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Here, there and everywhere: MN indie rock band to spend week in DL doing workshops, pop-up concerts

The orchestral indie rock band We are the Willows have been together in their present form since 2012. (Submitted photo)1 / 4
The six-person ensemble We are the Willows will be in Detroit Lakes all week, engaging the community in various arts outreach events culminating in their Friday, May 10 performance at the Historic Holmes Theatre. (Submitted photo)2 / 4
We are the Willows will base their Friday concert at the Holmes Theatre on their 2014 album, "Picture (Portrait)," which includes songs that front man Peter Miller wrote about the 350 letters exchanged between his grandparents during World War II. (Submitted photo)3 / 4
We are the Willows front man Peter MIller has been writing and recording songs under that band name since 2007, but says that the band as it currently exists has been together since 2012. (Submitted photo)4 / 4

Ecumen, Oak Crossing, the Becker County Museum, Detroit Lakes High School, La Barista... the Twin Cities-based indie rock band known as We are the Willows will be popping up all over town this week, doing impromptu concerts, artist talks and workshops leading up to their Friday evening concert at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

"They'll be working with Kathy Larson's Laker Singers at Detroit Lakes High School on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday," said Beth Gilbert, arts outreach director at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

Those sessions will culminate in an appearance by the Laker Singers as part of Friday's concert at the Holmes, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

In addition, the group will be working with Mary Kvebak's audio visual students at DLHS and the residents of Ecumen Emmanuel Nursing Home to produce a video segment on the nursing home residents' memories of World War II and family life. The students will be asking the residents questions about their lives and filming a video that will air right before the start of Friday night's concert at the theater.

"The members of the band will be helping the students with editing the video," Gilbert said.

In addition, We are the Willows will be performing for the residents of both Ecumen and Essentia Health Oak Crossing, the students at Detroit Lakes Middle School, the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club and the employees at SJE Rhombus throughout the week.

They will be working with DLMS band students as well as band students at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Public Schools, and there are several public performances planned as well.

"There will be a pop-up concert at La Barista on Tuesday," said Gilbert, adding that the performance will start at approximately 11:45 a.m., and last approximately 15-20 minutes.

Then on Wednesday, May 8, some band members will be appearing at the Becker County Museum as part of its Brown Bag Lunch series, starting at noon. Later on Wednesday, the band will be appearing at the Holmes Art Cellar (located in the basement of the theater) to introduce its new Open Mic Night, starting at 7 p.m. All of these performances are free and open to the public, though those who want to reserve a box lunch for $8 as part of Wednesday's appearance at the museum will want to contact the museum at 218-847-2938 as soon as possible.

And finally, the band will be performing at the Holmes Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10, with the Laker Singers joining them on stage for a couple of numbers. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7.50 for students, or you can purchase one adult ticket at full price and get a second student ticket for free. Call 218-844-7469, visit the website at or stop by the Holmes Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes, to reserve your seats.

Peter Miller, the front man of We are the Willows, says that Friday's concert will include songs based on letters his grandfather had written to his grandmother during World War II, discussing things like family, relationships, and life during wartime — and it is these themes that will be explored during all of the band's outreach activities in the community as well.

"The last album that We are the Willows released is called 'Picture Portrait,' and it's based on the letters my grandpa wrote to my grandma while stationed in the Southwest Pacific during World War II," said Miller. "It catalogs his experiences, and my attempt to make sense of his experiences and get to know him better."

Miller added that this Friday's performance will be "an exploration of family history and personal identity."

"Through this process I kind of started understanding some things about myself as well," he said, adding that what he discovered was that the things his grandfather thought about as a young man were quite similar to his own thoughts and feelings, despite a couple of generations separating them in time.

"One thing that can be hard for young people to recognize is just how similar they are to older generations," he said. "It's really easy to think that your elders are just worlds away and totally different from you. One of the goals in all of our community outreach stuff is to get them interested in and engaged with their elders and understanding what their elders' lives were like. A lot of the things I struggle with, my grandpa was thinking about too. That sort of connectivity I find to be really valuable and that's what we're trying to foster or create in these communities."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454