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Review: Starfire celebrates 20 years of Homegrown memories

In the year 2073, the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival has taken over the universe with thousands of bands playing every night almost year round.

And the Homegrown Chicken will be a candidate for the Minnesota state bird.

Dressed in bathrobes and using walkers, Homegrown founder Scott "Starfire" Lunt and early conspirators Bryan "Lefty" Johnson and Rick Boo took to the NorShor Theatre stage Saturday night acting out a loosely drawn flash-forward skit. The three "old men" poked fun at the annual music festival's amazing run which all started during Lunt's 30th birthday party in 1998.

Yes, in 105 years Homegrown will be institutionalized ... or maybe it has been already.

"Starfire Tonight: A Homegrown Jam" drew hundreds of Duluth music fans, family and friends to celebrate the annual "rawk and/or roll" festival's beginning, long history and seemingly endless growth. The event featured six original Homegrown music performers, stories from Homegrown historian Paul Lundgren, a tribute to past and present festival directors and a stage backdrop screening an endless slideshow .

Perhaps documentary photographer Rich Narum best captured the magic, mischief and music that turned an underground birthday party into one of the biggest annual events in the Twin Ports. Photos of muddy kickball games, red tracksuits, living room parties, stage shows, happy faces and people giving the camera the finger raced across the big screen.

"I love the slides," said original Homegrown performer Jerree Small during her three-song set. "It's hard not to look."

Small, with bandmate Marc Gartman on banjo, captured the sweet melancholy of what felt like a 20-year reunion celebration. "I don't want to leave," they sang. "I want you and only you."

Starfire's band Father Hennepin, rocker Mark Lindquist, singer-songwriter Amy Abts and vocal instigator Toby Thomas Churchill also provided brief sets. The reunited Ballyhoo turned in the night's most raucous, crowd-pleasing set.

The family of Ballyhoo bassist Andy Krubsack watched from the 30th row with video phones rolling as the group blasted through the old hits. Krubsack's teenage daughters covered their laughter, pointed at the stage and poked each other as their dad bounded across the stage during the song "Lucky Ones."

"Mom!" the 16-year-old shouted. "I've never scene dad hop!"

Yup, he can still do it ... and maybe again in 2073.

Elsewhere, Sarah Krueger was joined by bassist Steve Garrington, guitarists Jordan Taylor and Al Church and drummer Steve Yasgar at the Red Herring Lounge. The group played a beautiful collection of lush, ethereal songs reminiscent of late period Emmylou Harris, silencing a normally rowdy Homegrown audience. Krueger ended the performance with Jerree Small and Kate Harris on stage for a rollicking version of the Talking Heads "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).

"Give it up for my laptop!" yelled Toby Thomas Churchill, following Krueger at the Red Herring. Churchill and partner in crime, Danny Cosgrove, swaggered through fog machine clouds and yelled along with electronic mixes, including the topical "Fascism is Back in Style."

After a few swallows of pepperoni and cheese and 10 minutes of people watching, another Homegrown veteran, Mark Lindquist led the Little Black Books onto the Pizza Luce stage. Lindquist hammered out a loose set of songs inspired by the Rolling Stones and hard-living life in the Northland. He tossed a dozen orange, flexi-disk promotional singles into the audience before turning over the microphone to boistrous fans for the Homegrown classic "Mohawks."

Midnight sounded with the Homegrown Chicken projected across the Blacklist facade, music fans doing backflips underneath on the sidewalk outside and Ingeborg Von Agassiz performing her synthesizer magic in front of a packed house inside.

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