands with local ties, ranging from artists with an international following to newbies. The Duluth- and Superior-based festival spans eight days, dozens of venues and draws thousands of aficionados.

All these years later, Lunt is no longer involved as an organizer, though his band Father Hennepin is a regular draw. There is instead a full staff, a roster of volunteers and a board of directors.

Organizers announced in early January that this year’s event, in its 23rd year, would be held virtually.

See Also: Homegrown Music Festival (and more) schedule A listing of some events related to this year's festival
Local music heads are keeping the fever of the festival alive with unofficial events ranging from Moria’s scavenger hunt to officially curated collections of videos available for streaming.

Expect the lines between Homegrown and unofficial Homegrown to be blurred. Last year, festival keepers gave Moria a variation on the signature red jacket worn by organizers. Hers is blue with “unofficial member” written in script above her name.

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“I teared up a little,” she admitted.

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Kala Moria created a Homegrown Music Festival themed scavenger hunt that runs May 2-May 9. (Submitted photo)

How to Homegrown-Homegrown

All official Homegrown Music Festival events — the Children’s Music Showcase, Mayor Emily Larson’s proclamation, the Poetry Showcase — will be available for streaming, and archived, on the festival’s YouTube channel .

“It’s a completely different beast,” said festival director Melissa LaTour, adding that they received about 100 video submissions of both new material and old footage. In other in-person years, they’ve drawn 300 band applications. The committee had to make its call early for organizational purposes, she said, and they opted for accessibility.

In the week before the start of the festival, LaTour said final edits were being made on the stitched-together pieces that would be added to the channel each night. There will be new content available by 7 p.m. May 2-May 8, with some exceptions:

The Children’s Music Showcase starts at 11 a.m. May 2, followed by the Mayor’s Reception at 4 p.m. The livestream of the MN Music Summit featuring AfroGeode, Superior Siren and Cory Coffman plays at 7 p.m. from Sacred Heart Music Center.

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra’s season finale, “From Beethoven to Milhaud,” will also be available on Homegrown’s YouTube page, in addition to the DSSO’s own streaming service.

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Hoops Brewing has crafted Emily's Extra IPA, a nod to Mayor Emily Larson, who has in the past offered her proclamation from the brewery. The festival's YouTube content will be broadcast at Hoops.

Meanwhile, for souvenir sorts, there are Homegrown Music Festival Field Guides available in the wild — Wussow’s Concert Cafe is a good place to get one — but rather than detailed schedules, there are state-of-the-scene takes, including a deep-dive into artists who have made moves during the pandemic: Sarah Krueger’s project Lanue; Lyla Abukhodair, who has gone solo after NorShore Summit parted ways; Diona Johnson’s AfroGeode; and her work with DanSan Creatives.

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AfroGeode (Photo by Theresa Gail Photography)

Reason for the season

Earth Rider Festival Field is hosting more than 20 acts, including Father Hennepin, Charlie Parr, Superior Siren, Jen West and Rick McLean, as part of its “Starfire Unofficial Birthday Bash,” which runs May 5-8 in the outdoor, tented space between Cedar Lounge and Earth Rider Brewery in Superior.

Shows are from 5-9 p.m., and tickets are $5 general admission, $10 reserved seating.

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Richard Narum hosts concerts in his living room and streams them online. (Photo from Facebook)

Intimate concerts, global access

Richard Narum recalled standing in the mezzanine when Wilco played Symphony Hall in early March 2020 — one of the last large-scale events held in Duluth before Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order to shelter in place — and the dawning of the idea that Homegrown 2020 would be canceled.

“It washed over me,” he said. “Of course they’re going to cancel Homegrown.”

But not at his house: Unofficial Homegrown will go on with 15 acts playing in his living room — shows that will be livestreamed and archived on 2104.us .

Kaylee Matuszak kicks off Narum’s take on the fest at 6 p.m. May 2, followed by Bill Flannagan and Sugar on the Roof. Artists like Father Hennepin, Woodblind, Jacob Mahon and the New Salty Dogs follow throughout the week.

Narum is an active member of the local music scene. For the past 11 years, he has played host to musicians who have performed from a corner of his living room.

With venues closed, he and a small team offered a live-stream from the same space.

Narum’s first livestream of the quarantine season was April 30, 2020, the 10th anniversary of a SoupB4Supe, the annual all-comer soup party he hosts on the night Homegrown Music Festival events center in Superior.

Dozens of acts have followed, including artists like Ingeborg von Agassiz, Feeding Leroy, Tim Kaiser and Robot Rickshaw. Each is paid a stipend, which Narum described as a “very modest tip that says ‘we still value you.’”

Narum said he worries that the music scene that has been built here — one where people expect to see original music on Superior Street — will be lost. Musicians are oftentimes restaurant workers, and neither fared well in a lockdown.

“Not only are we going to lose our culture,” he said, “but our friends are starving.”

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Chalk art is one of the items on the Homegrown Music Festival Scavenger Hunt. (Facebook)

Now, about that scavenger hunt

Moria will trade a video of you shotgunning a beer or sparkling water for one point in the Second Annual Unofficial Duluth Homegrown Music Festival Scavenger Hunt. Other ways to earn: pick up roadside trash, enjoy a slice of pizza and a beer, create festival-centric artwork with chalk on your sidewalk.

Rules and visual proof of progress are available on the group’s Facebook page. Last year’s winning team — Look Good, Don’t Die — accumulated 415.5 points.

For Moria, this week is about celebrating the music scene.

“It’s an excuse to treat the whole week like a holiday,” she said.

Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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