May 1, 2008
As Homegrown grows up, it looks to the
By Nina Petersen-Perlman
Old meets new at this year’s Homegrown Music
Four bands, one of which hasn’t played together
in more than a decade, are reuniting in honor of the festival’s
10th anniversary. And with an increasing number of all-ages venues,
more new kids on the block will get attention, too.
Chris Halverson recalls his band, The Mighty Shock
Tower, as being one of “four or five” original bands
in Duluth in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The band moved to Minneapolis in 1991 with hopes
of making it big, but “got swallowed up pretty quick”
in the city’s massive music scene, Halverson said. After they
broke up, Halverson lived in Duluth on and off before moving back
for good in 2001.
Upon his return he joined with Shock Tower bandmate
Kelly Roed to form the new bands Verona and Sloe Loris.
Halverson and Roed will reunite with drummer Pete
Boulger on Saturday for the first time in 17 years. They play at
11 p.m. at Pizza Luce, 11 E. Superior St.
Halverson said the growth of the Duluth music
scene in that time has been remarkable — 150 acts, all with
Duluth ties, are part of this year’s Homegrown.
“If you think about it, four or five to
150 is pretty amazing, huh?” he said. “The scene has
come into its own a little more, taken itself more seriously.”
The festival can be credited with a good portion
of that success, Halverson said. It all began 10 years ago as a
birthday party for Scott “Starfire” Lunt, and became
a public festival in 1999. The Bridge Syndicate, a local nonprofit
group, took the reins in 2006, transferring planning responsibilities
from a few people to a legion of about 60 volunteers.
“It’s totally run by people interested
in the sustainability of the event rather than the bottom line,”
said Paul Connolly, Homegrown’s director.
This year’s festival, which began Sunday,
ramps up tonight with 20 bands playing in six venues in Duluth and
Superior. On Friday and Saturday, 102 bands will perform in 17 venues
in Duluth. A Sunday brunch with music closes out the festival.
Festival organizers recently started focusing
on including all-ages venues, especially those that put on a lot
of all-ages shows year-round. Making the eight-day event more accessible
to the under-21 set is in the festival’s best interest, Connolly
“Having them be a part of the festival,
especially one run by volunteers, is really good for it,”
As they grow up, Connolly said he hopes the younger
volunteers become more involved in festival organization.
Mike Wilson, 20, has embraced all things Homegrown.
The Lake Superior College student moved to Duluth from Tower to
have a stronger presence in the city’s music scene.
Along with volunteering for the festival, Wilson
will accomplish an astonishing feat this weekend when he plays seven
shows with as many bands in three venues on Friday and Saturday.
Wilson plays guitar in Nordic Waste, is fill-in drummer for Jackie
and the Ripoffs, is bassist for the Moon is Down, is bassist and
vocalist for Cheney’s Dick, is drummer for Bad Cop Bad Cop,
is guitarist and vocalist for Hell Ass Nasty Bastards and is drummer
Wilson predicts the punishing schedule will leave
him exhausted by the time it’s all over, but he said he loves
being so involved in the “funnest weekend in Duluth.”
“You see so many people out during the whole
week, and everybody you see is just like you, enjoying local music,”
said Wilson, who sings and plays guitar, bass and drums.
It’s a struggle to keep volunteers like
Wilson involved, Connolly said.
“We lose people every year that burn out
or move away,” Connolly said. “Or they get elected mayor.”
Duluth Mayor Don Ness, last year’s festival
director, said that while he misses some aspects of planning the
event, it’s a relief not to have the extra responsibility
this year. He said he has learned from his years of involvement
in the local music scene what it takes to make it thrive.
“It’s interesting for me now to have
some historical perspective — and granted my experience has
only been in the last 15 years — but to see the ebb and flow
of the music scene during that time you come to recognize the key
factors that makes for a healthy music community,” Ness said.
“Venues are certainly a very important element, especially
all-ages venues. That’s where the energy and the new excitement
Ness also cited the need for supportive live-music
venues, affordable practice spaces and musicians who are inclusive
and encouraging of their fellow music-makers.
“Duluth is blessed with many community-minded
rock stars with world-class talent and Duluth-appropriate egos,”