Around the 45-minute mark of the Black-eyed Snakes' set on Thursday night at Earth Rider Festival Grounds in Superior, Alan Sparhawk, dressed in a work jumpsuit, a mustache wrapped from one side of his chin to the other, his stocking cap long since fallen from his curtain of curls, admitted to a tent's worth of fans:
"We've already gotten further than we thought," he said.
The longtime Duluth blues rock band, arguably the exact collection of musicians one would want to see as they emerge from their basements and back into society, had gathered live performance gusto in increments: 15 minutes here, 24 minutes here. They topped out at 44, Sparhawk said. But here they were.
Black-eyed Snakes were among the handful of bands that played as part of Day 2 of the "Starfire Unofficial Birthday Bash" in the lawn of the Superior brewery-taproom block. The event, which drew upward of 100 music fans, is a nod to Homegrown Music Festival, in its fifth day, which started more than 20 years ago as a birthday party for Scott "Starfire" Lunt.
The festival's official stamp is on a nightly livestream of videos playing on the organization's YouTube page.
Events at Earth Rider Festival Grounds are among the unofficial pop-up events that are running adjacent and seemingly have the #HGMF2021 seal of approval. Official and unofficial events run through Sunday.
- Homegrown Music Festival (and more) schedule
- Lack of restrictions means summer concerts at Bayfront and beyond are a go
- Homegrown Music Festival has wall-climbing astronauts
- Homegrown has Lanue's summerscape and a bejeweled Father Hennepin
Earlier in the night, Severio Mancieri, Misisipi Mike Allstars, Sonofmel & The Slideman, Adam Herman & Company and Gavin St. Clair were scheduled to divide the night between two stages within the large, heated tent.
The band of Sparhawk, Bob Olson, Brad Nelson and Bryan "Lefty" Johnson, played a hard-driving, percussive, trance-inducing set from its opening moments when its vocalist propped foot on the lip of the stage and leaned out toward the crowd with a mic in one hand, shaking a guitar with the other.
If you closed your eyes and focused, you could feel the night in each individual finger bone.
Aurora Baer, introduced at The Wild Card and fresh from a set at 2104, sat in on harmonica. (A trade: Sparhawk played with her in Richard Narum's living room.) Nelson went wild on his drums, a vision of what it must look like to need to play music. Olson, like the others propped on a common kitchen chair, coolly and calmly played his guitar and when an improvisational moment between songs caught Sparhawk's ear, he told the player to keep going with it.
"That's beautiful," Sparhawk said.
Meanwhile in the crowd, a bunch of mouths moved along to "Pony," and people batted at balloons. Two humans parked near a speaker hugged for upward of 45 seconds and a woman dipped in close to the stage while her concert-mate took multiple photos.
Sparhawk introduced the finale, "Out of My Head," and promised they would give it everything.
"We'll grind it out to the end," he said, "and give you every last bit that we have."
But, of course, there was an encore.
The unofficial birthday bash runs through Saturday at Earth Rider, a dog-friendly venue.