Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Duluth Armory Becomes Stage for the CW Duluth Television Program

My first visit inside the historic Duluth Armory took place Memorial Day weekend in 2010, the closing event for Hibbing's Dylan Days that year. It had been a family tradition to attend to the Battle of the Jug Bands at the Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe so we were already downtown. At some point I slipped away to grab this opportunity to get an inside look at the historic building. For safety reasons all entrances have been chained or locked. When I heard of this temporary lifting of the ban for a few hours I knew there might not be another chance to see the stage where young Bobby Zimmerman saw the legendary Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) perform just days before they were killed in a plane crash.

Getting an inside peek is rare, but it happens. This year KBJR 6 producer Keith Hopkins was driving past the boarded up historic building when it dawned on him that this might be just the ticket for a new production he was assembling. Concept: use the Armory stage as backdrop for a five-episode television series focusing on the robust Twin Ports music scene. The program would evolve to become Night at the Armory,

It came together quickly. Station Manager Jeanne Filkins bought in and reached out to Mark Poirier, Executive Director for the Armory Arts & Music Center (AAMC). Together Filkins and Poirier worked to secure permissions from the City of Duluth, and on January 3 -- one of our coldest days this winter -- filming began for a five part program loosely based on Austin City Limits.

Kudos to Christa Lawler and the Trib for the Pursuits page feature in Sunday's paper, which a lot of us had to wait till Monday to receive (due to weather.) Read Music Returns to the Armory if you are from out of town or don't get a newspaper.

The series was filmed in January in less than ideal conditions. There is no heat inside the Armory, so we have a photo of Charlie Parr making his own heat for the first show in this five-part series that will begin next Sunday, March 4 at 9 p.m.

Because of the demolition order that was placed in 2001, no one can technically make use of the building. Since that time the AAMC has been been raising funds to fix the five issues cited by the city, among them being no heat, no water, hard to occupy, windows need fixing or replacement, and a batch of other miscellaneous issues.

The building is deserving of its name, the Historic Duluth Armory, minted by the cast of celebrated names that have visited, spoken or performed here, including Harry Truman, Louis Armstrong, Dale Carnegie, Hank Williams, John Philip Sousa, Johnny Cash, Bob Hope, and Liberace. The list goes on an and on, with many in town here still remembering many of those occasions cemented in time.

The artists featured in CW Duluth's Night at the Armory series will be Charlie Parr, Superior Siren (Laura Sellner), Rick McLean, Ingeborg Von Agassiz and Alan Sparhawk of Low/The Murder of Crows/Retribution Gospel Choir. The series will be a nice way to showcase the richness of our local music scene,

Mark Poirier has been laboring for a very long time to see something special happening inside the Armory. "The Armory Arts & Music Center is thrilled to hear live music, once again, in the Armory. It feels like the beginning of a new era. We are very appreciative of the Duluth CW for undertaking this project and bringing awareness to the historic building." Yesterday he went on to say that "we've been this close" (thumb and forefinger almost touching) and they have been again talking with a developer that many hope can see it through. "We would love to see the building being used again," he said.

The AAMC is grateful to the local music community. Featured musicians Sparhawk and Parr have long been supporters of the AAMC Music Resource Center, the free after-school music program for area youth 6th-12th grade. The MRC is now in its 7th year and is open 4 to 6 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons at Sacred Heart Music Center.

Tune in for Night at the Armory, the next five Sunday nights beginning March 4, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. on the Duluth CW (KDLH), Broadcast Ch. 3.1, Charter Cable Ch. 2, Direct TV Ch. 7, and Dish Ch. 11.

Items of Note Regarding the Historic Armory
The Duluth Armory Website

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