Fireside pulls plug on music; ‘Matchmaker’ opening at Park Square

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
At Fireside Pizza: Denny Malmberg on accordion, David Briggs on bass, Charmin Michelle, Jim ten Bensel on bass trumpet.

One door opens, another closes. Vieux Carré, the new St. Paul speakeasy, will soon feature live music five nights a week. Fireside Pizza, a Richfield fixture, will not have live music when it reopens in late July after remodeling.

Fireside is a neighborhood pizza joint on Penn Avenue South. Why should we care?

Because history.

There’s been music at Fireside since the 1960s. Pianist Bobby Peterson, a legend in the Twin Cities jazz community, was once a regular. So was saxophonist Russ Peterson. And guitarist Clay Moore, who played with either Russ Peterson or saxophonist Gary Berg, and other musicians sat in. In 2004, keyboardist and educator Denny Malmberg performed at Fireside with one of his students, José James. Today James has an international career as an artist on the Blue Note label.

In 2005, Malmberg and singer Charmin Michelle got a twice-a-week gig there that lasted 10 years. Local and national artists often sat in. Malmberg remembers making music at Fireside with Delfeayo Marsalis, Richie Cole, and Minnesota Music Hall of Famers Larry Malmberg, Cliff Brunzell and Jeanne Arland Peterson. Also Jim ten Bensel, Maud Hixson, Rick Carlson, Dave Graf, Reynold Philipsek, Paula Lammers, Dorothy Doring, Lee Engele, Patrick Harison, Patty Peterson, Billy Peterson, Maryann Sullivan, Rhonda Laurie and Doug Haining, to name a few more.

It wasn’t just a place where people could hear music while they ate pizza and drank beer. It was a place where musicians could go to play, on their way home from somewhere else or because they were invited or simply felt like showing up with their ax.

Fireside owner Rich Thompson liked the music and dreamed of expanding it. In 2008, he told MinnPost, “I want to have a jazz cellar open four or five nights a week, where people sit at tables with white cloths.”

Earlier this week, he said, “In the beginning [of the remodeling], we were going to build a little stage. Over the last year, I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore.”

Thompson’s reason for pulling the plug: the PROs (Performance Rights Organizations), meaning ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). Each charges venues large and small (sometimes very small, like coffee shops) yearly license fees for the right to have live music. 

Venues don’t have to pay if they only feature original music, but how many musicians perform all originals? Malmberg and Michelle mined the Great American Songbook, so Thompson paid.

“They wanted more money all the time,” Thompson said. “I was paying $1,500 a year. They kept calling, wanting more money. That’s why I decided – I’m done. It’s not worth it anymore.”

Malmberg wrote in an email, “There is a saying, ‘Someday, all good things come to an end.’ I’m confident I also speak for Charmin in saying it has been a great run for 10 years. … We’d also like to thank Rich Thompson. … He hung tough with us through many a blustery January/February night.”

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The Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville has won the 25 Year Award from AIA Minnesota, which annually recognizes one exemplary architectural project that has withstood the test of time.

Designed by Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc., built in 1990 on five wooded acres on the grounds of St. John’s Abbey and University, the House of Prayer was a collaborative effort between the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and Saint John’s Abbey. A place for individual and group meditation, it includes several bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, a great room for gathering, a library and meeting space, and a prayer room. All materials used were natural to Minnesota. Some, including the granite on the walls and floors, came from the surrounding area.

Previous 25 Year Award recipients include the Lake Harriet Band Shell (Bentz/Thompson/Rietow), Colonial Church of Edina (Hammel Green and Abrahamson), Butler Square (Miller Hanson Westerbeck Berger) and the original Tyrone Guthrie Theater (Ralph Rapson Associates).

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Can you tell a good story in a Mississippi minute? Make a one-minute film about the Mississippi River, enter it in the 2nd Annual Mississippi Minute Film Festival, and it may be shown at the Minneapolis Riverfront Summerfront, the annual, open-to-the-public meeting of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership on Monday, Oct. 26 at the Mill City Museum. Deadline EOD on Sept. 15. Terms and conditions here.

The picks

Starts today (Friday, July 10) at the Lagoon: Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy. Masterworks of world cinema, “Pather Panchali” (1955), “Aparajito” (1957) and “Apur Sansar” (1959) brought India into the golden age of international art-house film. Two decades after the original negatives were burned in a fire, all three films have been meticulously reconstructed and restored. In Bengali with English subtitles; music by Ravi Shankar. FMI including trailers. Ends July 16.

Tonight at the Loft: “Secret Colors Revisited: A Dialogue on Race & the Arts.” Over 20 years ago, in response to the Rodney King beating and the violence in L.A. following the ruling that found the police innocent, writers Alexs Pate and David Mura created a multimedia performance piece, “Secret Colors,” about their lives as men of color and Asian American-African American relations. A film adaptation, “Slowly This,” was broadcast on PBS in 1995. Tonight Pate and Mura will revisit the issues explored in those works in light of the past year’s events including the Black Lives Matter and Million Artists movements. 7 p.m. FMI. $5–$10 suggested admission.

Opens tonight on Park Square’s Boss Stage: Girl Friday Productions presents “The Matchmaker.” Girl Friday has a special affinity for the works of Thornton Wilder; this is their third Wilder play, after “Our Town” (2007) and “The Skin of Our Teeth” (2009). “The Matchmaker” is a classic American comedy about love, money and adventure, set in 19th-century New York, directed by Craig Johnson and starring Karen Wiese-Thompson as Dolly Levi. FMI and tickets ($24). Ends July 26. Want to know more before you go? Download Girl Friday’s friendly, informative study guide.

Now at Historic Fort Snelling: “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War.” A traveling exhibit examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises: secession, slavery and wartime civil liberties. Come away with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis. On Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Visitor Center, Augsburg history professor William D. Green will give a talk titled “Lincoln, the Courts, the Constitution and the Crisis of Slavery.” All are free with site admission ($11 adults, $9 seniors/college students, $6 kids 6–17, free for MNHS members and children 5 and under). The exhibit closes Aug. 20.

Saturday at St. Catherine University: Art at St. Kate’s Art Fair. A juried show of fine craft on St. Kate’s green lawn under the trees. No traffic, no tar, all the time in the world to wander and meet the artists and see their work: clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, photography, paintings and more. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FMI. Free.

Saturday at Magers & Quinn: “To Kill a Mockingbird” Marathon Reading. Harper Lee’s new novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” will be released July 14. It’s the most pre-ordered print title on Amazon since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2007. Magers & Quinn will celebrate with a reading of Lee’s first (and only) other novel, published 55 years ago. 10 a.m. until whenever. FMI. Free.

Sunday at Centennial Lakes Park: Edina Jazz Festival. A brand-new jazz fest from Music in Edina, part of the city’s Arts & Culture Commission. Featured artists include vocalist and bassist Dan Ristrom, the New Orleans-style ensemble Midnight in Moscow and vocalist Patty Peterson. 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. 7499 France Ave. S. Free.

Tickets please

Tony winner and box-office record breaker “Kinky Boots” – book by Harvey Fierstein, songs by Cyndi Lauper – comes to the Orpheum on July 28 for eight performances. FMI and tickets ($49-$134).

Photo by Matthew Murphy
“Kinky Boots” comes to the Orpheum on July 28 for eight performances.

The Twin Cities’ great R&B band – born at Central High in St. Paul, discovered at First Avenue by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – Mint Condition returns to First Ave on Thursday, Aug. 6 for a concert benefiting the National Association of Black Journalists. With guests #MPLS, 100 & Felix of the Heiruspecs, and DJ Ray Richardson. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20 advance, $25 door).

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Maud Hixson on 07/10/2015 - 04:11 pm.

    Losing venues to increased licensing fees

    I truly miss all the small, usually family-owned music venues that hosted live jazz in the Twin Cities before they were priced out of the game. They were really the only spots where I enjoyed regular work, could try out new songs and arrangements, and where I had a special collaborative relationship with listeners. These losses continue to impoverish so many local jazz artists financially and creatively.

  2. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 07/11/2015 - 07:14 pm.

    It’s not the fees they are just being kind

    Many clubs still feature music and pay the same ASCAP fees. Sadly no one is listening to jazz much anymore. The latest jazz sales and download numbers are dismal. I listen to Jazz and it is on at my place of work on many days. KBEM is my most listened to station – but String Theory and Friday Blues are my favorite hours. I have seen hundreds of local jazz shows, but besides a couple very good friends we can’t get anyone else to go. I also know many local musicians who are very good jazz players (who have music degrees) and also enjoy playing other styles of music, and they have many places to play. Preferences in music and entertainment are always shifting. It seems things have been shifting away from jazz for a bit. Hopefully that will turnaround but unlikely in anytime soon. Even pop and pop rock has been purposely eliminating instrumental solos due to younger audiences having no interest in them.

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