Local Current Blog

The Current Goes to Duluth 2018: Celebrating the northland music scene, with a toast or two

Hanging out backstage at All Pints North 2018. l-r: Lauren McGinty of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, Mike Novitzki and Jade of The Current, and Duluth mayor Emily Larson. (Jay Gabler/MPR)

As I stood on the pavilion at Bayfront Festival Park, waiting to watch Duluth mayor Emily Larson take the stage with Jade and our Duluth Local Show host Mike Novitzki, I complimented her on the pithy, well-received response to a disparaging recent feature in Rolling Stone. She nodded. “It felt good,” she said.

Rolling Stone’s picture of a discouraged city couldn’t have felt further from the truth over the course of a weekend spent celebrating the Zenith City: spotlighting its vibrant music scene, its growing craft (beer and otherwise) community, and neighborhoods that are becoming magnets for growth.

Getting around Duluth this weekend took a little circumnavigating: crews were busy working on a reconstruction of Superior Street. Right now, much of downtown’s main drag is a deep dirt trench. Soon, the street will be back in action after a once-in-a-generation reinvention.

Speaking of reinvention, we started the weekend at Bent Paddle Brewing, which has recently opened a new taproom to meet the growing demand for camaraderie, cribbage, and, of course, beer. We set up a stage to present three Duluth music acts: the rootsy Feeding Leroy, singer-songwriter Ingeborg von Agassiz, and pop-rock favorites Àlamode. Mike and Jade interviewed each artist, with one song going live on air and the rest of each mini-set reserved for the live taproom audience.

Jade and Mike also spoke with Bent Paddle’s Pepin Young, who talked about the energy surrounding the brewery’s neighborhood, now designated the Lincoln Park Craft District. From the brewery’s porch, a new Current-commissioned mural depicting an eagle and the Aerial Lift Bridge was visible kitty-corner, on the wall adjacent the entrance to Damage Boardshop, on the building it shares with businesses including pack-maker Frost River.

We said see you soon — very soon — to Àlamode and Feeding Leroy, who also joined us that night at the Red Herring Lounge. The packed bill also featured returning hometown hero Al Church as well as the state’s hottest new artist, fiery guitarist and supreme showman Thomas Abban. Just last week, the news broke that he’s signed to a major label. One of the enthusiastic fans who was there to see the delightfully danceable Àlamode was left literally speechless by Abban’s relentlessly virtuosic set. “I just, I…” She grasped for words as she turned towards me. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

After Àlamode got everyone nice and sweaty, despite the open garage door, DJ Jake Rudh made sure they stayed that way with an expertly curated set of Transmission music, from Human League classics to more recent fare by Robyn.

After a late morning and, for some of us, a bike ride or jog through Canal Park, it was time to convene at Bayfront for the All Pints North beer festival. The annual event, which this year accommodated a sold-out crowd, celebrates the brews of Minnesota. Minneapolis’s Fair State took crowd-voted honors for best beer, but Bent Paddle prevailed in the coveted Best Booth award for their freshwater-pirate-themed endcap.

There was more music, of course: from High on Stress and the Bauhaus band Viva Knievel, whose set of covers attracted a growing knot of people who were ready to boogie their beer bellies away. When the kegs rolled away, we rolled back uphill to Bent Paddle for another night at the Red Herring with Jaw Knee Vee and the 4onthefloor, who tested the 19th-century timbers of the former fish company.

All too soon, Sunday arrived and it was time for most of us to pack up The Current van and head back to our St. Paul HQ. We’ll be tuning in for Mike to keep us posted on new tunes from the shores of Lake Superior, and counting the days until we can make our next road trip.

Ready for a live broadcast in Duluth with @thecurrent

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The climax of our day at @bentpaddlebeer: @hearalamode. 📷: @jaygabler

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