Summer is right around the corner, and that means the outdoor concert season is upon us. All year, musicians wait for the chance to get out into the sun and fresh air and ply their trade in an environment that is unlike the dark bars they usually lurk in. And audiences look forward to it, too, judging by the amount of festivals and other outdoor events that come around each year.
Bayfront Festival Park is always a place to see lots of great live music, each summer — whether your tastes run toward reggae, blues, rock, or otherwise, there’s always an event going on. But there are other venues that have established themselves as being live-music hotspots in the green months. Glensheen Mansion is one that in recent years has focused on presenting a slate of performers in the elements as part of their Concerts on the Pier series.
“Concerts on the Pier features Minnesota music every Wednesday night in July on the waters of Lake Superior,” said Emma Deaner, event sales manager at Glensheen. “Free outdoor summer concerts have been happening at Glensheen for many years. However, in recent years, all of the bands began playing on the 100-foot pier extending into Lake Superior. Each of the featured artists have a Duluth connection, making the series a showcase for our region and Minnesota’s musical talent. Concertgoers now come in the thousands to line Glensheen’s Lake Superior shoreline while kayakers and boaters enjoy the water. Concerts on the Pier is a celebration of the lake, local music, one of Duluth’s historic locations, and Minnesota. This experience provides northerners a way to experience Minnesota culture at its finest.”
Deaner herself has performed (with her band Superior Siren), as have acts such as Haley, The 4onthefloor, and many more. It’s a series that has gained popularity as time has gone on, and it has helped Glensheen get even more people to their historic estate during a prime tourism season.
“This concert series has grown appreciation for the estate as a true community center, all while actualizing our mission to inspire Minnesota pride by preserving and sharing the legacy of Glensheen, and to serve as an incubator for positive change,” Deaner said, adding that the Congdon family, who originally built the estate, were supporters of local artists.
“The best part,” Deaner said, “is the sense of community one feels when everyone comes out of the woodwork on warm summer nights to celebrate the unique place we call home.”
They do that at Chester Bowl, too. The Chester Creek Concert Series is a free, family-friendly event on Tuesday evenings that has established itself as a longtime favorite for folks who want to listen to live music outdoors. This summer will be the series’ 36th year.
“Our goal is to bring the entire community together every Tuesday night for an evening of excellent, free live music,” said Dave Schaeffer, executive director of the Chester Bowl Improvement Club. “In 2017, we averaged 520 in attendance at each show. We deliberately mix genres, showcasing the best musicians in the region, and balance out returning favorites with acts new to Chester Bowl’s stage,” he said.
This year, performers include Coyote, Alamode, and Feeding Leroy.
“There is no other venue in Duluth quite as family-friendly as Chester Bowl,” Schaeffer said. “The setting itself is beautiful, with the stage nestled next to the creek between two hillsides. Many people tell us that part of the reason they keep coming back every week and every year is because of the concert setting itself.”
Throw in the one-off street dances and festivals that pop up here and there all summer, and it makes for another outdoor-concert season positively packed with music.
Tony Bennett is a Duluth musician and freelance writer. Read his weekly album reviews in Thursday’s A&E section of the Duluth News Tribune.