“Celebrate all the time”: Front Porch Sitters launch a West Bank Revival


Revel in the revival of the West Bank music scene with several great local musicians, legendary from the 1960s on, and the young acts they continue to inspire. For two music-filled days, September 18 and 19, Front Porch Sitters host the first West Bank Revival in celebration of the Twin Cities’ great local music scene.

Over 40 bands and musicians are performing at four West Bank venues: Acadia Cafe, Bedlam Theatre, Nomad World Pub, and the Red Sea.

A mere $5 each day covers all events, all day long, with all proceeds going directly to the artists. In true West Bank community support style, sponsors include local community radio (KFAI), record stores such as Treehouse Records, and labels such as the new Half Door Records. Food and beverage venues have jumped on board in support of West Bank Revival: the Hard Times Café and the Weinery are offering food specials to audiences, and Flat Earth Brewing Company is a sponsor, offering a special flat rate for their beer across the four venues. Also on both days, the West Bank Social Center (located above the Nomad World Pub) is featuring a historic photo and memorabilia display, as well as storytelling. “There’s a nostalgia lane and you can listen to records of West Bank music,” says Front Porch Sitter Abby Rae LaCombe. Shanay Matteson (daughter of West Banker Professor Jim), is bringing vintage records for people to view and listen to from the large West Bank music collection she’s built since the 1950s. There will also be a merch table stocked with all participating artists’ CDs.

The infectious enthusiasm of the Front Porch Sitters spread faster than a West Bank rumor, once the seed of an idea for this festival was planted during a conversation about a music venue crawl with Ted Lowell, owner/booker of participating venue, Acadia Café. The event grew into a multi-generational showcase. “We want to draw attention to Minneapolis and St. Paul independent musicians and venues,” says LaCombe, referring to both this festival and the Front Porch Sitters’ modus operandi: they produce and distribute local music schedules weekly. The Front Porch Sitters organized all aspects of the entire festival in a mere two and a half months. “It’s been a whirlwind!” laughs LaCombe.

West Bank musicians playing since the 1960s were their first priority: folks such as Willie Murphy, Papa John Kolstad, Dakota Dave Hull, Pop Wagner, Tony Paul, Glen Hanson, Cornbread Harris, and Jerry Rau became excited to perform after LaCombe talked with them. “They seemed surprised at first that people wanted to hold a festival. We told them we want to say ‘thank you’ for the music. They’ve made an impact and the love goes on for others.” These original West Bank musicians will be paid first from the proceeds. “They will make the West Bank Revival a success. They’re the professionals and they’ve often gone without pay for so long,” says Lacombe. All the new generation of participating musicians are volunteering but LaCombe is hoping that enough people will come that the younger artists will receive some money as well. “Five dollars a day, forty musicians! What more could you want?” she asks.

After booking several legendary West Bank musicians as headliners, the Front Porch Sitters then stocked the days and venues richly with several newer musicians and bands involved with and inspired by the West Bank music scene. Some are well-known on the West Bank and beyond: The Knotwells, Grant Hart, Baby Grant Johnson, the Roe Family Singers, and more. Some are newer to the scene: Chickadee Mountain Martyrs, Phantom Tails, Gabe Barnett, Darkwood Flower, and the Boys ‘n the Barrels. The genres vary wildly, occasionally colliding—from old folk to new folk, punk to twang-punk to bluegrass to old country blues. The varying genres were strategically scheduled by the Front Porch Sitters so that if you don’t care for what you’re listening to at one venue, there are three others to choose from. Plus, Front Porch Sitters set up the music sets so there is little to no overlap—while there is a 15-minute break for the next band to set up, you can go down the street and catch another band. There will also be roving volunteers and MCs reminding audiences what’s happening at the other venues so you don’t miss the good stuff at other venues. Their primary objective is to keep this party going.

Front Porch Sitters plan to host more such celebratory events in the future, involving more local independent venues, musicians, and artists. “The Twin Cities have such a good strong music community and exciting history,” says LaCombe. “If we don’t celebrate all the time, we run the risk of losing what we’ve got.”

Cyn Collins (cynth@bitstream.net, Twitter @sophiacollins) is a Twin Cities freelance arts and culture writer. She is the author of West Bank Boogie, a substitute programmer at KFAI, and an assistant producer of Write On Radio.

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