Local Current Blog

The Current Goes to Duluth 2017: Two days of live music and good vibes

Duluth mayor Emily Larson with Brian Oake and Jill Riley (Jay Gabler/MPR)

Testing a mic at the Duluth Coffee Company on Friday in his best radio-hypeman voice, Brian Oake referred to The Current’s new 104.3 FM frequency as “Duluth’s 100,000 watt flamethrower!” Well, not quite — but it’s great to have a new, stronger signal in the area, one that will soon be supplemented by 94.1 to help cover Duluth’s bowl-like topography.

Lindsay Kimball helped The Rambler food truck swap their window cling for one with the new frequencies when the mobile kitchen pulled up on Superior Street to help feed the crowd at our live broadcast with Brian and his radio partner Jill Riley. I grabbed some totchos, which started a chain reaction as Brian and others followed suit.

You need sustenance if you’re going to pack a weekend with as much music and fun as we managed during The Current’s annual Duluth road trip coinciding with the All Pints North beer festival.

Our Friday broadcast HQ was a new space just opened by the coffee company at the corner of Superior and 1st. Supplementing Duluth Coffee’s main storefront two doors down, the new “Roastaria” has a bar (with coffee and beer both on tap) as well as a flexible open area that our engineering team turned into a broadcast space and music venue.

During the course of the broadcast we enjoyed live performances by Duluth band Glitteratti and BBGUN — featuring Al Church, a Duluth native whose mom came out to see the broadcast as well as the band’s late-night show at the Red Herring Lounge. Twin Cities rocker Monica LaPlante also stopped by to talk with Brian and Jill, later closing out the night at the Red Herring.

Non-musical guests (well, at least guests who didn’t bring guitars) included Duluth Coffee Company owner Eric Faust; Dan Hartman of Glensheen; and Melissa Rainville and Dave Hoops of Duluth’s newest brewery, Hoops Brewing. Mike Novitzki, host of The Current’s Duluth Local Show, talked about the hopping Zenith City music scene; and even Mayor Emily Larson stopped by to say hi.

After dinner and a toast at Pizza Lucé, The Current’s team headed up to the Red Herring Lounge for the first of two stacked bills. DJ Keezy anchored the evening, and the first band to take the stage were the Latelys. Duluth’s organ-powered soul sensations delivered a powerhouse set showcasing bassist Jenna Harting’s force-of-nature lead vocals. Next up were BBGUN, whose sophisticated songcraft fit the stylish setting.

I lost track of the number of people Red Mountain squeezed onto the stage for their set, which attracted a crowd that made clear Duluth can’t get enough of this hometown ensemble led by Anton Jimenez-Koeckl. The band’s repertoire ranges from sweeping symphonic rockers reminiscent of Arcade Fire to jams driven by the horn section — which includes Grace Holden, also familiar to Minnesota music fans as one of Lizzo’s dynamic dancers.

Closing out the night, Monica LaPlante and her three-piece band played a furious but joyful (you have to see her live to understand what I mean) set that kicked into high gear with the searing “Hope You’re Alone.” DJ Keezy then hopped onstage to close the night out with a no-apologies set that filled the dance floor and had Rihanna echoing down 1st Street.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed down to the beautiful Bayfront Festival Park for All Pints North, on a sunny Saturday that was just hot enough to remind us it was summer. In addition to the beer samples from dozens of breweries from across the region — including 72 Stretch, a delicious Gose-style ale that Fulton kindly supplied for visitors to The Current’s tent — there was musical entertainment from two Minnesota bands.

Viva Knievel, self-described as “a cover band that defies gravity,” are familiar to local beer aficionados as the “haus band” at Bauhaus Brew Labs. They took the stage following a smooth set from Private Oates, a Daryl Hall and John Oates cover band fronted by Al Church — whose mom came out once again to enjoy classics like “Private Eyes” and “Sara Smile.”

To close the weekend out, a crowd packed the Red Herring once again for a bill headlined by the 4onthefloor. The busy band — fresh off a Friday gig at the Brewers’ Camp hootenanny — didn’t even try to fit their signature four kickdrums on the Red Herring’s cozy stage. That was just as well, since the former home of the Lake Superior Fish Company could hardly have been expected to keep its roof on if Gabriel Douglas and his bandmates rocked any harder.

Thanks for an epic weekend, Duluth! Let’s do it again next year.

It's almost unfair for such ace musicians to be so good-looking. Thanks Glitterati for stopping by our live broadcast!

Posted by Local Current on Friday, July 28, 2017

"You're on OUR show now." – Al Church of BBGUN to Oake & Riley in the Morning as the live broadcast wraps up.

Posted by Local Current on Friday, July 28, 2017

Sound the bagpipes! The gates are open at #AllPintsNorth. If you're here, stop by our tent for a taste of Fulton Beer's mojito-style brew.

Posted by The Current on Saturday, July 29, 2017