Parr humbled to be back

Published 8:05 am Sunday, October 13, 2013

When Bill DeVille announced Charlie Parr to the Paramount Theatre crowd Friday night, the 89.3 The Current deejay described the Austin native as the city’s greatest export since Spam, eliciting a puzzled look from Parr.

The praise was a bit ironic, as Parr repeatedly used one word to describe the experience of playing in his hometown Friday night: humbling.

“It feels really good,” Parr said before the show. “It feels really humbling.”

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Parr, an acclaimed blues and folk musician now living in Duluth, capped the Caravan du Nord’s return to the Paramount. The show was the 2013 kickoff for the Caravan du Nord, a traveling concert series put on by the Minnesota Music Coalition and The Current that aims to promote music and independent musicians in greater Minnesota.

Friday’s concert also featured Twin Cities country band The Cactus Blossoms and Austin-based Full Circle.

“This is a pleasure to be a part of,” The Cactus Blossoms’ Jack Torrey said.

Before the show, many people greeted Parr as he set up his merchandise in the Paramount lobby and mingled in the crowd — a few people called him by his birth name, Jeff. The name Charlie, Parr said, was his grandfather’s name and became his nickname.

Parr told the crowd he suggested concert organizers have him play first before the bands, since he plays alone with a guitar. But, Parr was aptly placed as the concert’s headliner, captivating an attentive crowd with songs like “Jesus Is A Hobo” off his 2013 album “Barnswallow” and the traditional “Ain’t No Grave,” which he performed A cappela as he stomped his foot on the Paramount stage.

Parr grew up in Austin until moving to the Twin Cities and later Duluth, and many family members, including his mother, sister and cousin, came out to watch him Friday.

“I promised my sister I would not embarrass her tonight, so I’m going to play my songs and keep my foot out of it,” Parr told the crowd early during his set.

While tuning between songs, Parr shared stories with the crowd about sleeping at a rest area after a show Thursday, a chipmunk infestation in Duluth and his attempts to put an extra string on his guitar. While the crowd enjoyed and laughed along to the stories, Parr seemed to think he was beginning to embarrass his sister.

“Sorry, Julie,” Parr said, “I’m trying not to embarrass you.”

Though the crowd was mostly content to quietly listen to Parr’s folk songs, about a half-dozen people stood and danced to the final few songs.

At the end of the show, the crowd gave Parr a standing ovation and enticed a somewhat reluctant Parr to perform an encore, as he said he didn’t want to keep people too late.

“We love you, Charlie,” one audience member shouted out.

‘I’m glad it’s my hometown’

Before the concert, Parr, The Cactus Blossoms’ Torrey and Page Burkhart, Full Circle’s Wendy Larson and other officials held workshops at Riverland Community College for up-and-coming musicians.

Though Parr said he isn’t fond of public speaking, he said it was gratifying and described it as humbling that the young musicians would look to him for advice.

“You feel you have this immediate connection to them, and you can tell right away that they’re in it because it’s all they want to do,” Parr said.

Between the workshop and the concert, Parr and other musicians mingled during a social hour at Dusty’s Bar & Lounge. Parr said he was pleased to talk to people who are working to grow a vibrant art scene in Austin.

“It’s people that care enough that say, ‘I’m staying here; I’m going to make this the place the place that I want to live.’ I think that’s amazing; I really do. I’m really gratified by that, and I’m glad that it’s my hometown that’s doing that,” Parr said.

Look for more coverage of Friday’s musician work workshops in the Oct. 20 Sunday Spotlight section.