Young Duluth band scene needs a jump-start
On a typical Saturday night in Duluth, you could toss a dart down Superior Street and easily peg a guitar player from a local bar band. But what about the all-ages scene: those musicians caught between the ages of just-got-a-drivers'-license and ...
On a typical Saturday night in Duluth, you could toss a dart down Superior Street and easily peg a guitar player from a local bar band.
But what about the all-ages scene: those musicians caught between the ages of just-got-a-drivers'-license and not-legally-allowed-to-drink-a-PBR?
It's an ever-shrinking population that has Kieren Smith bummed -- so much so that the 20-year-old guitar player for the band Sing It Loud delivered a call to action.
"When I was in high school, I couldn't name all of the bands that were trying hard to do something," he said. "A lot of kids wanted to see bands play, they worked hard and promoted themselves. It paid off."
Five years ago, a generation of musicians and fans cropped up around the band And Then I Turned Seven. But those bands broke up, Smith said, and everyone --including himself -- moved to the Twin Cities.
What's left is a handful of young talent from that generation with no one younger rising up to fill the void, said Smith, who displays his love for Duluth with a tattoo of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the Leif Erikson ship.
His peers didn't seem to want to hear his message, but begrudgingly agreed.
"When I first came into the scene, it was thriving," said Grant Murray, of the two-man acoustic band First Class Failure. "Everyone was in a band and playing shows. Now it's kind of wavering. ... But our scene can be jump-started."
He has a reason to be optimistic. Tonight, First Class Failure will be part of a seven-band young music showcase at Grandma's Sports Garden. It starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.
It's a career highlight for Murray: "When I fall asleep and I'm dreaming, that's the stage I'm dreaming about," he said.
The show was organized by, and will include, former Duluthian Dane Schmidt of Jamestown Story, seemingly every young local musician's favorite success story. Jamestown Story is consistently listed among the top unsigned performers on MySpace, and Schmidt makes enough on iTunes to live comfortably with music as his fulltime job.
Other bands in tonight's show include:
Mikey Talented: A local foursome that sings original ska and reggae.
Take Cover: A high-energy Twin Cities-based pop punk.
Fight the Odds: Five local musicians, described "a mix between emotional melodical [sic] vocals, crunching and clean guitars, sexy bass riffs, and double bass metal drumming" on their MySpace page.
Cities Never Sleep: A five-man band that describes itself as pop punk, power pop and happy hardcore. Their only cover is Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" that gets a good audience response.
The show will also feature a cameo by Justin Pierre of the Minneapolis band Motion City Soundtrack -- which has been active since the late-1990s, and released "Commit This To Memory" this past fall.
Pat Tarnowski, who was in And Then I Turned Seven with Schmidt and now is in Cities Never Sleep, is intent on reviving what was here five years ago.
"It just makes me want to work harder and get more bands out there noticed," he said. "Try to create a scene up here again. ... [Tonight] is going to be a fantastic show. I'm excited." Without a resurgence of teenaged-to-mid-20-something bands, Smith said he fears high school-aged musicians won't find mentors to follow. They don't have an opportunity to see the performances by the older bands, who play in bars.
Not to mention, these two factions are stylistically different, said Jason Wussow, who owns and hosts show at Beaner's Central.
The older Duluth scene is playing what Wussow called "The Duluth sound," defining it as folk and alt country. The younger musicians are plugged into what is popular on the national scene.