Babie Eyes kick off Homegrown Festival at Hoops. Photo by Jill Fisher.

This is only my second Homegrown and as Misisipi Mike Wolf posted on FaceBook: “it feels like we’re in line for a roller coaster…Buckle up Duluth/Superior! We’re going on a ride!”

So here we go, beginning with day-long events on Sunday, April 30.   The afternoon started off with family-friendly fare at Dovetail Café and Marketplace in Lincoln Park. The place was packed with lots of young parents and little kids by the time I made it over there. Balloon sculptures, volunteers in chicken getup and acts by the likes of Dan the Monkey Man and Steve’s Overpopulated One-man Band, catered to the youngest in the crowd. It made for a welcoming, inclusive beginning. I would have liked to hear the Hermantown Pep Band as well…  

But I opted for a more classical interlude in all the action: the Friends of the Felgemaker’s “Early Music Concert” at Sacred Heart Music Center that began at 3 pm. Though I missed the initial organ number, “Batalla Imperial I,” I was in time to hear the quintet made up of Shelley Gruskin (soprano recorder), Steve Highland (violin), Laurie Bastian (violin), Penny Schwarze (viola) and Betsy Husby (cello) perform “Concerto in G Major” by Anton Herberle. What a soothing, soul-lifting performance it was. The rich harmonies of the strings provided beautiful backup for the lilting notes of the recorder solos. A veritable heavenly sound!  

After a brief intermission, there was a demonstration of the relationship between “organ ranks” (I think these are commonly known as “organ stops”) and early wind instruments. Gruskin played five such instruments—the gernshorn, the conical recorder, the cylindrical recorder, the krummhorn and a raushpfeife! This was followed up by Karen Hanson Sande’s organ playing of Variations on “Mein junges Leben hat ein End” (“My Young Life has Ended”) by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, in which she operated the ranks corresponding to the five historic instruments we had just heard. It was a wonderful display of the Felgemaker’s versatility and power.  

When I saw that SHMC was holding this concert on the opening day of Homegrown I was wondering whether it would draw a decent size audience. I was pleasantly reassured by the 75 or so folks in attendance that our city has sufficient music lovers to support many diverse musical offerings and tastes.  

And then it was back to Homegrown with Mayor Emily Larson’s pronouncement, with all its politically correct “whereases,” of the start of the event at Hoops Brewing Company in Canal Park. The band, “Babie Eyes” then took over to get the festival really rolling. Like Dovetail Café, Hoops was at full capacity for this show. I’ve written about Babie Eyes before so suffice it to say they were in decent form, a bit of an up and down presentation in my view, but certainly a well-received musical opening for Homegrown.  

The next act up was rapper Darren Sipity, a Native American of Ojibwe and Winnebago descent, who was born in Duluth and lives on the Fond du Lac Reservation. He told it like it is with his relevant rapid rants on the current situation of discrimination, police violence, hunger, poverty, climate calamity, etc. One of his humorous comments was a rap he claimed was inspired by Elvis Presley. Sipity also worked in a timely reference to Minnesota’s new legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use, which the crowd cheered! Sipity was backed up musically by “A Dubs” (Andrew Watson) who will be very busy throughout Homegrown with at least five more appearances with various artists. You could see he was having a good time.  

Though I’ve not been a big fan of Hip Hop in the past, I must say that what I’ve been exposed to through the two Homegrown events I’ve attended has me beginning to dig it. It definitely helps when one can clearly understand the rap, as was the case with Sipity. Indeed, it puts me in mind of Dylan’s early string of words in “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

I was sorry to see that the crowd thinned out before Sipity began his gig, especially since he isn’t scheduled to perform again this week.  

So Happy Homegrown everyone! Hope you’ll all get to hear your fill of great live local music.