Jillian Rae performs at the 2017 Mid West Music Fest. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
When you imagine Minnesota in February, what comes to mind? Maybe live music isn’t the first thing to pop up, but a new music festival in Red Wing is hoping to change that.
Big Turn Music Fest will take place in downtown Red Wing on Feb. 16 and 17, and will feature nearly 100 bands and 17 venues. Headliners include Porcupine, Caroline Smith, jeremy messersmith, Heiruspecs, Toki Wright, and Dave Simonett (of Trampled by Turtles). The festival is organized by Red Wing native Sam Brown, who founded the Mid West Music Fest in 2010 in Winona.
The name “Big Turn” comes from the sharp bend in the Mississippi River in Red Wing. The name also marks a symbolic shift in the trajectory of the town, which organizer Sam Brown hopes will allow people to “experience Red Wing through music.”
Big Turn will bring music to 17 venues in downtown Red Wing, including the Sheldon Theatre. When he came up with the idea for Big Turn, Brown knew that he wanted to incorporate the Sheldon. “It’s really exciting that I’m able to work with them and bring Big Turn into the Sheldon’s walls,” he said. In addition to hosting music, the Sheldon will also run the box office for the festival.
Among the festival’s headliners are La Crosse, Wisc. band Porcupine. This choice of headliner is a serendipitous one for Brown. Porcupine helped him establish Mid West Music Fest in Winona back in 2010 and have performed at the festival every year since. “Porcupine headlining Big Turn Music Fest this year is one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in all of my music organizing history,” he said.
Last year, Porcupine added Hüsker Dü basist Greg Norton (and current Red Wing resident) to their lineup. Norton dabbled in Red Wing’s culinary circuit by opening the (now closed) restaurant, The Norton’s. This year, he is turning to the town’s music scene with Porcupine as they headline the Sheldon Theatre at Big Turn.
Other acts on the festival’s lineup include Caroline Smith, Dave Simonett (Dead Man Winter, Trampled By Turtles), Lydia Liza, Twilight Hours, Little Fevers, LOTT, and Jillian Rae. In crafting the lineup, Brown aimed to keep it varied. “I pride myself on trying to keep it eclectic and trying to bring something for everyone,” he said. “There’s a lot of synergy with this lineup even though it may not appear so.”
While February may not be the most conventional time of year for a music festival, Brown is hoping that the festival’s date will bring visitors to Red Wing during an otherwise slow time of year. The choice to hold the festival in the dead of winter in Minnesota may not seem like an obvious choice to some, but Brown described the timing as an affirmation of Red Wing’s vibrancy year-round. “We still exist in February just as much as we exist in the summer in Minnesota, and we still like music, right?”
Brown calls this festival “an outstanding homecoming” for him. After spending time in Winona organizing the Mid West Music Fest, he is excited to be back in Red Wing to help visitors and natives alike experience his hometown through Big Turn.
We Are The Willows
General B and the Wiz
Ali and the Scoundrels
Brothers Burn Mountain
The Ditch Lilies
The Heavy Set
Karate Chop, Silence
The Lowland Lakers
Jeff Arundel and the Hammsmen
Universal Music Center Students
Tommy Bentz Band
Ryan Traster Band
Red Sky Warning
Beef Slough Boys
Colby Kent & The Stompin Ground
David and Esther
The Andy Nelson Galactic Trio
My Grandma’s Cardigan
Liquor Beats Winter
Loons in the Attic
Double Down Daredevils
A Constant Cough
Henry James Patterson
Patrick T Walsh
George Knobloch III
Beebe + Keeley
Wing Dam Jammers
Colleen Cowie is a student at Macalester College. She hosts the show Locally Sourced on WMCN.