Dinkytown patrons lament music void

Robyn Repya

The recent closings of Bon Appetit and Borealis Caffe – two lively and popular Dinkytown music venues – have left a void for local music lovers.

“The conjunction of both of them stopping music so close to one another is really a loss for Dinkytown,” said Dan Zileske, president of the Dinkytown Business Association and the owner of Espresso Royale.

Those who remember the music scene in Dinkytown 40 years ago say the emphasis on music has been dwindling ever since.

Dinkytown veteran “Papa” John Kolstad has been hanging around and performing in the area since the early 1960s. He said it used to be a hot spot for music and culture, a place where all sorts of music and people came together.

“There’s something about music that is of great importance to us as beings,” Kolstad said. “When you lose that, you lose a focus. That’s what happened to Dinkytown.”

Although it was a popular place, he said, the neighborhood faced some difficulties.

“The city kind of looked down their nose at (Dinkytown), probably because of a lot of the counter-culture things going on,” he said.

But not everyone feels that way now.

Paul Zerby, Minneapolis City Council member for the 2nd Ward – which includes the Dinkytown area – said he wants to encourage small businesses to come and stay in the area.

He remembers the 1960s Dinkytown and wants the area to have the diversity and cohesiveness it once had.

“It was really an eclectic, almost bohemian little nesting place,” he said.

Zerby is working with the community and University Relations to design a cohesive “vision” for Dinkytown, he said.

“I would like to see (Dinkytown) not homogenized,” he said.

Zileske said people in the business sector of Dinkytown need to move forward and ask themselves some important questions about the area’s future.

“How do you take this great essence and carry it forward to make something current, something hip?” he said.

Zileske said that a year ago there was talk within the community of planning a folk festival, but he said it failed to materialize. However, the idea has not died.

Kolstad, president of Mill City Music, plays mostly folk and blues music, and said he enjoyed playing at the Borealis because it was a unique venue.

Kolstad performed there just before the closing and said he was devastated to see the venue shut down.

He said the Borealis was a special place because it showcased acoustic music, which Kolstad said has a unique intimacy.

University freshman Marie Giago said she has a lot of friends who played at the Borealis, and she doesn’t know where some of them will play now.

Giago said she likes to see shows in Dinkytown, at places such as the Borealis and the Dinkytowner, because the venues have a laid-back atmosphere.

But she said there needs to be a broader musical spectrum represented in Dinkytown.

“The University has so many different kinds of people; there should also be a variety of music to go along with that,” she said.

J.G. Everest, program director for the Dinkytowner, said he has recently been discussing with other Dinkytown business owners the possibility of an outdoor music festival in Dinkytown, something similar to a block party.

Everest said the festival would be a good way to bring more music to the area.

He said he currently tries to offer musical variety for students in the acts he books.

Everest, a University alumnus, said he doesn’t discriminate against any musical genres.

“The main things for bands playing here is that they have to be good,” he said.

Before the recent closing of the two area venues, Everest said, he thought the musical variety offered in a one-block radius in Dinkytown was unmatched anywhere in the city.

“It would be hard to come to Dinkytown and find something you’re not interested in,” he said.

Everest said the new scene is a change from when he was a University student a few years ago. Back then the lack of live music was frustrating, he said.

Kolstad said Dinkytown performs an essential function for students over the years by exposing them to different music and people. He said he wants that to continue.

“It’s good for students and young people to be exposed to different things – that’s why we send them to college,” he said.

Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]