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We got the music in us, Duluth

Sophie Turk performs with Black Diary at Sacred Heart Music Center during the 2017 Homegrown Music Festival. (Duluth News Tribune file photo)

I’m embarrassed that I’ve lived in Duluth for 21 years and this year was our first Homegrown Music Festival. Because we’ve been raising small children and immersed in the daily detritus of the American life, the Homegrown event always seemed like an indulgence for hippies and artists.

Now I know that’s just plain stupid and pretty shortsighted.

This year my husband and I bought wristbands on day one and then spent six (out of the seven) evenings immersing ourselves in the music and culture of the incredible Twin Ports. How could we miss so much talent and creativity? I feel like I’ve spent the last 20 years under a rock.  

While sitting in Sacred Heart Music Center, we absorbed the original sounds of genius in the forms of the bands Low, Emily Haavik and Friends and Black Diary. Every band that took the stage charged the air with inspiration. It was their own spirits coming out in the form of music.

We stood elbow to elbow with young and old while the tunes from Glenn’s Neighbor forced our feet to hop and our bodies to sway. We leaned and grinned in a packed saloon while we listened to Teague Alexy. Minnesota nice was alive and well, but the northern European ideas about body space had to be scrapped. Eyeball to eyeball with acquaintances from church, work, school, the mayor, the former mayor, former employers, former employees … seemed like most walks of life were represented.

After each event my husband and I would look at each other with our mouths open and say something inane like, “Wasn’t that incredible?” “Could you believe the vocals?”

We took our teens to as many events as we could. After getting over their initial skepticism that Homegrown was for hippies (see?) and/or parents, they actually thought it was cool. They especially liked punk night at Beaner’s when we had to leave because I couldn’t stomach the song, “I don’t give a _____.”

Is it not impressive to live in a place where ordinary people — despite lack of financial reward, despite time constraints, despite lack of notoriety — are driven to forge new ideas via music, visual art and spoken word? They are beauty seekers. And when so many are seeking beauty does that become contagious for the rest of us?

Another local artist, Lucie Amundsen, writes in her book “Locally Laid,” “In Duluth employment is treated as what you do when you’re not pursuing your passions … I like to joke that one can’t swing a dead seagull up here without hitting a poet.”

Duluthians are a bold, risky bunch. And if you don’t think that sounds like you, then you maybe just need to dig a little.

Ten years ago, in the bleary days of rearing small children (12, 10, 8, 6 and 3) I discovered that I love writing. I had taught writing. I had taught about other people’s writing. But the day came when I saw a small “columnists wanted” in the Duluth Budgeteer. It was a clarion to me to stop looking at other people’s writing and begin to do my own. It was a serendipitous sign from above that my opportunity to write for a broader audience had come.

Ten years later, and I’ve written 120 columns. That’s 84,000 words. I’ve written about things to do in Duluth, a house fire, break ins, dead cats, vomiting dogs, local heroes, fun places to go, not fun places to go, historical figures, character issues, and education topics. Mostly, I’ve written about whatever was on my mind at that point in the month. What a terrific exercise and pleasure it has been.

I am thankful for the opportunity that the Duluth Budgeteer gave me to exercise my writing muscle a little. Duluth is the land of creative opportunity. This is a place where someone might harness a great idea like crafting a beer, opening a barbecue restaurant, making a space for people to create, designing garments just for motorcyclists. We won’t know about the good idea until you show us .... like having an annual birthday party dressed up like a citywide music festival.

Keep creating, Duluth. Keep pointing out the beauty.

S.E. Livingston

Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota and lives in Duluth.

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