Sonic Youth

Nonprofit teen centers fill the club void for minors

"My friend's allergic to Axe," says Danelle Hendrickson, 17. She's standing on a picnic table wearing a sleeveless top and black pants with no coat, shivering and breathing steam into the suburban night air. "I sprayed some on me, and now I'm running around trying to dissipate the smell."

Hendrickson is out in the cold, alone behind the building that houses the Garage, an all-ages club in Burnsville, Minnesota. Axe, she says, is a body spray. "Do not misspell Axe as 'ass,'" she adds.

This is Hendrickson's fourth Garage concert, so she's no expert on all-ages clubs. Her first show was Screaming Monkey Boner, she says, where a couple of female fans stripped to their bras and rubbed their breasts together. Tonight, the rumble inside is coming from ABEC, a less rambunctiously named young alt-rock band playing for about 50 kids.

"I believe there's a lot of people nowadays walking around feeling empty," says the band's singer between songs, his D.A.R.E. T-shirt looking less ironic by the second. "They need something to fill the void they feel in their life. I believe that's Jesus Christ."

There's a smattering of polite whoops. The room has the look and feel of a Halloween cafeteria--black walls, black lights, but with the reassuring presence of an ice cream vending machine. It's still before 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday, but the space is empty enough that one goth-looking girl can cartwheel across the floor unhindered. Headliners play early at the Garage, leaving mostly regulars to stick around and encourage the last band. The venue isn't Christian, per se--godless punks the Soviettes played here not long ago. But the audience is tolerant and attentive. That is, when they're not running around giggling.

Hendrickson, for one, isn't here for the music. "This is the only place I go," she says, joining a group that has spilled into the game room. "All my friends are here."

Her loyalty to the Garage isn't unusual. Of the two dozen young people interviewed for this article at various all-ages clubs, few had heard of the other venues available to them (see "Rock of All-Ages," below). Most music fans know about the 21+ bars in Minneapolis that host all-ages matinees (the Dinkytowner, the Triple Rock Social Club, the Quest, First Avenue). They attend arena shows or go to the occasional basement party. But before hip-hoppers Slug and the Heiruspecs performed at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, many fans didn't know it was an all-ages club, even though it sells beer and wine to those 21 and over. Other cafés and shops are similarly available to all ages: the Acadia Cafe and the Cedar in Minneapolis; Ginkgo Coffee House and the Speedboat Gallery in St. Paul.

Venues catering specifically to under-21-year-olds, meanwhile, are news to most kids. Most of the places are new, or in a new location: the high school-age-only Depot Coffee House (Hopkins); the all-ages Enigma Teen Center (Shakopee); the under-22-only Twin Cities Underground (Minneapolis); the hip-hop café the Java Joint (St. Cloud); the queer-friendly District 202 (Minneapolis); the Christian-oriented Club 3 Degrees (Minneapolis); and the art-and-music space Fallout Urban Art Center (Minneapolis). Taken together, they add up to a scene whose boom echoes the giddy ascendance of Generation Y--the most fertile creative community since "rock 'n' roll" gave a name to the booze 'n' drugs music that teenagers loved.

"Boom" isn't a word normally associated with the all-ages music scene. In recent years, the kids have been dealt discouraging blows: The Babylon Gallery burned down, the Fireball Espresso Cafe met the wrecking ball, and Eclipse Records closed with plans to relocate. All were vital venues for all-ages music. Meanwhile, the rave scene has retreated into clubs amid the prohibitive war on ecstasy. Young people don't need to look to a golden age of teen ballrooms of the '60s, or park parties in the '70s: They remember hip-hop shows at Bon Appetit just a few years ago, and the nightly calendar booked at the late Foxfire Coffee Lounge around the turn of this century.

The Foxfire was the last privately owned all-ages club to compete with the 21+ bars for national bands--and it's easy to imagine why nobody has tried since.

"Venues are there for the money from liquor," says local rapper Orikal, who is 15. "That's how they get most of their money, so that's why it's all 21+ shows."

A junior at St. Paul Open School, Orikal is speaking to me after a freestyle performance at the Minneapolis teen center Twin Cities Underground, on the same night as the Garage show. But when I ask him if he's heard of the Burnsville club, he says no. Neither has Ariel, 19, the spoken-word artist and rapper who performed earlier at the same event.

Even in your own city, just getting the word out is a daunting task for nonprofit clubs. "When I was growing up, we didn't even know this place existed," says Mike "Zeus" Achterling, 21, sound engineer for the Garage, who attended Eastview High School and the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley. Zeus discovered the Garage after it was opened as a rec center in 1999 at the Burnsville Youth Center Foundation--located cozily across the street from a police station.

"When you don't have a car, it's really hard to get around and go see shows, especially if you're a music fan," says Zeus. "But after I found out about this place when I was a senior, I came here and volunteered, and started helping out around here and booking bands and stuff."

Spurred by the Garage's adult founder, Eric Billiet, Zeus and other students transformed the space into a real club, albeit a nonprofit one (none of the bands are paid, and most of the equipment is donated). Now bands hoping to build their all-ages fan base show up with merch to sell, and many young groups can say they got their start here--the aforementioned SMB, Down and Above, and Skywynd for starters. Diverse acts such as P.O.S., Less Spoken, and Invasive Species might say the same of the Depot--a similarly city-funded, youth-staffed club run out of a converted train station in Hopkins.

"There's starting to be a circuit of places that up-and-coming bands can play," says Brad Eller, an adult supervisor at the Enigma Teen Center in Shakopee, which is overseen by the city's parks department. "I would say there have been over 80 bands here that have played since May, when we opened this year."

The emerging model for the all-ages club seems to be the youth community nonprofit organization--an entity with a board of directors and staff made up mostly of young people. At the Twin Cities Underground, the Depot, and the Garage, you'll see kids working the door, sound, and security. "It's kids policing kids," says Zeus.

As you might expect, youthful enthusiasm can sometimes power past adult concerns for persons or property. "We wanted to come in on burning parachutes," says 16-year-old Andy Myers, drummer for the Wayzata funk-hardcore band Hott Lixxx, who does sound at the Depot. "We wanted to play underwater."

But rocking is an education, sometimes an unexpected one. "Even though the positions are voluntary, it's really about them having responsibilities, and seeing them rise to those challenges," says the Depot's youth supervisor, Vidya Rao, 22. "We've had a couple students who maybe weren't doing so well in school, but we got them on the board and all of a sudden you see them doing amazing things."

Cops are a regular and welcomed presence at these venues, which are permitted to define curfews loosely. Anyway, it's tough to stir up a teenage riot without wheels. Back at the Garage, I find yet another junior high student shivering on a park bench outside.

"I meet a lot of people here," says Trevor Ranlow. "The bands are usually good, and sometimes they pass out demos, which makes it better, so you can remember what bands played what."

And what is he doing out here in the cold? Taking a smoke break? Meeting a girlfriend?

"I'm waiting for my mom," he says. Soon, he climbs into his parents' van, and is on his way home.

Find more photos of Garage nightlife by Jayme Clifton Halbritter at Peter S. Scholtes' blog Complicated Fun.

 


Rock Of All-Ages

 

If you're under 18 and looking for a place to see live music or DJs, here's your short list of venues and resources. For a complete list, visit the all-ages club page at Complicatedfun.com:complicatedfun.com/allages.

 

Club 3 Degrees (Minneapolis) Last year, this Christian music mecca (you'll pardon the phrase) relocated from Central Avenue to the den of sin--the Minneapolis Warehouse District, across from the Quest. With hip hop, metal, national, and local music, the lineup remains diverse. 113 N.
Fifth St., Minneapolis, info@club3degrees.com; 612.781.8488. www.club3degrees.comALL-AGES

 

The scene page atDUNation.com Like the Twin Cities Alternative Shows List (see below), D.U. Nation offers a useful current calendar of shows, with age restrictions included--but this one is all about the hip hop. Indispensable. www.dunation.com/scene.shtmlALL-AGES

 

The Depot Coffee House (Hopkins) This converted train station in Hopkins has been a teen center since 1998, hosting Friday night concerts (rock, hip hop, whatever) reserved for ages 14 to 18. A CD featuring the local bands that play there (Rude Awakening, New Renaissance, Help Wanted, and Emu) is available for $10 at the space. 9451 Excelsior Blvd., Hopkins; 952.938.2204. www.thedepotcoffeehouse.comAGES 14-18

 

The Dinkytowner (Minneapolis) Named "Best All-Ages Venue" in 2002 by City Pages on the strength of its great Sunday evenings alone, this basement club with pool tables books everything from hip hop to avant-garde noise. 412 1/2 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612.362.0427. www.dinkytowner.comSUNDAYS, ALL-AGES

 

District 202 (Minneapolis) This gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender youth center features 21-and-under dance nights every Saturday, as well as many other all-ages music events that are open to the public. 1601 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis 612.871.5559. www.dist202.org21 AND UNDER, SOMETIMES ALL-AGES

 

Enigma Teen Center (Shakopee) Overseen by the park and recreation board of Shakopee, this teen-run club, which opened in May 2004, puts on shows every weekend, with no age restrictions. 1255 Fuller St. S. Shakopee; 952.233.3828. www.enigmateencenter.comALL-AGES

 

The Fallout Urban Art Center (Minneapolis) Launched in 2001, this youth center-cum-art space fills the old Coffee Shock niche: It's sponsored by Source MN, Inc., a "faith-based" nonprofit organization, but features plenty of secular all-ages emo/punk/metal shows that don't force their religion onto bands or audiences. 2609 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.462.3873. www.falloutminneapolis.comALL-AGES

 

First Avenue and the 7th St. Entry (Minneapolis) The greatest club in Minnesota history was among the first to offer all-ages shows in the mid-'80s, and still books them today--though, sadly, the all-ages or 18+ dance nights seem to have disappeared. Check their calendar for details. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. www.first-avenue.comFREQUENTLY ALL-AGES, 18+

 

The Garage (Burnsville) Named "Best All-Ages Venue" in City Pages in 2004, this premier nonstop all-ages music club is booked by the Minnesota Teen Music Association, and is located in the Burnsville Youth Center Foundation, just off Nicollet Avenue, near 35W, 35E, and Highway 13, by the Minnesota River. 75 Civic Center Parkway, Burnsville, garage@ci.burnsville.mn.us; 952.895.4664. www.thegarage.netALL-AGES

 

The events page atMNVibe.com If raves are dead in the Twin Cities, here's where you'll find the dance-music-scene events that haven't given up the ghost. www.mnvibe.comALL-AGES

 

Minneapolis Underground Here's an e-mail Listserv devoted to music that's "under-underground"--in other words, challenging. Many of these shows are all-ages. launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/MPLSUNDERGROUNDALL-AGES

 

The Quest (Minneapolis) Along with its smaller upstairs space, the Ascot Room, the Quest books a ton of big-name 18+ shows, giving 21+ patrons a bracelet to drink, and features the 18+ Saturday dance night staple, Big Tyme Saturday Nyte Live. 110 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis; 612.338.3383. www.thequestclub.comMOSTLY 18+, SOMETIMES ALL-AGES

 

The Triple Rock Social Club (Minneapolis) The newest alternative music club in
Minneapolis is located about halfway between the Cabooze and the 400 Bar on the West Bank, and features about three all-ages music events per week, most of them punk matinees. The T-Rock lists age restrictions on its calendar. 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612.333.SEXY. www.triplerocksocialclub.comFREQUENTLY ALL-AGES

 

The all-ages page at Twin Cities Alternative Shows List This is the place to start. TC Shows List is the live-music bible for all-ages concerts in the Twin Cities, tirelessly updated and blessedly thorough, complete with detailed age restrictions. www.tcshowslist.com/allages.htmlALL-AGES

Twin Cities Underground (Minneapolis)

A nonprofit youth center for young adults aged 12 to 22, featuring all kinds of shows, from punk to rap. "Accompanied adults"--parents and friends--are welcome. 405 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612-824-2612. www.tcunderground.comAGES 12-22

 

What's Up Youth Info Line A great events/info phone line and website operated by Yo! The Movement. Young people can call What's Up? between noon and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and probably talk to someone their own age. 612.399.9999. www.whatsup.orgALL-AGES

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