Hello, 2018: This Year Brings Retro Rockers, the Return of an Old Venue, and Favorite Annual Events

By Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune

In the upcoming year, you will see new albums by local favorites, the re-opening of a historic theater, lots of retro rockers and a staged version of one of Stephen King’s greatest hits. As you say goodbye to 2017, here are some ways to say hello to 2018. Google calendar, activate.

JANUARY

Two local bands with big followings will start the new year with new albums: Alamode, the band that donned sequins, squeezed out a falsetto or two and otherwise made pop-disco great again, releases “Swell,” its loose-jointed, synthy swirl of neon at 10 p.m. Jan. 13 at Rex Bar; Superior Siren, the deep-dark, lush folk band fronted by Laura Sellner — whose actual voice is as unique as her writerly voice — releases its self-titled album at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at Sacred Heart Music Center.

Laura Sellner of Superior Siren is set to release the band’s self-titled debut in January. 2017 file/ News Tribune

FEBRUARY

Speaking of sequins: It’s the return of the NorShor Theatre — with an ABBA soundtrack. The oh-so historic venue has been updated and upgraded and opens its doors with the Duluth Playhouse’s production of “Mamma Mia!” — the story of a young woman who wants to invite her father to her wedding, but she is unsure which of the three men from her mother’s yesteryear is her daddy. The big, bright, splashy musical features tunes by the the 1970s Swedish disco-quad, ABBA. “Mamma Mia!” opens Feb. 1 at the NorShor Theatre.

MARCH

Two retro rock bands perfect for the old clutch-and-sway in the high school gymnasium return to Duluth. REO Speedwagon (“Keep on Loving You”) and Styx (“Mr. Roboto,” “Come Sail Away,” “Don’t Let It End”) last played the DECC together about 16 years ago. REO Speedwagon and STYX play March 13 at Amsoil Arena.

APRIL

… And if you can’t fight the feeling of last month’s throwback concert, here is another blast of past: Foreigner. The band behind “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Hot Blooded” is currently touring with Whitesnake — but for the Duluth show they will be backed by the Dave Eggar Orchestra. Foreigner plays at 8 p.m. April 4 at Symphony Hall.

MAY

It’s been 20 years since a local musichead threw a fantastic birthday party that became an eight-day celebration of the Twin Ports mostly music scene. So, HBD, Starfire. The annual event has hundreds of bands playing quick-hit sets at venues in Duluth and Superior. There is also art, film, fire twirling, trolley-riding, pizza-cramming, kickball, a rock ‘n’ roll run and pageantry. Homegrown Music Festival is April 29-May 6 in Duluth and Superior.

This year’s Homegrown Music Festival runs April 29-May 6 at venues in Duluth and Superior. 2015 file / News Tribune

JUNE

Lyric Opera of the North is taking on the the tale of super-seducer Don Juan with a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” with a familiar face directing: Dottie Danner, the Broadway performer-turned director who has in the past worked with LOON and the Duluth Playhouse. “Don Giovanni” plays June 22 and June 24 at the NorShor Theatre.

JULY

Don’t know what. Don’t know who. But something, anything could happen. Traditionally, a cast of Minnesota-based mega-bands play an all-day festival style show in July at Bayfront Festival Park. Some of the acts who have played the park: Trampled By Turtles, Hippo Campus, Low, Polica, HALEY, Doomtree.

AUGUST

Speaking of Bayfront Festival Park: This place has become the go-to spot for a Christian music festival that draws the best in the biz. This year’s headliners for the two-day fest includes Casting Crowns and for King & Country. Of note: Holy Hootenanners, a band with roots in a small country church in Mahtowa, is on the bill. City on the Hill is Aug. 3-4 at Bayfront Festival Park.

SEPTEMBER

Last year, a crew of local feminists decided to take action against the mostly male musicians that dominate festival lineups. The result: FEmnFest. The first-year, three-day affair featured female-identifying performers, artists and vendors in addition to workshops within a warm, safe place where any pronoun was a-ok. And … it’s back. The dates are still TBA.

The FEmnFest logo is projected above the stage as Oshkii Giizhik Singers perform at FEmnFest at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth. The event returns in September. File / News Tribune

OCTOBER

The bad news: Author Paul Sheldon gets into a car accident. The good news: He’s found by a woman who claims to be his biggest fan. The other good news: He’s just completed another manuscript. The other band news: nurse Annie Wilkes just isn’t feeling the ending. So she forces him to write a new one in “Misery,” a theatrical adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Renegade Theater Company is producing the fan-fave as it’s creepy-season show. “Misery” opens Oct. 4 at Teatro Zuccone.

NOVEMBER

There is nothing quite like the holiday season in Duluth Town, USA. Between Bentleyville Tour of Lights, KBJR’s annual Christmas City of the North Parade and that scene those light-hounds on Exhibition Drive are creating, this place could be the North Pole. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. It all starts in November.

Bentleyville’s Christmas tree and other displays reflect off rippling waves in the Duluth harbor basin in November. File / News Tribune

DECEMBER

Speaking of festive: It’s never too early to take your tot to the Minnesota Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” This version is set in Edwardian-era Manhattan, includes all the signature scenes and a live Tchaikovsky score. Sugar Plum Fairies forever.

Emma Stratton and Ryo Munakata dance in last month’s performance of Minnesota Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” a holiday favorite that will return in December. File / News Tribune

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