Live music keeps going all summer in Grand Forks

Check out the list of local concerts

Danny Savage of the MoonCats performs at the Greenway Takeover Festival in 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Businesses and events in the Greater Grand Forks area will be showcasing local artists and nationally touring musicians with live music all summer long.

The Hugo’s Concert Series kicked off the summer with live music on May 7 with a street dance on Third Street, featuring PopROCKS and Grand Forks’ band Paint the Town. Sarah Horak and her husband, Nick, own Third Street Events, which first held the street dance in 2018, an event that drew approximately 10,000 people.

“What was supposed to be a one-off concert turned into a, ‘Well, let’s keep doing this.’ Hugo’s has been our title sponsor since then,” said Horak. This will be the third active year of their partnership with Hugo’s, according to Horak.

Despite having to postpone the concert series for the past two years, Horak is thankful to their sponsors, who have enabled them to keep ticket prices free, or at a lower cost for national touring acts.

“We’re pretty grateful to have some awesome community sponsors jump on board with us,” she said.


Sarah and Nick Horak also own Grand Forks’ Brick and Barley, where their interest in holding live music performances began.

“We’d done some shows in the [back] parking lots, and Dueling Piano shows, things like that. We’ve always had our hand in live music,” said Sarah Horak. “Both Nick and I love music, and love doing fun stuff in the community. … We just keep things fun and interesting and affordable for people. Being able to do anything outside in North Dakota is a win, and we try to take advantage of that.”

Justin LaRocque, founder of Happy Harry’s Rockin’ Up North Fest in 2017, also believes there is always room for more outdoor live performances.

“I noticed there wasn’t a ton of live music happening outside of the Alerus and the Ralph for the bigger concerts,” LaRocque said.

Inspiration for his outdoor music event came from the Happy Harry’s RibFest in Fargo, according to LaRocque. Rockin’ Up North Fest began as a barbecue with performances by regional or local headliners, but after considering feedback from the first couple years’ attendees, it “morphed into more of your traditional music festival.”

LaRocque said the festival will “team up” with the Downtown Development Association to highlight Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, which is holding the Downtown Street Fair on the same weekend, Aug. 19-20. The co-branded event is called “Two Cities, One Weekend.”

“We thought that if they had all the craft and art and food vendors, they’ll end a little early now, so they’ll let us attract the later evening and night ‘party scene,’” said LaRocque, “and we wanted to make sure we were complementing each other.”

The summer will end with what has become a favorite way for college students to launch the school year: the Greenway Takeover. Tricia Lunski and her husband, Jamie, co-founded the event in 2017. According to Tricia Lunski, it has always been a dream of her husband’s to have live music on the Greenway. After the flood in 1997, she said, music never really came back to Grand Forks.


Lunski described the origin story of the festival: “We were in a marketing meeting. ... I had to run to the bathroom, then I return 45 seconds later, and we’re having a festival — what did I miss?”

Just as events “take over” HB Sound and Light for their staging needs, she said, she and her husband decided to take over the Greenway.

According to Julie Rygg with Visit Greater Grand Forks, not only do the live music events attract thousands of locals, but the music festivals across the summer bring in a big draw from out of town. Depending on the event or performer, she said, events draw many students when they return to school and dedicated fans willing to drive from all over. A bulk of the tourism direct gross value comes from conferences and events hosted in Grand Forks, said Rygg.

Rygg is also the original founder of Blues on the Red, who said the event has not been “picked up” by an organizer since the pandemic. Svea Benefield, vice president of marketing for the Downtown Development Association, said that because other organizations have been planning summer live music and because of their partnership with Rockin’ Up North, Blues on the Red will not be happening this summer.

A list of live music performances and events can be found below.

  • Archives Coffee House, live music Fridays and Saturdays
  • Half Brothers Underground, live music Fridays and Saturdays
  • Grand Forks Farmers Market, live music every Saturday through Sept. 24, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • July 9: Hugo’s Concert Series featuring Travis Tritt with special guest Rodney Atkins, located at Columbia Mall North Parking Lot, gates open at 6 p.m.
  • July 19: Summer Concerts in the Garden featuring The Cactus Blossoms, located in the North Dakota Museum of Art sculpture garden, begins at 6 p.m.
  • July 21: Hugo’s Concert Series featuring The Johnny Holm Band, located at the Town Square, begins at 8 p.m. 
  • July 30: Alan Jackson’s “Last Call,” located at the Alerus Center, begins at 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 2: Summer Concerts in the Garden featuring The Talbott Brothers, located in the North Dakota Museum of Art sculpture garden, begins at 6 p.m.
  • Aug. 9: Summer Concerts in the Garden featuring The Brevet, located in the North Dakota Museum of Art sculpture garden, begins at 6 p.m.
  • Aug. 10: Rockzilla Summer Tour, featuring Papa Roach, Falling In Reverse, Hollywood Undead, and Bad Wolves, located at the Alerus Center, begins at 6 p.m.
  • Aug. 12: Hugo’s Concert Series featuring Sara Evans and Randy Houser, located on the Greenway, gates open at 6 p.m.
  • Aug. 19-20: Happy Harry’s Rockin’ Up North Fest featuring Michael Ray, BlackHawk, Little Texas, Love & Theft, the Jenson Sisters, and Paint the Town, located in the East Grand Forks city parking lot behind River Cinema, gates open at 5 p.m. 
  • Sept. 8-11: Greenway Takeover Festival featuring Gear Daddies, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Mae Simpson, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo, located on the Greenway off of Second Avenue North and North Third Street
  • Sept. 28: In This Moment, featuring Northing More, Sleep Token, and Cherry Bombs, located at the Alerus Center, begins at 6 p.m.
  • Sept. 29: Bring the Bar to You Tour, featuring Thomas Rhett with guest artists Parker McCollum and Conner Smith, located at the Alerus Center, begins at 7:30 p.m.

Schettler is a UND student and freelance writer for the Herald.

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