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Hometown band to 'let loose' at Winter Frolic

Two Harbors graduates and brothers Colton (left) and Hunter McCullough play "Great Balls of Fire" on Saturday, Feb. 3, at Endion Station in Duluth. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)1 / 3
Ricky "Chip" Sundstrom plays the drums during the Northwoods Band's performance at Endion Station. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)2 / 3
From left: Hunter McCullough, Colton McCullough, Ricky "Chip" Sundstrom and Dennis Pearson formed the Northwoods Band four years ago. (Photo courtesy of Hunter McCullough)3 / 3

The night of Saturday, Feb. 3, at Endion Station in Duluth, the Northwoods Band is making its way through a setlist that includes cover the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and other classic rock standards.

Nineteen-year-old Colton McCullough's fingers make their way up and down his guitar neck as he shows off his chops on hits from artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin, the Eagles and others. Before long, he slips off his guitar and trades places with Ricky "Chip" Sundstrom, who had been playing the drums to start their set. Sundstrom dons a bass guitar and lays down a groove while Hunter McCullough, Chip's older brother, starts playing the keyboard again.

"I'm a gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler," Hunter wails as he starts on the classic "Summertime Blues."

Even down a member — Dennis Pearson was away in New Jersey auditioning for a graduate music program — the Northwoods Band is busy playing local festivals and street dances as well as small bars and restaurants in the area. Nearly every weekend, the band is booked with one or more shows along the North Shore.

The members' musical interests are as diverse as their playlists, with Colton currently gravitating toward hard rocks sounds like the Foo Fighters, Colton listening to classic rock like Billy Joel and Sundstrom enjoying a classic country sound from artists like George Strait.

Colton, Hunter and Sundstrom all said one of their favorite shows to play are the street dances, like the culminating event at Two Harbors' Heritage Days each summer, that brings out many locals.

"There's a lot of people," Hunter said. "It's always packed and you just kind of get to let loose and have a good time."

The band was founded about four years ago by the four members while they were all still students at Two Harbors High School, but they have been playing together for about 10 years. Many bands have been together longer, but when only half of the members, Pearson and Sundstrom, can legally drink most of the beverages Endion Station pours, 10 years is a lifetime.

The band has developed a strong relationship among the four members and a process that works for them. Typically, when they are learning new songs, they practice their own parts individually and then work out the kinks as a group. They've gotten to know each other so well, they've occasionally been able to take requests, even if it's a song they've never played together before.

"We have such a history with the four of us all together," Sundstrom said. "We have an idea how each other plays, so we are able to always adapt to how we all play and we can fit into that."

The Northwoods Band returns home to play a marathon session at the Two Harbors Winter Frolic. From 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, the band will take over the tent outside the Two Harbors Curling Club. The band members are excited to play for friends, family and the entire community.

"It's so cool, the crowd is so welcoming," Hunter said. "We love everyone and they all love us and it's just a blast. It really is."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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