The Mississippi Melodie Showboat landing has a storied history of performances that have graced the stage that actually sits on top of the longest river in North America. But interestingly enough, the vast, vast majority of those performances have been from the Showboat variety show; there’s a strange lack of interest in using that venue for anything else, despite its large seating area and natural picturesque backdrop.
But really, what better venue could you find for a musical act that tours by canoe?
This will be the second time the Winnipeg-based hypno-folk duo TWIN will be doing their Mississippi River Music Armada, where they will traverse the river from Bemidji, Minn., to LaCrosse, Wis. The Mississippi River is only one of several rivers TWIN has canoed down for a music tour, others including the Assiniboine River in Canada, and the Sacramento and Los Angeles Rivers in California.
When they were here last year, TWIN played a show at the KAXE studio. It was after the performance that they wandered around the town, seeing what the small northern Minnesota town had to offer, when they discovered the Showboat landing.
“We’ve definitely played some places that are physically beside the river, but not on it,” said TWIN guitarist and vocalist David Fort about the uniqueness of the Showboat stage.
Fort said that he made it a point to come back to play on that stage.
Throughout the various River Armada Tours, Fort and fellow TWIN member, violinist Brooklyn Samson, have played all manners of shows, from café gigs with only a handful of people, to an audience of more than 1,500 at a fair in California. While on tour on the Los Angeles River, a documentary was made on the group. But it wasn’t just about the music; the band got arrested for being on the river and spent the subsequent seven months battling the courts. They eventually won, but the tension of the court process coupled with the making of the documentary left the band exhausted with each other. It was after this tour that the full-sized folk ensemble shrunk to just a duo.
“The difference between Los Angeles and Minnesota is when you tell the DNR that you’re coming down in a canoe, they send you free maps,” said Fort.
One of the benefits of touring like this, Fort added, was the number and variety of performance stops. When he used to tour by van, the stops were mostly just major cities. But when confined to the river, every little town and community turns into a potential show. Between Bemidji and LaCrosse, TWIN is scheduled to play more than 20 different shows.
“If you’re touring by van, you might hit a place like Grand Rapids; a folk band might,” said Fort. “But probably, you’d be more orientated to looking at Minneapolis to Milwaukee to Chicago, or something like that.”
The seemingly simple sound of TWIN is a recognizable form of folk, but they also maintain a quiet eeriness which seems to lend itself well to concepts of wide open spaces (not unlike a large expanse of river). Perhaps it’s the combination of acoustic guitar and violin that create this sound. Regardless, it’s a blend of an old-style of music with their own stamp on it which makes it fresh, and a little bit hypnotic as well.
TWIN, on their second Mississippi Music Armada, will be at the Showboat landing in Grand Rapids on Friday, Aug. 30, at 6 p.m. There will be a free-will admission.