Homegrown the 13th
As the last of the snowflakes fall and another May arrives it can only mean that Homegrown fever has hit the Twin Ports area again.
For this year’s Homegrown the 13th there were three opinions of the Festival that I most wanted to hear from. Shana David-Massett, the Festival’s Director, Mark Lindquist of The Little Black Books, and Mat Milinkovich of Words to a Film Score and Cars & Trucks.
What began in 1999 as a birthday party has now become a business with employees and directors. For a little over a week it feels like this area has a vibrant music scene bursting at the seams. People take pictures, blogs light up, and everyone you know goes out and watches someone play. Maybe they know the person playing, maybe they want to explore the nightlife in a more organized form, or maybe they just love music.
Mark Lindquist, lead singer and guitarist for The Little Black Books, has played many Homegrowns over the years under various band names. He joins Bob Olson, Ethan Thompson, and Jim Hagstrom at Pizza Luce on Friday at 11:30pm. LBB also just released their fourth CD and Lindquist plans on releasing a full length album by Christmas. Lindquist also warned that after May there won’t be many LBB shows due to his obsession with baseball.
My first question for Lindquist was about how Homegrown has changed over the years?
“It includes more than just music and it's a week long,” Lindquist said. “It used to just be a weekend full of original bands. Now it has short films, artists, poetry readings, etc....I wish it would incorporate comedians and emcees in the future. This town is in desperate need of good emcees. I'm available if any clubs are interested. I'm looking at you, Club Saratoga.”
The Homegrown magazine has very cool cover art by Jeredt Runions and can be found all around town. I asked Lindquist if he sees the more organized Homegrown as moving in the right direction.
“Well yeah, duh? Anyone with petty complaints should seek me out and explain them to me in detail. Then I could show the actual physical and psychological scars I have from the first few in rebuttal. It's a local, original music festival and as long as that's the theme--it'll take care of itself. The original music talent and the local support are phenomenal. Anything else is just petty complaints and people trying to make money off a non-profit group of artists.”
One veteran musician who also has played Homegrown as a drummer in many bands is Mat Milinkovich of Cars & Trucks and Words To A Film Score. His perspectives on things comes from experience and a love of music. Where Lindquist found my question of the Homegrown improvements as a “No duh”, Milinkovich wasn’t so quick in his response.
“That's a tough one,” Milinkovich said. “The organizers do an excellent job with the festival, and it's very successful because of all their hard work... but I miss the days when the event was smaller.”
My next question for Milinkovich and Lindquist was if they thought that Homegrown is more or less popular than in the past.
“To me the popularity of it is relative,” Lindquist said. “Obviously, more people attend it and get involved in it than the first few years. But I remember the very first year giving television interviews for it and thinking, "Well, that's new. Something is afoot here." There were only about 200 attendees for the shows, if that - but it certainly got a buzz going. It's always been popular. I can't rate that. Other festivals have tried their darnedest to do what Homegrown accomplishes as far as local music goes, but they can't because of the non-profit thing. Tell me any other festival of this size where the bands don't get paid and the organizers still have to turn people away at the door. Scott Lunt made something magic and it cannot be duplicated. The absolute best thing about it is that money is not an issue, nothing rests on how many people come through the gate. I've always felt that if you take the idea of profit out of the artistic and creative product, then you've won the war and the guys in suits can go home and sadly count their beans all alone in their empty beds while every one else is having fun and celebrating something this area should be so proud of and so protective of. Also--I should mention that any local festival that wants to pay me 1,200 dollars to perform---the above answer is null and void.”
Milinkovich also feels like the Festival is more popular than ever, but he wishes that translated into more shows during the rest of the year.
“I think it just keeps getting more popular,” Milinkovich said. “I just wish all the people that come out to see shows during the first week of May came out the other 51 weeks of the year.”
A possible challenge this year for Homegrown is that Elton John has sold out the DECC for Friday night. Lindquist doesn’t see the big mega-star as a problem for the Festival and had a question I had to agree with.
“I'll answer that with a question,” Lindquist said. “Do people who buy Justin Bieber cds at Wal-Mart have an impact on people who buy vinyl records at the Electric Fetus or the Vinyl Cave? And I'll answer that with a follow up question: Do people who eat at Old Country Buffet have an impact on the people who eat at Va Bene? Homegrown is the seafood pasta at Va Bene. Elton John is lukewarm and undercooked fried chicken at the OCB.”
One thing that changes as the years go by for Homegrown is that everyone is getting older. What was a 31st birthday party has now turned 43 for Starfire. I asked Lindquist how things change with being in a band as you get older.
“I don't end up with a bucket next to my couch after a weekend of shows,” Lindquist said. “And I learned to enjoy playing music more. When I was younger, I wanted it so bad that I would get all bugaboo about stuff. Now I can laugh it off and enjoy the good shows and the not so good shows. When I was 21 and living in the Twin Cities - I really thought I'd be part of the next big thing. And when you get older-I think you feel better about just part of your own thing, not someone else's.”
Milinkovich also talked about how a band’s goals change over the years and how life gets in the way of the music.
“Marriage, kids, divorces, bills, houses, and jobs definitely take music out of the forefront. “One day you realize you're too damn old to be a rockstar. In Cars & Trucks’ case I think we realized we didn't really want that anymore anyway. All the traveling and touring just lost its appeal. Now the goal is to write good music and have fun. When we stop doing either of those, we'll hang it up.”
Homegrown has changed a lot over the years and so I asked Milinkovich what he sees as most different today.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger with way more bands,” Milinkovich said. “They've also added stuff like the film festival and the photo exhibit, which is cool. Music is still the primary focus, but it's also branched out a bit to include other mediums of art.”
The Festival Director Shana David-Massett talked about the new features.
“This year we're introducing two microgrant programs for artist development and music education,” David-Massett said. “More information will be available atduluthhomegrown.com when everything calms down.”
I asked David-Massett if she had ever seen a festival like this and about the larger music scene in general.
“It's not like anything else I've ever seen,” she said. “Other cities have strong music communities, but I've never heard of a local music festival like this one. I wonder sometimes whether the movement to support local music is aligned with the other pushes to focus regionally, like the locavore movement and encouraging communities to support local artists.”