For the second year in a row, The Current made a summer road trip to the Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas: that would be Duluth, which welcomed us with open arms this weekend for a broadcast and some great musical performances. We also met some of Duluth’s most interesting personalities, including a co-founder of the Lake Superior Surf Club and the chief operator of the Aerial Lift Bridge.
We loaded up on Friday morning and headed north from MPR’s St. Paul headquarters. While The Current’s van loaded in at the Red Herring Lounge, Dave Campbell and I made a stop at Canal Park, where we had the privilege of meeting…Dave Campbell (no relation), the chief operator of the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Meanwhile, at the Red Herring—a relatively new venue that’s made live music a priority, and that was home to a Duluth show we presented last summer—engineers Michael DeMark and Erik Stromstad were at the boards for a stunning soundcheck by Low. As the doors opened for the first-ever live recording of The Current’s Local Show, Mayor Don Ness stopped by to say hello.
Dave Campbell (the DJ) took the stage at 3:00, demonstrating hand gestures that would cue the attentive crowd as to when they could cheer and when they needed to stay quiet. Over the course of the next few hours, Dave recorded everything that producer Lindsay Kimball would need to put together a complete all-Duluth episode of The Local Show—including an interview with Lake Superior Surf Club co-founder Greg Isaacson and live performances by Low (video, below, by Walt Dizzo) and Superior Siren. Dave Campbell (the Lift Bridge operator) even stopped by to chat.
Our next stop was Pizza Lucé, where we enjoyed a celebratory dinner with Duluth friends both new and old. After dinner, some of the tables were pushed back to make way for a raucous night of live music: Fulton Brewing’s Great Party, Great Lake.
The party took no time to get into full swing as the Social Disaster took the stage, vocalist Rachel Phoenix rocking the house from the rafters to the stage monitors. Sam Cassidy followed with a high-octane set, and the 4onthefloor shut things down in style as a joyfully rowdy crowd somehow managed to both drink and dance.
Back at the Red Herring, things were very conducive to chill as the evening kicked off with the quietly intense Lion or Gazelle. Fever Dream followed, with Marc Gartman taking the stage with synths and a headlamp—and with Low’s Alan Sparhawk, who co-produced Fever Dream’s 2014 album Hey, What’s Up? and who joined in on vocals and percussion for Gartman’s entire set. Gramma’s Boyfriend capped the night off with a typically flamboyant set, frontwoman Haley Bonar even donning granny panties for the show’s sweaty climax.
The full account of what happened later that night has been lost to posterity, but I heard rumors that some of our staff took the opportunity to visit Park Point and anoint themselves in the waters of the Unsalted Sea. At any rate, we reconvened the next morning at the Electric Fetus on Superior Street, where store manager Bob Fuchs presented our winner Alyssa with a gift card she put to good use—with some expert guidance from Dave Campbell (the DJ, though Dave Campbell the Lift Bridge operator did reveal that his favorite bridge-lifting music is Charlie Parr).
We then made for the beautiful Bayfront Festival Park, where MPR’s Bethany Barberg and our events team set up The Current’s canopy for what we knew would be a busy afternoon of coozy-tucking (so they fit the sampler glasses) at All Pints North. From the stage, Dave Campbell (guess which one) emceed and spun tunes between live sets from the Sunny Era and the Melismatics. Employees of Duluth’s Bent Paddle Brewing Co., winner of the crowd-voted prize for best brewery, shared a group hug onstage—and as the sun set on an awesome Duluth weekend, we were all feeling the love.
This program is supported in part by the Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
The Current’s merch table at the Red Herring.
Michael DeMark checks the sound for The Local Show live recording.
David Campbell practices his gestures at the Red Herring.
Superior Siren on The Local Show.
Duluth musician Mary Bue records a greeting for The Local Show audience.
Greg Isaacson shares Great Lakes surfing lore with David Campbell.
Low on The Local Show.
The Current’s music director David Safar talks with Red Herring owner Bob Monahan.
Lion or Gazelle at the Red Herring.
The Social Disaster at Pizza Luce
Fever Dream at the Red Herring.
Sam Cassidy and his band at Pizza Luce.
Gramma’s Boyfriend at the Red Herring.
The 4onthefloor at Pizza Luce.
Bob Fuchs welcomes The Current’s David Safar and Kelsey to the Electric Fetus.
David Campbell at the Electric Fetus with our contest winner Alyssa.
Alyssa’s picks at the Electric Fetus.
David Campbell rocking All Pints North.
David Campbell as the Melismatics prepare to play at All Pints North.
Members of The Current’s team at All Pints North.