Minnesota always goes nuts for a hometown show. Ask any local indie artist that’s performed at the entry after a handful of times, or any folk act that’s done a show at the turf club, and they’d tell you about the glow of having it sold out. This is especially true for bands that have been around for quite some time now. Lately, more well known, local acts have been upping their game when it comes to their shows. Hippo Campus, after almost ten years on the road, have gone from selling out the 250 person 7th street entry to selling out the 8,500 capacity of Minneapolis’s Armory this past spring – their largest yet. A hometown show means more to people than just seeing a band on their home turf, it’s a guarantee it’s going to be a good show.
Trampled by Turtles frontman Dave Simonett said it best when onstage last night, calling the show a family reunion of old friends, fans, and even family (singing happy birthday to Paul Simonett, Dave’s dad in the set) Trampled, who are going on 20 years together as a band, were only beat by one of their openers, The Jayhawks, in their tenure, who are going on almost 40 years as a band. Yet in contrast to that, the evening’s opener, Duluth’s own Emma Jeanne Rothwell, has only been making music for a couple of years.
“This might be the craziest year of my life’’ She said during her set. Emma was the recipient of a grant from Trampled by Turtles, who put forth some money to use for local musicians to write and record their music. Bouncing between music that has been released, and some still being recorded, Emma and her band came out swinging and impressed the crowd. The four of her songs currently on Spotify made the setlist, Mattress on the Floor, Phone Home, Message Received, and Turbulence, all of which have just over a thousand plays as of this morning. “Before this, my largest show was at the entry” she said to the crowd now nearing the low thousands. Throughout the set, she was smiling, laughing, giving the songtitles and meanings between her songs. With just a handful of songs, Emma’s set was short, but made an impact on the crowd for sure. We had all just had our first taste of another Duluth band who just might make it.
The Jayhawks timed their set just right to start performing right as the sun came out of the clouds and over the Duluth harbor. Lead guitarist and vocalist Gary Louris made sure to drive the local hallmarks home with a Turf Club tee and a horseshoe guitar strap to hold his SG. If the Duluth dads weren’t already standing for their set, they were during the singalong to Blue off of the band’s 1995 record, Tomorrow the Green Grass. The evening’s show almost wasn’t this stacked with local bands, with The Jayhawks as a last minute replacement for Jenny Lewis, who had dropped out a few weeks before the show. Not to say Jenny lewis wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t hear any gripes about The Jayhawks filling her slot.
Finally, as the sun crested the big hill behind the crowd, the band we had all brought our lawn chairs and flannel for, took to the stage. Trampled by Turtles. They entered the stage to the Indiana Jones theme song, apt for the band and also drawing the kids’ excitement as well, who if they weren’t already slumped in their parent’s lawn chair or asleep on the picnic blanket, were running full sprint through the back of the crowd. There is no in between with kids at shows.
Victory, Help You and Empire opened the set, all well known songs going back to the Duluth and Palomino albums released in 2008 and 2010. The show was reminiscent of the Festival Palomino event the band had held in the mid 2010’s, with food trucks, beer tents, and various non-profits and causes setting up tents and talking to the crowd as they entered the main grounds. While it wasn’t the dual stage, full day americana wonderland Festival Palomino was, It was nice to see the band perform in a festival-like atmosphere in their hometown. Perhaps this could become a yearly thing?
Weeks before the show, The band announced an upcoming fall tour behind their next album, Alpenglow, releasing October 28th. The album name is taken from a natural effect where the sun casts a reddish glow at dawn or dusk, often seen with mountains or hills in the distance. Ironically, the sky seemed to do a bit of that same thing tonight. With the sun set behind the hill, the horizon along the hill was mostly orange and pink, sans an opening of blue in the middle perhaps from a cloud blocking the sun. “If you’d all take a second to look behind you, we’ve got a really cool sky happening right now” Dave said between songs. “Duluth’s showing off a bit for us tonight”
Duluth continued to show off its unique sky and musicians throughout the night. Duluth’s own Alan Sparhawk, who is the frontman for the band LOW, joined Trampled by Turtles for a cover of Days Like These. Covers were also sprinkled liberally through their set. Besides the LOW cover, the band also performed Shelter from The Storm, a Bob Dylan cover, and another local musician we claim, and who performed on the same Bayfront stage in 2013. Wildflowers, A Tom Petty cover, made the encore shine, as well as a cover of Amazing Grace by The Rochester Caledonian Pipe Band, as the band walked offstage waving goodbye.
But as much as the gentle covers were appreciated, so too were the fast paced, wild string jams fans have come to know and love from Trampled. Wait So Long, Codeine and The Middle were all staples that the crowd cheered for on the first note. Mandolinist Erik Berry had a stage fan blowing at him at just the right angle that made his hair seemingly float in place as he shredded his mandolin. Fiddle player Ryan Young, who stood next to Erik, would put an industrial sewing machine to shame with the rate of his bow on the strings during some of those songs. It was not the boot stomping, ye-hawing songs of bluegrass past, These songs were much too fast.
Tonight was a celebration of local music, and the heartbeat of it all was Duluth. The band has dedicated many songs and lyrics to its hometown, and a crowd of over 8,000 listened, and found their way here. With a near full moon reflecting off the water in front of us, and the blinking lights of the hillside city behind us, the band sang the last lines to Duluth as the crowd erupted into applause for the final song of the night:
Still I like the quiet
Of Duluth in the winter
In the sacred bond
There’s no place like home