On Tuesday, July 5, hundreds gathered outside of the North Dakota Museum of Art to see Charlie Parr, an internationally renowned bluegrass and folk musician. Known for defying traditional playing techniques, Parr's unique style has won attention from major organizations that promote music, like National Public Radio. His track "1922" was featured at both the SunDance Film Festival and in a Vodafone commercial in Australia and New Zealand. Vodafone is a major global telecommunications company. Parr has traveled to every nook and cranny of the United States, the United Kingdom and major parts of Australia.
Parr's music oozes of genuineness from the stories acquired during his time as an employee of a homeless shelter. His sound commands attention from the audience without demanding it, with lyrics like, "I got me a job on a family farm. Times are hard here, but I can't roll, and I ain't got nothing more."
Parr discussed his music and his alternative style, saying, “I just started sitting down and poking around. I developed some things in my guitar playing that teachers would probably tell me are mistakes. The way I write ... is like writing stories. Philosophy came in and organized the stories, where they're going, where the point is. I have something in my mind that I want to talk about and a weird tuning that I want to use. I can hear it fully formed and I just have to figure out how to get there.”
After dropping out of high school on the first day of tenth grade, Parr spent an aimless couple of years. Eventually, he returned to his studies, completed his GED and attended college. Despite that, he worked at the Salvation Army as a homeless outreach employee, a position that does not require a college degree. It was here that Parr gained the story authenticity communicated in his songwriting. Despite all of these people-focused endeavors, Parr almost always plays solo.
"I fell in love with a cherry girl," rings Joe Greenwood, songwriter and lead vocalist of The Midnights, who opened for Charlie Parr.
The Midnights formed in the summer of 2007, with Mr. Greenwood bringing some of his home-spun tunes. The name is derived from the band's rehearsal time slot from 12:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. The rehearsal time was a unique requirement for the Midnights, as Greenwood could only rehearse after he got off work from the Grand Forks Herald newspaper.
The Midnights’ music is informed by singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and bands like the early Rolling Stones. The narratives ring a Louisiana tone infrequently found in the Dakotas and forlorn tales of love gained and lost. The guitar solos are more freeform, with a dialogue between the bass and background guitar.
They band talked about how they wanted to think of old rock and roll … 60s, 70s, 50s, even. "A lot of what we do is like the moment Dylan plugged in," they said. "We’re hoping to expand people’s horizons sort of the way Bob Dylan did. Joe wrote most of the music … a lot of [the songs] feel familiar. There’s such a fine line between too contrived and too loose.”
The Midnights is composed of Joe Greenwood on vocals and guitar, Dave Dauphinais on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jesse Mondry on drums, and Chad Kurtyka on bass.