Homegrown Music Festival Planning Guide

Homegrown's Chicken MascotIf you live within earshot of Duluth, Minnesota, you’ve surely heard of the annual Homegrown Music Festival. What started in 1999 as a birthday party for its founder, Scott “Starfire” Lunt, has now grown into a week-long, multi-venue, 200-performer celebration of Duluth’s music scene, and people come from all over the region to partake in its offerings.

If you’re coming from out of town for your first Homegrown experience, or you’re a returning music-lover looking for a place to camp out and recover from the festivities during the daytime, Beacon Pointe has you covered. With quiet, comfortable rooms overlooking Lake Superior, you’ll be just far enough away from the action to give your ears a much-needed rest in your downtime, but close enough that you’ll make your way into the venue hub in mere minutes when it’s go-time.

For festival-goers, deciding what acts to see can often be a daunting task. With dozens of venues hosting shows simultaneously all week long, you’d be hard-pressed to make it to every single show you want to see. Luckily, the festival releases a Homegrown Field Guide that is distributed all over the city at hotels, restaurants, clubs, and bars in advance of the festival. Picking one up gives the festival-goer an idea of who is playing when and where, as well as a detailed artist profile for each of the 200-plus performers.

Field Guides aren’t out on the streets just yet, but here’s an advance look at what this year’s festival has in store for its fans and attendees so you can plan your evenings and transportation for the week. Pack your earplugs, dress in layers, and wear comfortable shoes, because it’s going to be a crazy, fun-filled week:

Homegrown Schedule – Sneak Peek

Sunday, May 1

Music starts in the afternoon at the Red Herring with the Children’s Music Showcase. This is an all ages event that kids and adults of any age can enjoy. Get the kids to the sitter by 7 pm in order to make it to Tycoons Alehouse for the Mayor’s Proclamation and Hempen Ale Cask Release. Newly-elected Duluth Mayor Emily Larson will continue the tradition started by her predecessor, Don Ness, by announcing the start of Homegrown and uncasking this special brew and toasting the start of the week. Music performances follow all within walking distance, so feel free to drink Hempen Ale to your heart’s content.

Monday, May 2

The Monday of Homegrown comes bearing the Homegrown Music Video Festival at the Zinema 2, where 21 video makers will showcase their craft with music videos made for 21 Duluth-original songs. Monday also boasts the Poetry Showcase at Sacred Heart, as well as music all evening at venues including the Red Herring Lounge, the Barrel Room at Fitger’s, Sir Benedict’s, and The Rex Bar.

Tuesday, May 3

Tuesday is known as Canal Park Night, with music events happening all over historic Canal Park all evening long. If weather cooperates, you can walk into the district via the Lakewalk, or take a cab or bus into Canal Park. Prepare to hop from Vikre Distillery, Duluth’s own craft spirit distillery specializing in gin, aquavit, and vodka, to Grandma’s Sports Garden, to Lake Avenue Cafe and Amazing Grace Cafe & Bakery, enjoying small and large crowds throughout the night.

Wednesday, May 4

Homegrown Wednesday is West Duluth Night. Music is played in bars, clubs, and coffee shops all over industrial West Duluth. You’ll start your night at the pride of Lincoln Park, Clyde Iron, and then move your way west into the heart of West Duluth, where you’ll hop from Beaners Central, to Mr. D’s Bar & Grill, to the Kom-On-Inn and the Gopher Lounge. You’ll do best to cab it into and out of West Duluth, but once you’re there, the venues are all within a stone’s throw of each other.

Thursday, May 5

Thursday is generally known as Superior Night, but there are a couple Duluth venues, as well. On the Duluth side of things, music is played at Chester Creek Cafe & Wine Bar and at the Reef Bar & Lounge. The bulk of the night will be played in Superior, which is an inexpensive cab ride away. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to enjoy music and performances at Vintage Italian Pizza, Thirsty Pagan Brewing, The Main Club, and the Superior Flame.

Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7

Oh, the weekend! Friday Rawk Night and Saturday And/Or Roll Night are where the wheels come off. There are about 100 acts packed into these two nights at various downtown Duluth-area venues, running all over the musical spectrum from metal to folk to country to electronic music to hip-hop. Your week-long pass will get a lot of mileage out of these two nights, so take naps when you can during the day, eat some delicious food at one of the many venues participating in Homegrown, get a walk in on the Lakewalk, and center yourself because it’s a delightful whirlwind. For transportation, the DTA Trolley will be running festival-goers at no charge every fifteen minutes on the venue route. On the trolley, you will enjoy music from buskers and from planned performers alike.

Saturday morning, get some breakfast in you and get up to Chester Bowl Park for the Rock & Run at 11am, followed by the annual Homegrown Kickball Classic at noon, where performers are pitted against performers in a raucous, adult version of the kids’ gym game. The game is BYOB, and happens rain or shine.

If Friday and Saturday’s activities don’t have you begging for mercy and pounding ibuprofen and electrolyte-infused drinks, there’s more for you yet.

Sunday, May 8

Sundays are for taking it easy, and that’s true of the final Sunday of Homegrown, too. Relax and wind down your week starting at noon at Tycoons Alehouse, and then move over to Canal Park Brewing Company from 1pm to 3pm for some afternoon music delight. Leisurely enjoy some craft beer and delicious food while you take stock of all you took in this week. Or, hit the Red Herring for the final encore showing of the Homegrown Music Video Festival before you make your way home. You may need a day off of work tomorrow to recover from all the week’s activity, but it’ll be worth the sick day.


All photos by Laramie Carlson. Licensed under CC-BY.