The noticeable change in recent years to the outdoor concert scene in the Duluth area is the extension of the season. It used to be a mid-June to mid-September thing. In the pandemic era the patios and canopies of the region host music from April to November. But things still kick into high gear in July and August.
What’s hot on stages this summer? Here’s a summary.
Bayfront Park, Big Top Chautauqua and Earth Rider Brewery‘s festival grounds have the most shows and typically the largest crowds, but there are numerous one-off festivals and street dances, along with a variety of weekly patio shows and concerts in various parks and plazas.
The concert series circuit includes Courtside and Rooftop Concerts at Pier B Resort, Bayside Sounds, Chester Creek Concert Series, Lucius Woods Summer Concerts in Solon Springs, the Hot Summer Nights Concert Series at Fond du Lat Tribal and Community College, Music in the Park at Olcott Park in Virginia, Bayfield Summer Concerts, Superior Porchfest, Porch Music at White Winter Winery, Live Music on the Patio at Skyline Social & Games, and Concerts on the Pier at Glensheen.
Below is Perfect Duluth Day’s peek at some anticipated highlights of the summer.
Independence Celebration Concert at the GND REC | June 30
The annual Independence Celebration Concert at the Gary New Duluth Community Center and Recreation Area is the classic hot-dog-grillin’, ice-cream-cone-lickin’, popcorn-poppin’, flag wavin’ start to peak-summer outdoor music. The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble provides the patriotic tunes. Uncle Sam-style red, white and blue top hats are optional.
Art-pop group Sadkin brings its musical homage to the New Romantic movement to Earth Rider Brewery’s festival grounds with a pair of heavy-hitting openers, Elska and Glassine. It’s this summer’s best bet in the electro-synth dance party category.
Two Trampled by Turtles side projects, two days before the big TBT show at Bayfront. Bonus: Boxcar plays an afterglow party in the Cedar Lounge.
It’s not quite an every-year tradition, but in the past decade Duluth’s biggest summer concerts have tended to involve Trampled by Turtles. This time alt-country old-schoolers the Jawhawks share the bill, along with newbie Emma Jeanne.
Lutsong Music Festival at three locations in Lutsen | July 15-17
The inaugural Lutsong Music Festival, about 80 miles northeast of Duluth, takes place on stages at Caribou Highlands Lodge, Moguls Grille & Tap Room and the North Shore Winery. Teague Alexy, Mary Bue, Erik Koskinen, Dusty Heart and Black River Revue are among the performers. Differentiator from the other festivals: on Friday and Saturday night musicians will gather around a fire for a “guitar pull,” taking turns playing songs.
Tarrus Riley, Ce’Cile, Gyptian and Afro B are among those in charge of the day-long party at Bayfront celebrating cultural equality through reggae and world music.
Superior Siren at Glensheen | July 20
Glensheen’s seventh season of Concerts on the Pier includes a return performance by Superior Siren, one of the favorites of the 2017 season. The eerie folk group has numerous outdoor performances scheduled this summer, but this one stands out for the obvious reason: performing on a pier jutting out into Lake Superior.
Annie Mack at Glensheen | Aug. 3
Rochester-based blues singer Annie Mack performed at Sacred Heart Music Center in February and has played the Bayfront Blues Festival numerous times. Those are hard venues to beat, but Glensheen’s 100-foot-long pier and the atmosphere that goes with it will make this a special performance.
One Less Guest and the Latelys at Earth Rider | Aug. 6
Formed in Duluth and now based in Anaheim, Calif., One Less Guest had a killer show at Earth Rider in 2021, so in 2022 the band is returning in support of its new album One Hot Night, Vol. 1, a collection of songs recorded live at last year’s show. The Latelys co-headline the show.
Bayfront Blues Festival at Bayfront Park | Aug. 12-14
This year’s Bayfront Blues Festival features about two-dozen acts over three days, but the most important thing to know is this: Ruthie Foster, Saturday, Aug. 13, 9 p.m. Also part of the weekend: Canned Heat, Duke Robillard, Janiva Magness … don’t let that distract from the main point. Ruthie Foster. Aug. 13. 9 p.m.
Water is Life Festival at Bayfront Park | Sept. 5
It’s a cultural festival with a heavy climate-justice message, but the musical lineup for the Water is Life Festival draws the most attention: Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Low, David Huckfelt, Allison Russell and on and on.
Radio Waves Music Festival at Sweetheart’s Bluff | Sept. 9-11
Among the acts at this year’s Radio Waves Music Festival in Grand Marais: Colleen “Boss Mama” Myhre, New Salty Dog, Sam Miltich & Clearwater Hot Club, Superior Siren and Rich Mattson & the Northstars. Differentiator: This is one of the very few music events that allow outside food and beverages. There are also venders for those not packing a cooler.
Grand Rapids Riverfest at Grand Rapids Area Library Amphitheater | Sept. 10
KAXE Radio and the city of Grand Rapids are partnering to put on the second annual Grand Rapids Riverfest. This year a little band called Wilco is the headliner. The opening acts are Shovels & Rope, Chastity Brown and Wild Horses.
Bayfront Sounds outside UWS Yellowjacket Union | Sept. 14
The long-running Bayside Sounds concert series has a somewhat recent tradition of closing out the season with a big show outside Yellowjacket Union on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. This year Big Wave Dave and the Ripples welcome back the school year with funky rock.
Cloud Cult and Charlie Parr at Big Top Chautauqua | Sept. 17
Over the past two decades, Cloud Cult and Charlie Parr have been among the top acts to emerge from the Duluth music scene and tour the world. The intimate setting of the big tent at Mt. Ashwabay near Bayfield is an ideal setting for their fanbases to merge.
Final note: Every summer there are a wide range of outdoor concerts listed in the PDD Calendar. All concerts and other music-related events — indoor and outdoor — are filterable by selecting the Music/Concerts category.
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