Northern Wilds Magazine
Silver Bay’s free Music in the Park Concert Series runs every Friday at 7:30 p.m. from July 14 through Sept. 1 in City Center Park. | DON J. OLSON
Along the ShoreArtsFeatured Musician

Silver Bay’s summer outdoor concert series unveiled

When traveling up the North Shore, you will encounter several small towns—each with their own charming personality and hidden gems to discover. Silver Bay, located an hour out of Duluth, is one to visit this summer.

A community built on the mining and railroad industries, located right on the shores of Lake Superior, Silver Bay was a bustling town at its peak in the mid-1950s, continuing through the late 1980s. Today, the town of over 1,800 people offers gorgeous views of the great lake, miles of recreational trails to accommodate bikers, ATVs and hikers, as well as several state park attractions within just a few miles. You can also immerse yourself in the art and cultural side of the community by attending a show, or two, with the summer outdoor concert series.

Rocky Wall Productions, based in Silver Bay, began the concert series in 2021, and after a successful debut, have invited a variety of performers for an enjoyable lineup again this season. Attendees can choose from blues, country, Americana, and more—the mixture of genres are sure to engage music lovers of all tastes. Kicking off the 2023 season on July 14 is local favorite, Charlie Parr. All performances are held on a Friday at 7:30 p.m. and are free and family-friendly.

Founder and president of Rocky Wall Productions, Nelson French, created the outdoor music series after being part of Rocky Wall House Concerts.

“We wanted to share our love of music with the community and create vibrant late summer Friday nights in Silver Bay. We designed the Silver Bay Music in the Park Concert Series to start up each summer after the conclusion of the annual Bay Days mid-summer celebration,” French explained.

An all-volunteer nonprofit, their mission is to produce high quality live music concerts and events in the city of Silver Bay and on the North Shore, from Duluth to Grand Portage. In addition to bringing in an event like this for visitors and residents to enjoy, French wanted to focus on bringing regional and national acts to perform on the North Shore.

Pat Donohue and the Prairie All Stars—a Minnesota-based band whose members were the house band for A Prairie Home Companion weekly radio show, created and hosted by Garrison Keillor—continue to tour together for occasional local gigs. They will take the summer concert series stage on August 11.

Donohue, lead vocalist, is a 2004 Grammy winner with his contributions on “Pink Guitar,” an instrumental CD featuring several other artists. He is also an American standard with his fingerpicking acoustic guitar style, verses using a pick. Donohue discovered his passion for music when he was around 10 years old, and music has been a part of his life for decades now. He jokes, “People say I am retired but it’s really only until the next gig.” He has also had success in songwriting, with Chet Atkins and Suzy Bogguss recording some of his work.

The summer concert series is held downtown Silver Bay at City Center Park, near City Hall. Concertgoers should bring a chair or blanket to enjoy the view on the hillside. Parking is free and restrooms and food are available onsite. This year’s lineup ranges from jazz and bluegrass to singer-songwriter, folk, and rock and roll.

Blues-inspired artist Tommy Bentz will take the stage July 21. Born and raised in River Falls, Wisc., Bentz welcomes every opportunity to play on the North Shore. Bentz describes the band’s sound as “Van Morrison meets the Allman Brothers.” They concentrate on their own original material and mix in a few covers, digging a bit deeper for songs that are not usually heard at live performances. The band is comprised of Bentz on guitar and vocals, Alex Burgess on drums, Clark Thaldorf on bass and vocals, and Doug Rohde on keyboard. Bentz has been reviewed as having a “killer tone” and he says with every album, the songs get more refined. “When the crowd is into it, it is a great vibe,” Bentz shares, adding “they are putting in the work and having a good time.”

The concert series runs July 14 through September 1 and the full lineup can be found on Eventbrite, Facebook, and at:

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