MOORHEAD — The first Sister Cities Smokeout fires up Thursday, Aug. 29, at Moorhead’s Bluestem Amphitheater, bringing together touring musicians and pitmasters for one last lip-smacking celebration of summertime food and music.

Cooks from Missouri, Mississippi and Fargo-Moorhead will have grills and smokers set up in the Bluestem Meadow, serving up savory chunks of wood-fired favorites, like brisket, ribs, chicken, pork and any number of side dishes.

Each of the mainstage musical acts have a flavor of their own, too. Using barbecue terms, here’s how we would describe the major acts playing the two-day festival that will continue Friday, Aug. 30.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Before he formed The Meat Sweats, errr… the Night Sweats, in Denver, Rateliff grew up in St. Louis, where two of the pitmasters, Sugarfire Smoke House and Pappy’s Smokehouse, also come from — so chances are he knows a thing or two about barbecue. Locals saw the band bring the heat when they sold out Bluestem last summer, bringing a potent mix of rock and soul to the stage. And yes, it was sweaty.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

In light of the group’s name and the fact that he leaves it all on the stage with an energetic show, salty would be an appropriate way to describe this group.

Little Big Town

Country band Little Big Town will perform Friday, Aug. 30, at the inaugural Sister Cities Smokeout at Moorhead's Bluestem Center for the Arts. Special to The Forum
Country band Little Big Town will perform Friday, Aug. 30, at the inaugural Sister Cities Smokeout at Moorhead's Bluestem Center for the Arts. Special to The Forum

Playing off the one-two punch of singers Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, Little Big Town has always played on a balance between fun (“Pontoon,” “Day Drinking”) and feisty (“Little White Church”) for a blend that is sweet and sassy.

Trampled By Turtles

Trampled by Turtles will perform this week at Sister Cities Smokeout. Forum News Service file photo
Trampled by Turtles will perform this week at Sister Cities Smokeout. Forum News Service file photo

Imagine sitting around a campfire in the north woods of Minnesota, with friends picking away at guitars, banjos, mandolins and a fiddle. That’s the folksy approach Trampled brings to their music, but the string band plays with a fiery intensity and their harmonies rise and fly like embers from the flames.

Montgomery Gentry

Montgomery Gentry singer Eddie Montgomery will play Sister Cities Smokeout on Friday, Aug. 30. Special to The Forum
Montgomery Gentry singer Eddie Montgomery will play Sister Cities Smokeout on Friday, Aug. 30. Special to The Forum

Eddie Montgomery has always been kind of crusty, and that’s not a bad thing. The singer has always seemed a little rough around the edges, ready to throw down for a fight or pick up his feet and dance. He can be nostalgic, recalling the way things used to be — and big and boisterous in doing so.

Caitlyn Smith

Caitlyn Smith plays Sister Cities Smokeout. Special to The Forum
Caitlyn Smith plays Sister Cities Smokeout. Special to The Forum

The Cannon Falls, Minn., native may be best known for writing for other artists (Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and Cassadee Pope’s “Wasting All These Tears”), but her own single, “Starfire,” is a slow, smoldering burn.

Chris Hawkey

Perhaps better known for his work on Twin Cities sports radio — he produces broadcasts for the Minnesota Vikings — the former frontman for Rocket Club has a voice that’s just as rich and smooth on air as it is on the stage, kind of a caramelized sound.

Kind Country

Kind Country plays Sister Cities Smokeout. Special to The Forum
Kind Country plays Sister Cities Smokeout. Special to The Forum

Akin to Trampled By Turtles, this string band has bluegrass roots and jam band tendencies, resulting in a kind of jamgrass sound, similar to pot likker, the juices left in a pot after cooking a dish.

Tripwire

Fargo-based band Tripwire. Special to The Forum
Fargo-based band Tripwire. Special to The Forum

Fargo’s favorite band has developed a reputation for anything goes, high-intensity shows. They’ll play covers from the last 40 years with members changing instruments and sometimes jumping on mini trampolines, giving their sets a chopped energy.

If you go

What: Sister Cities Smokeout

When: Gates open at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead

Info: $89 for a single-day pass or $129 for a two-day pass; https://scsmokeout.com or 866-300-8300

Set times

Thursday:

  • Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, 8:45 p.m.
  • Trampled By Turtles, 7 p.m.
  • Caitlyn Smith, 5:50 p.m.
  • Kind Country, 5 p.m.

Friday:

  • Little Big Town, 8:45 p.m.
  • Montgomery Gentry, 7 p.m.
  • Chris Hawkey, 5:50 p.m.
  • Tripwire, 5 p.m.