The Streetcar Kitchen and Pub in Carlton will feature some of the region's top performing songwriters in its inaugural Spring Songwriters Series which runs through Memorial Day. Local performing songwriters Bill and Kate Isles will kick off the season at 8 p.m. this Saturday night, March 23.
The Isles play a wide variety of musical styles and their performances carry audiences through a broad landscape of experiences from metaphorical worlds to small town family stories and to zany comedy. Consummate performers, they are known for their catchy melodies and memorable songs.
The Songwriters Series is being organized by local resident Kraig Erickson who was inspired with the idea after visiting Nashville recently on a business trip.
"Venues like the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville provide what is called a 'listening room' format where the focus is the song and the audience doesn't just hear the music as background noise, they listen," explained Erickson. "The layout of the Streetcar is conducive to this. While not as big as Nashville, we do have an untapped talent pool around here that most people don't really know about."
Building from the concept of "buying local," Erickson encourages people to "listen local," since many songs written here carry special meaning and connect to the area.
"The format of the Songwriter Series will provide the audience with an intimate listening environment, with the musicians sharing the stories behind their songs," he said.
Erickson's history with organizing music events dates back to 2002 when he and his friend Jim Myhre created the Highway 61 Folks Festival in Mahtowa, and helped run the event for five very successful years.
"A big part of the Highway 61 Folks Festival was the Songwriters Contest," recalled Erickson. "Each year, we had about 25 songwriters perform two songs that were judged on several factors. Our mission was to provide a great performance opportunity for both singer/songwriter pros and amateurs along with a great listening experience.
"This Songwriters Series project is basically like the Songwriters Contest, except over a longer period of time rather than one afternoon," added Erickson. "We are also having all performers sign a guitar that will be raffled off at the end of the year, and people can get in on the raffle during the shows. Maybe someday the winner of the guitar will be back here playing their own original songs with it."
Some of the artists in this new Songwriters Series have been finalists in previous Highway 61 Songwriters Contests, such as Teague Alexy, Bill Isles, Colleen Myhre and Billy Southern.
The owner of the Streetcar, Rob Kavanaugh, built a small stage for performers, which has been converted into a stompbox stage with microphones positioned inside that can be adjusted to provide different sounds based on what the performers want.
"Carlton County has some amazing songwriters, and we are also fortunate to be geographically located on the way from the Cities to Duluth," said Erickson. "Thus, we are able to not only feature local songwriters, but also catch a few touring north from the Cities on their way through the area.
"Duluth has some great energy right now with their local music scene, but it's a long drive to catch a show, so we wanted to provide a chance to catch some great original music closer to home. I hope folks take the opportunity to come listen to some of these amazing artists and support local music."
For those wishing to guarantee a good seat, a limited number of VIP tables can be reserved for $10 by calling the Streetcar at 218-384-3333. Otherwise the shows are free to attend.