Shane Maland performs with members of Little Winter and The Season. Photo by Cassandra Maland
Story by Shane Maland
The parking lot at 916 Main Ave. in Fargo was busier than usual on Friday, April 29.
Time to celebrate
It was the start of a big weekend for The Red Raven. Celebrating its grand re-opening, the coffee shop put on quite a show throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For starters, on Friday a plant and seed exchange was held in the courtyard while an 8-bit music show blasted retro-gaming tones through the walls of the re-invented fire station. Day two, Saturday, was for the artists. Do-it-yourself art markets, poetry readings and a variety show to close the night kept the coffee shop grinding through the day. Closing out the celebratory weekend in style, a cut-throat cribbage tournament on Sunday proved to be the whipped-cream on top of this coffee shop’s great celebration.
Something for everyone
I’m not a cribbage player. I’m also not that great at performing electronic music. I’m much better at dancing to it, but that also isn’t saying much. Have you ever seen an old Turkish grandpa dancing to house music? Look it up.
The day that caught my attention was Saturday. Sara Curry, co-owner of The Red Raven asked me to perform at the Saturday night variety show. How could I say no?
A seasoned veteran
I’ve had my share of shows in town. The Red Raven nearly tops my list of favorite venues, if not overshooting it. It is a beautiful building, and the community feeling between patrons will keep the espresso-fueled scene chugging along for years to come.
That night, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with fellow MSUM student and local funny-man Adam Quisnell. Have you ever imagined what the offspring of Thor and Jack Black would look like? Meet Adam Quisnell. He would tell you the same thing.
After rousing applause, I was joined on stage by two members of the local favorites Little Winter, Kris Adamson and Ryan Weisse, and by The Season’s drummer, Joel Lunsetter. We had started playing together the morning of, but were lucky enough to work out the kinks before the performance.
Enjoyable place to play
The Raven is an interesting place to play. Located inside a renovated fire station, the nearly unreachable ceilings and narrow corridor of the performance area offers acoustics unlike any other in town.
We played a 45-minute set – long by my standards. The Red Raven will give performers and listeners a musical experience that is hard to find anywhere else in Fargo. And if you’re wondering, all artists and attendees are safely recovered from a three-day caffeine binge and ready to begin the next.
What is your favorite thing about The Red Raven? If I missed something, comment!
There is a growing number of singer/songwriters striking a chord with many listeners in the F-M area, and local music venues are tuning in.
I took it upon myself to find Fargo’s top three venue choices to hear local singer/songwriters.
`Can I get a drum roll?’
Coming in at no. 3 is the Fargo VFW club. Typically a spot for cover- bands, the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars club at 202 Broadway occasionally hosts local singer/songwriters. With an open floor plan allowing for an audience in the one hundreds and a drink list that rivals those numbers, this venue is a hidden gem if you’re looking for a place to relax with a pitcher of cold beer and listen to the local artists. Did I mention the pull-tabs? With the losing tabs pulled and thrown to the ground, the floor of the VFW is a minefield of bad-luck gambles. Even so, the venue is just the place for a singer/songwriter to test his or her luck. Hear what local musician Michael Pink has to say about Post 762:
`Wherever you go, there you are’
No. 2 on my list is a venue that has been a staple in the music community, even after a change in location. A haven for artists, musicians and espresso sippers, The Red Raven at 916 Main Ave. in Fargo offers 20-foot ceilings, a variety of hot and cold drinks and an intimate feeling of community and acceptance that only a locally owned coffee shop can offer. The Raven holds an open performance night on the first Thursday of each month and hosts shows of several varieties – perhaps the greatest of these being of the singer/songwriter type. Listen as local musician Morgan Ranstrom describes his experience at The Red Raven:
`Time to get a new perspective’
on my short-list is a venue that you have probably never heard of, located in a hotel that you are very familiar with. The Perspectives Lounge hosts a performance series every Wednesday night on the second floor of the downtown Radisson hotel at 201 Fifth St. North, Fargo. Buzzing with music fans and business travelers alike, the Lounge presents a unique listening experience with a panorama of downtown Fargo, all the while offering great drink specials, delicious food and one of the best feelings of musical community in downtown Fargo. If you want a place to relax, hear some great musical talent and enjoy some cheap beer, The Perspectives Lounge has its doors open, speakers on and wait-staff ready. Little Winter guitarist, Ryan Weisse, has this to say about performing at The Perspectives Lounge:
(Edited by Ryan Kartes, MSUM Integrated Ad/PR major)
While the Red River steadily rises, two men face challenges that weren’t discussed in their job descriptions.
Mark Ryan is the director of collections and operations at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, N.D.
On one side of the river, Mark Ryan, the director of collections and operations for the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, has the daunting task of readying the institution’s collections for a spring flood.
“We take it very seriously,” Ryan says. “In essence, they are irreplaceable.”
They are ready for action
Ryan has a disaster preparedness plan in place for both the facility as well as the collections. Letting the scale and location of the emergency dictate his next actions, Ryan must be ready for anything.
“We have off-site locations lined up and standing agreements for secure storage off-site. If it’s something as communitywide as a flood, we look at our own facility and just move things up,” says Ryan.
What to grab first
During the crest of 2009, Ryan decided to move the collection to the second floor, far from reach of potential water damage. Perhaps the biggest decision he faces is determining which objects to grab first.
The collections at the Plains Art Museum will need to be prepared for the move to the upper levels of the building.
“There is a plan in place and priorities with what objects need to be taken first,” says Ryan. ”The flood forecast of ’09 gave us the benefit of time. The plan was thought of as if we didn’t have time.”
It is a plan that the museum has had in place for nine years. “There are a lot of variables that go in to it,” says Ryan. “Importance to the museum, value, susceptibility, the type of media it is – it is a very regimented plan. For good or bad, we have experience doing this.”
Ryan has worked as the director of collections and operations for the past four years. He received his BS in Biology and BA in History from the University of has an MA in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. Ryan was first hired as museum registrar 11 years ago.
It comes with the territory
Anticipating an inevitable flood with an unpredictable crest is something that community members in the river’s path have dealt with for years. It comes with the territory. Especially when that territory is only a few blocks away from the river.
“Every place is susceptible to different sorts of emergencies and disasters,” Ryan says.
The sun shines on the Plains Art Museum as the institution prepares for another spring flood.
“Here, next to the Red, it’s something that we plan for.”
Having the right tools
The most beneficial resource Ryan and the museum’s collection have aside from the flood reports is the Fargo Flood homepage. Using the map of the floodplain and knowing the elevation of the museum allows him to constantly monitor the rise of the water and better prepare for moving the collection at a moment’s notice.
Flooding isn’t the only enemy of the museum’s collection. Of equal importance is the possibility of a sewage backup of the museum’s 100-year-old plumbing system.
“It has old drain tile around the building and is connected to the main sewer drain on First Avenue,” Ryan says. “Depending on the level of the river, we have different trigger points at which points we will do different things. Moving collections is the last resort. Moving anything in any capacity, whether it’s across the room, up the stairs or across the country, each put the pieces in peril.”
With each passing flood, Ryan faces a new balancing act. He takes those opportunities to improve the institution’s emergency plans for future floods and is well prepared to fend off the Red once again in the coming weeks.
Fighting the same fight
The distance between the two institutions is only 0.6 miles.
The labyrinthine underbelly of the Hjemkomst houses artifacts vital to the heritage of Clay County and many Minnesotans.
It is Markus Krueger’s job to coordinate the volunteer efforts necessary to protect the facility – indoors and out.
“If the crest this year reaches the record crest of 2009, I’m not worried,” says Krueger while surveying the newly constructed 44 foot clay dike that surrounds the replica
Water drips from the roof of the Hopperstad church in Moorhead.
Hopperstad Church. After the showing from sandbag volunteers during the 2009 flood, Krueger has full confidence in the volunteers that will indefinitely help to protect the Hjemkomst grounds this year. “Like thousands of others, I’ve been sandbagging in all of the flood fights since 1997. I don’t see our citizens and civil servants failing our city.”
Preparing the collection
Walking the corridors linking the collection rooms beneath the Hjemkomst, it was evident that the task ahead of Krueger and the other staffers is an intimidating one. Rooms are filled with objects as large as church altars to as small and fragile as 100-year-old newspaper clippings, not to mention the multiple file cabinets filled to the brim with thousands of antique glass negatives.
“Those are probably the most valuable pieces here,” says Krueger. He along with volunteers from the community had to move every one of the delicate slides with carts. “We sounded like a bunch of tractors.”
Shelving units holding pieces of the collection are marked at the second shelf. Everything below that will have to be moved if the river hits a certain level. For now, one-inch wooden blocks have been placed under every leg of shelving units and beneath objects too large to be moved from the ground.
Preparing for the fight
Krueger has been vigilant inside the facility, watching for leaks and preparing plans for sandbagging and collection transportation.
This year, a clay dike has replaced the sandbag dike that helped keep the river away from the Hopperstad church in 2009.
In 2009, Krueger coordinated volunteer sandbaggers to defend the church and the visitor center from the rising water when a clay dike wasn’t available right away.
“It was our flood fortress,” boasted Krueger.
Krueger has a BA in Art History from MSUM. He calls Moorhead his hometown and has worked at the Hjemkomst Center since 2007.
No matter which side of the river they are on, Krueger and Ryan have an important mission in front of them. For now, all they can do is wait and keep their galoshes at arm’s reach.
Watch and listen as Markus Krueger recalls the 2009 flood fight:
Black paint and show posters still collide with the recognizable stone walls of the main stage room of what used to be The Red Raven.
The New Direction will always host all ages shows.
Today, the coffee room has been transformed into the central hangout room – complete with seating, a record player and an entertainment center, television and Nintendo 64. It also includes a stereo and a cardboard cutout of Will Smith peering from the window facing the outside stairway.
The sign above the once coffee stained bar reads “The New Direction: All Ages – Always.” That’s the reason for the hangout space. That’s the reason for re-opening the spot in the first place. The New Direction is here for the kids that feel that when The Red Raven left, they didn’t just lose a cool coffee bar and hangout spot; they lost their music as well.
The Raven took away more than coffee
The new location for The Red Raven isn’t suitable for metal and thrash music, so bands that used to have an easy time finding a space to play all ages shows have had a harder time finding a place to play.
“It’s really unfortunate that the Red Raven will no longer be a venue for ‘thrash’ music or loud music of any kind. I hope the owners reconsider or that the efforts to re-open the old space for loud music are successful,” said local fan Brandon Marback after reading of the restrictions found at the new Red Raven location. “I used to go to the Red Raven all the time and it wasn’t for the coffee, books, wall art, free wi-fi or the fantastic atmosphere, it was for the Rock ‘N’ Roll. I wonder where all the high school rockers will be able to play now.”
The fellows at The New Direction are here to help, Brandon.
“All of us book hardcore, metal and punk,” said venue operator Chuck Wang.
The wall of the seating room before you enter the main venue is plastered with band posters.
“We’re going to try and diversify and make a place for all musicians and all artists.”
The New Direction won’t just be for music
Through an employee’s only door at the back of the main music room, The New Direction venue boasts a large room that has since lost its partitioned walls, and instead shows off an open floor plan perfect for an up and coming artists’ studio.
“The idea to utilize this space, we wouldn’t have to find the people to do it because there are already plenty of artists that we’ve discovered that just don’t have studios. So, allowing them to use this space is using up unused space in our building,” said co-founder Rusty Steele.
Local artist Chelsey Dahlstrom is leading the push for a New Direction art studio.
“During the summer, I want to start doing workshops with local kids – screen-printing, Shrinky Dinks, stuff like that,” said Dahlstrom. “That’s the whole point of The New
A sculpture by local artist Chelsey Dahlstrom is front and center in the main room of The New Direction.
Direction, having it open to all ages.”
Dahlstrom is also looking to start workshops for adults throughout the community.
“There are more opportunities now for different artists and different mediums. Midwest Mud isn’t just for ceramics people, it’s for everyone. I want to do that, too. It’s just another opportunity for all ages. Even if they aren’t artists, they’ll still have a place to work. That’s the plan for it,” said Dahlstrom.
The open space used to be an antique shop. It’s fitting that the founders of The New Direction have found their own way to bring back the past that made this venue a staple in the first place.
Erasing the stigma
The venue still faces challenges. They are a self-proclaimed “non-profit” business. Their main income, aside from admission, is all monetary donation. At the end of each month, the venue will host a benefit show for itself in hopes of at least breaking even. But, money challenges aren’t the only issues weighing on the minds of the founders.
The stigmas of punk and metal music, as well as those genres fans, have long been the plank in the eye of many communities around the world. The New Direction wants to change the ideas of many in the community by offering a clean and safe performance venue for kids of all ages in the area.
“We don’t want to have the community look down on us. These are ‘smart punks’ doing something good for the community,” said Steele. “The more the community knows that this is a good thing, the more the city would feel scrutiny if they ever thought of shutting it down.
The venue is gaining respect
The founders are also getting nods from unlikely allies.
“We were just at the bank two days ago and the branch manager came up and said, ‘It’s great that you guys are opening that. My son always used to go to shows and he doesn’t have a place anymore,” said the third New Direction founder Jack Stenerson.
The venue displays a strict no drugs, no alcohol policy.
“We want it to be a very positive space; somewhere where parents can come down and say, ‘My kids are safe here,’” said Wang. “It’s hard to find a place like this in a lot of cities, not just Fargo. It’s hard to make it happen, but it’s something that we’re working on.”
It looks as if The New Direction is living up to its name.
Edited by Grant Nelson, MSUM journalism major
What do you think? Is a venue like The New Direction a good addition to the Fargo music scene?
Artists want to be noticed. Artists need to be noticed. And when that want transcends into need, it helps to know a man like Michael Weiler.
Local producer and promoter Michael Weiler is taking a stand on the other side of the microphone for a change.
Michael Weiler is the Renaissance artist of Fargo, but not the kind of art that gets your hands dirty and ruins your clothes (well, hopefully). As well as being a musician, Weiler helps to produce and record, promote and expose up and coming musicians around the valley.
Weiler is taking his word-of-mouth skills to the radio waves with a Monday morning radio show premiering later this month on KNDS radio. The show will feature music and interviews with local artists.
No matter the genre or medium, Michael Weiler was born with a voice to be heard throughout the Fargo music scene.
It’s all in the family
Michael was born into a large artistically inclined family with eight kids in all.
“When I was very young we all had to take piano. I took piano for many years, and was very bad at it. But it taught me almost just enough to get by,” said Weiler.
Michael’s father has a Ph.D. in music. His sister, Brenda Weiler, is an accomplished singer/songwriter. She has six albums under her belt, the latest of which was produced by Minneapolis-based Speakerphone Records. His mother and sister Brenda are both involved with the F-M Chamber Chorale. Mark Weiler is known on the local music scene as Dj Guy Jean. He and Brenda also operate Ecce Art and Yoga on Broadway. Another sister, Sarah, works for the art council in Santa Fe, N.M. and performs with the Desert Chorale.
Weiler finds a new twist to an old song
Switching from piano to bass guitar in the early 1980s, Michael began performing with local favorites The Fates and guitar in the 1990s for the group, Slippy Mcgee.
After playing the local circuit, Michael decided to put down his axe and put on his studio headphones. Today, Weiler is helping revitalize downtown Fargo not through his own playing, necessarily, but through recording and exposing young local artists.
Weiler adjusts his microphones for a recording session in his studio.
“I really like digging around in Fargo and trying to find artists that haven’t really played much, if at all. It’s kind of like when I was young and finding records that no one had ever heard of, or at least I thought no one had ever heard of,” said Weiler.
With a little help from his friends
Michael has helped with the exposure of such groups as Little Winter and Wasted Effort; along with solo artists: Eden Parker, Diane Miller, Brooks West and as many others that are willing to walk the singer/songwriter tightrope, hour by hour and note by note.
“It’s nice to have someone like Michael in the FM area who cares so much about local musicians and local art,” said Little Winter’s lead guitarist, Ryan Weiss. “There’s a lot of great music in the area and he’s willing to spend his spare time working to bring it to the public. As someone who loves to go see live music, I really appreciate that.”
Weiler helps local artist Cameron Marc Nichols prepare for a recording session.
Finding a place to play
Along with his brother, Mark, Michael is bringing in new acts to perform in his Singer/Songwriter Series at Ecce Art and Yoga in May. The gallery is an intimate setting for the small, mostly acoustic artists that Michael helps out. It is a venue that is unlike any other in downtown Fargo. Weiler is also putting on a show at the new Red Raven Espresso Parlor on April 16.
“Downtown always brings about that kind of alternative edge to things, I have always thought,” said Weiler. “All the great stuff, whether it be music or art, seems to congregate downtown. I think that is what has always happened here too, or is happening.”
It’s a long, cold winter for performing
Though the revitalization of downtown Fargo has spread to the music scene, there is still one factor that will annually turn people away and keep promoters from turning around the “open” sign; the winter.
“I think the local scene is good and not so good. It kind of depends on what is important to you as an artist. Fargo in general is a severe microcosm of what other cities are going through, too. But it is tough here for a lot of reasons, winter being one of them,” said Weiler.
How to go from wanting to being
Weiler has plenty of instruments and equipment in his studio for artists of all talents.
No matter the season; no matter how much snow packs his driveway or river-water floods his recording studio basement; Michael Weiler will do what he can to please the musicians that are stepping over the threshold of wanting to be noticed and into the world of being noticed.
“I am a fan first, and always will be,” said Weiler. “It’s more of a need, it’s my drug in a way. It always has been.”
Do you think DIY recording studios benefit Fargo’s musicians?
Turn up your radios. Michael Pink is about to blow up the airwaves.
“Another one of those stupidly talented pop guys,” said music critic and author John Borack.
“Anytime a guy who has written a book on John Lennon puts me in their top 20, I’m a happy man for an open-ended amount of time,” said Pink.
Going Coast to Coast
Michael Pink, the preeminent pop/rock musician of North Dakota, has a growing following of loyal listeners, and not just in the Valley. From New York City to Eugene, Oregon, Pink’s songs are reaching an audience of ears he could only dream of playing for. It wasn’t a long road that he had to take for his music to bloom, but it was a winding one that took him out of living rooms and into venues as historic as the Fargo Theatre. He even earned himself a trip to a Grammy winning producer’s studio.
The Recording Environment
Pink has been used to recording his albums in various houses across the Midwest, working the knobs and mixer boards himself. He won’t have to do that anymore.
Monthly, Pink has been traveling to Minneapolis to record with Kevin Bowe, writer and producer. Bowe is the producer that discovered Fargo’s own Jonny Lang, and has written with the likes of Leo Kottke, Robben Ford, The Rembrandts and Peter Case (just to name a few).
"When Grammy award winning people take notice, it’s definitely settling. I’m doing something right."
“There is a confirmation there. He is associated with some of my heroes. When Grammy award winning people take notice, it’s definitely settling. I’m doing something right,” said Pink.
But don’t think that the golden roads of the music business can steer Pink away from the rural dirt roads of his home state.
A Wagon Full of Vagabonds
Michael’s favorite guitar is his grandfather’s 1961 Gretsch Tennessean.
“He took out a loan at the bank in Enderlin to get it. He played in a band with my grandmother and played this guitar at my parents wedding dance in 1976. He was a hard working farmer. He did a fine job of raising my mother and played a fine guitar, although I never got the chance to hear him play it.”
His grandparents, Bernerd and Marilyn Stangler, were in a band called The Vagabonds.
“They were actually kind of a big deal, back in the day. They had a wagon that they would hook up to the pickup with the band’s name on it, and they’d come pull in to your town and play in some un-air-conditioned town hall. They always encouraged me,” said Pink.
“Anytime a guy who has written a book on John Lennon puts me in their top 20, I'm a happy man for an open-ended amount of time.”
The Way Music Should Be
“There’s something about the downtown feel. It’s where music lives. It doesn’t live out in Rose Creek. I love how you can just walk off the street and there is music. The next place has more music. That’s the way it should be. People can knock on the local music scene, but there is still music going on. It could be better, but it could be worse,” said Pink.
No matter what your music scene, it’s time to turn up your stereos and help Michael paint this town Pink.