If you hang out on PDD or Facebook or the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street long enough, you’ll hear a Duluth musician complain about how many banjos there are in the local music scene. Personally, I’ve heard Duluth referred to as “the banjo capital of the world,” and I’ve heard people say — not even jokingly — that it’s almost impossible to spend a night in the local music venues without hearing a banjo. On one hand, I understand what they are saying, but on the other hand, it seems like tremendous hyperbole.
The purpose of this post is to try and figure out, as accurately as possible, the percentage of bands playing Homegrown that feature a banjo, and to discuss whether or not that percentage is an excessive amount of banjos.
Consulting with Paul Lundgren and the Homegrown Field Guide, this is the list of known banjo players performing at this year’s festival. Please help fill out this list with any omissions, if you can find them. But mind the rules: you must provide the banjo player’s name, and the band you reference must be playing this year’s Homegrown Music Festival.
1. Charlie Parr
2. Dave Carroll – Trampled by Turtles
3. Tom Maloney – Four Mile Portage
4. Shawn Neary – Silverback Colony
5. Harrison Olk – Tin Can Gin
6. Ryan LeBard – Black River Revue
7. Tony Peterson – Diet Folk
8. Tony Peterson – Saint Anyway
9. Jerree Small – Southwire
10. Marc Gartman – Coyote
11. Ben Butter – Punch the Driver
12. Ben Butter – De Se
That’s 12 so far. If there are 12 bands with banjos out of 186 bands total, that means 6.4 percent of the bands playing Homegrown have a banjo in them.
What are your thoughts on the banjo situation? Is this percentage as large as people make it out to be? If not, why does this false perception exist? If so, why do people choose to play the banjo, and why do people flock to see the bands that play them?