In between the Cedar Lounge and its feeder brewery, Earth Rider is an expanse of land with the potential to host up to 2,000 music fans. It will need some leveling out, according to Brad Nelson, and they will need portable bathrooms.
There is talk of adding a permanent iron fence, maybe even a band shell.
“We want to take this into being an event space,” said Nelson, director of brands for the Superior-based brewery.
Earth Rider Festival Grounds, as they’ve billed it, was the site of a three-day birthday party last September and has two events, so far, lined up for this summer.
This space is among a handful of relatively new music venues to pop up in and around Duluth — including a seemingly-secret pop-up spot off Bob Dylan Way and Lincoln Park neighborhood businesses that were given the heavy-traffic initiation during Homegrown Music Festival in late April.
Nelson said hosting events, like they plan to do here and there, is a chance for places like Earth Rider to show off its personality.
"And breweries once were, and are fast becoming again, community cultural centers,” he said.
Earth Rider Festival Grounds
The taproom is to the east, the brewery to the west. There is a small stretch of Ogden Avenue — since vacated by the City of Superior — that bisects Earth Rider Festival Grounds.
“How do we connect this space,” Nelson said he and his brother Tim Nelson, owner, wondered — but not for long. “Tim and I are people who have always been drawn, for some reason, to doing events.”
This is true. The duo behind the late alt publication Ripsaw News ran Green Man, a family-friendly music festival that drew acts ranging from Cloud Cult to Violent Femmes, for five years. First it was at Spirit Mountain; its finale was at Bayfront Festival Park. The latter is where they also threw Oktoberfest.
While Bayfront can hold approximately 10,000 people, Earth Rider Festival Grounds is significantly smaller.
“We found an opportunity to do something,” Nelson said. “Events that fit well in the outdoor context and still sell a lot of tickets, but not fill Bayfront.”
Matisyahu & Tribal Seeds play July 18 and Earth Rider Fest, acts TBD, is scheduled for Sept. 7.
Brewer’s Garage is a raw downtown warehouse space off the beaten path. The 5,000-square-foot venue has a literal garage door and, before Har Mar Superstar was invited in for a performances, was simply where Fitger’s Brewhouse brewers stored grain.
There is a cement floor, decor like oversized French doors and vintage signage pilfered from the now-shuttered Carlson Used Books and a stage from Tycoons, the old-school-style eatery formerly housed in the old Duluth City Hall building. There are bold murals representing Fitger’s Brewhouse’s signature flavors on the walls by local artist Tom Moriarty.
Owner Rod Raymond took his cues from The Red Herring Lounge and Glensheen. The pending closure of the former leaves a certain-sized venue void, according to Raymond, and the latter's success with its concert series is something to model.
Raymond is referring to Brewer’s Garage as a pop-up — a place that is open only when something is going on. He plans to host public events twice a month and private events as often as possible. The space holds up to about 400 people, Raymond said. This past weekend, it was host to The Lost Forest Festival featuring The Last Revel. Bad Bad Hats will play there Aug. 2.
The style, he said, is old Duluth.
“This is kind of a big city thing to do — pop-ups in an old dirty garage,” Raymond said, then looked around. “Well, it’s not dirty anymore.”
Live music was always part of Jake and Valerie Scott’s plan for Duluth Cider. Jake Scott is a music-minded guy who has played in bands and worked at venues, including Beaner’s Central. The cidery, which can hold about 140, is located in 2,400-square feet of what was once a stable for the United States Post Office’s horses.
The stage is set up in the southwest corner of the building by Superior Street-facing windows.
“I traveled around quite a bit, and some of the time I spent was in Nashville. Walking the strip there, you walk by and bands are in the front window,” he said. “It’s very inviting.”
He predicted that Lincoln Park would be a neighborhood with heavy foot traffic, and he wanted something similar.
He was right about the foot traffic. Other nearby craft-creators-turned venues include Ursa Minor Brewing, which has had artists ranging from Jacob Mahon & The Salty Dogs to Ryan Van Slooten, (not to mention sessions on homeownership dubbed “Adulting 101”) and Wild State Cider, which is digging into the gig scene. NorShore Summit, a festive folk band, has played there; Superior Siren was there this past weekend.
So far, Duluth Cider has hosted artists like Zenith City Groove Collective, Gaelynn Lea and Dan Dresser. This past weekend, The Barley Jacks played with Four Mile Portage, and the next night, it was Big Wave Dave & The Ripples. Ian Alexy and The Deserters play at 8 p.m. Friday.
Scott isn’t forcing the music situation — more like taking it as it comes.
“We like the vibe when there isn’t music,” he said. “We think it’s a fun place to hang out with or without music. We just book shows when it works out.”