Al Church may have moved to Minneapolis more than 10 years ago, but his heart remains in his native town of Duluth, Minn.
A multi-instrumental musician, Church joked he left Duluth at the absolute worst time for an artist.
“When I moved, that is when everything was really going in Duluth,” Church said. “It was kind of the beginning of a new renaissance.”
But Church has remained close to the city, highlighted by his maintenance of family, friends and artist connections.
“I am up in Duluth all the time. I play a lot of shows and go see a lot of shows,” Church said. “It is definitely a huge part of my life.”
Church will have the opportunity to bring a little Duluth style to Minneapolis this Saturday. Church is performing in “Twin Cities Invasion” at the Turf Club, with Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, the Social Animals and Superior Siren — all Duluth-based bands.
The single night show is part of the “Duluth Homegrown Music Festival,” the annual celebration of the city’s music and art scene. The festival officially starts the first week of May in Duluth.
Walter Raschick, the festival’s director, said “Homegrown” started as a birthday party featuring a couple of bands before morphing into a structured and anticipated event.
“It’s celebrating the fact that these are local spaces, and these are local musicians and just saying we have this place together,” Raschick said.
Now in its 18th year, the festival spans eight days and features more than 200 local Duluth bands — Raschick described it as a “sampler tray of Duluth music.”
With the rapid expansion, Raschick started the “Twin Cities Invasion” four years ago to promote the festival.
“We are trying to get the word out about Duluth music any way we can,” Raschick said. “There are a lot of expatriates in Minneapolis. Any time there are some Duluth-centric bands, I think people are apt to check it out."
For many of the bands, the festival is an opportunity to collaborate. Lauren Sellner, the frontwoman of Superior Siren, pointed to last year’s festival as prime example.
After performing solo at open mics around Duluth, the singer-songwriter joined forces with cellist Rachel Gobin and drummer Emma Deaner for “Homegrown” a year ago.
The trio remained together and added a fourth member last month to round out the group. For Sellner, the Duluth music scene helps facilitate these interactions.
“There are many talented people,” Sellner said. “So the music scene encourages people to make music. ... There are so many people who want to make music and work together.”
Even as a transplant from the city, this is something Church appreciated about Duluth.
“Everyone is playing in each other’s bands and helping out in each other’s records,” Church said.
The festival has only continued to expand in recent years; many notable Duluth musicians, such as Trampled by Turtles, Low, and Charlie Parr, come back specifically for the festival.
“‘Homegrown’ is really unique in that way. Not many small towns can lay claim to that many national bands,” Church said.
However, the festival still takes pride in its small city charm, Raschick said.
“What I have worked hardest on is keeping the festival going a straight direction … making sure we are sticking to our roots and expanding in a smart way,” Raschick said.
“We are 100 percent keeping it local with Duluth musicians.”