Weird things are happening in Red Wing this weekend. There will be rock bands performing in a furniture store, singer/songwriters in an Episcopal church, blues pickers in a bike shop and even a hip-hop group in an Elks lodge.
"We wound up with more venues than we knew what to do with," boasted Sam Brown, founder of the Big Turn Music Fest, a new event taking over the Mississippi River town on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sort of a wintry small-town version of Texas' famed South by Southwest Music Conference — with various bands performing concurrently under different roofs downtown — Big Turn isn't just taking place in the bars and restaurants that already host live music. Frankly, there aren't enough of those in Red Wing to make this thing fly.
A 33-year-old music nut who started a similar festival in Winona, Brown began asking other downtown business owners if they would be interested in hosting live music for one weekend only. One wristband ($40/two-day or $25/one-day) will get attendees into any of the performances, space-permitting.
Even the good folks at Christ Episcopal Church readily agreed to it, he said.
"I think Red Wing was waiting for something like this to happen," Brown said. "It's a good way of bringing people to town during an obviously quieter time of the year, to help the businesses and show off what we have here."
What they have includes the already well known historic Sheldon Theatre and St. James Hotel, both hosting some of the Big Turn showcases.
Red Wing also boasts Oliver's Wine Bar, Staghead Gastropub, Marie's Underground & Tap House, the Barrel House, Liberty's Restaurant & Lounge, 17 Street (the furniture and home goods store), Red Wing Bicycle Co. & Outfitter, Fair Trade Books, Rivertown Comics & Games and the good ol' Elks Lodge #845 — all "venues" listed on the festival's map, each within about a four-block stretch between the river and W. 4th Street.
The performers lined up for the inaugural year include dozens of well-known acts from the Twin Cities, plus a fun array of musicians from the Red Wing area or farther downriver.
Among the names from the cities: Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Caroline Smith, Heiruspecs, Jeremy Messersmith, Toki Wright, the Twilight Hours, Rogue Valley, Lydia Liza, Lucy Michelle's Little Fevers, Tabah, Dan Israel, Jillian Rae, Ben Weaver and Gabriel Douglas. An already scheduled Valentine's Day concert by the New Standards is also taking place Saturday night at the Sheldon, but with separate admission.
Some of Big Turn's performers from southeastern Minnesota and points nearby include Porcupine with Hüsker Dü bassist Greg Norton, Mike Munson, Barely Losing, Pelly, Fugnacious, Flatt & Square and Mista Clue.
"I'm very excited, and everyone I've spoken to in town are all excited as well," said Norton, whose band follows the Twilight Hours at the Sheldon on Friday (10 p.m.). "There is something of a renaissance going on downtown these days, and this festival will highlight that."
Nightlife without city life
Named after Red Wing's location on the sharpest curve in the navigable portion of the Mississippi River, Big Turn actually isn't a new concept. Duluth's similarly schemed Homegrown Music Festival is coming up on its 20th year (April 29-May 6), although that one relies solely on acts from the Twin Ports area and other far-north locales.
Hunt got his start in the festival business launching Winona's Mid West Music Fest in 2010, now a two-weekend event that starts in La Crosse, Wis. (April 13-14), before its usual run on the Minnesota side of the river (April 27-28).
"I'm a music lover, but I'm not a city lover," Brown said, explaining his general idea for both festivals (although he is no longer formally involved with Mid West Music Fest).
"No offense, but a lot of people just don't like having to go into the cities to hear live music. This is a chance to bring the music up there to the music lovers down here."
There's one noticeable difference between the big-city and small-town environment that Brown was quick to highlight: "A lot of people from the Twin Cities have said to me, 'Wow, are you really offering all that music for that low of a price?' "
Let's just hope those Episcopalians or Elks don't hit us on the back end and jack up prices on vegan chai lattes and wheatgrass shots.
Here's a list of all the acts performing in the inaugural Big Turn:
Artists: Jeremy Messersmith | Porcupine | Caroline Smith | Heiruspecs | Dave Simonett | Rogue Valley | Toki Wright | Twilight Hours | Mike Munson We Are The Willows | Apollo Cobra | Jillian Rae | Trapper Schoepp | LOTT | Ben Weaver | Little Fevers Lydia Liza | General B and the Wiz Ali and the Scoundrels | Brothers Burn Mountain | The Ditch Lilies | Ruben | Early Eyes | The Ultrasounds | The Heavy Set | Matt Monsoor | Karate Chop, Silence | Busey | Dirt Train | The Lowland Lakers | Fletcher Magellan | Jake Manders | Poor Lemuel | Wastrels | Jacob Grippen | Mista Clue | Barbaro | Second Story | Meadowlark Valley | Jeff Arundel and the Hammsmen | Niki Becker | Tony Cuchetti | Universal Music Center Students | Tommy Bentz Band | Ryan Traster Band | Red Sky Warning | Clams | Fugnacious | Left Wing Bourbon | Northern Shoveler | Beef Slough Boys | Colby Kent & the Stompin Ground | Autokab | Israel Roemer | H2 | Deathless Dogs | Alluvion | David and Esther | Sterling Haukom | Wildflower | The Andy Nelson Galactic Trio | My Grandma's Cardigan | Matt Ray | Twisted Humor Barely Losing | MIDWEST VOLTAGE | Liquor Beats Winter | Loons in the Attic | Brooke Elizabeth | Joey Flip | Mudcat | Amanda Grace | Ryan Mingone | Etumu Elmari | Double Down Daredevils | Parasympathy | A Constant Cough | Henry James Patterson | Charlie Brown | Patrick T Walsh | Burke Band. Boulevard X | Levi Besaw | George Knobloch III | Sojourn | Beebe + Keeley | Wing Dam Jammers | Flatt & Square |. Gentleman Speaker | The Roberts Brothers | Northern Shoveler | The Beef Slough Boys | Lena Elizabeth | Land At Last | Busey | The Double Down Daredevils | Ryan Mingone | Rogue the Wolf | bo.monro
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658