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Icehouse opens on Eat Street (PHOTOS)

Here, you can see the rugged majesty of the Icehouse's soon to be well-traveled steps to the upper level.
Here, you can see the rugged majesty of the Icehouse's soon to be well-traveled steps to the upper level.
Photo by Steve Cohen

After a few events already this week to ease into full-fledged business, Eat Street eatery and music venue Icehouse is now officially open to the public. Last night's grand opening party featured a couple of Honeydogs' frontman Adam Levy's other associated projects, Liminal Phase and Hookers & Blow, but it would be fair to say that the luxurious wood on nearly every surface in the place is going to be a headlining feature of every evening in the space -- located on Nicollet Ave. between 25th and 26th Streets.

Adam Levy leads Hookers & Blow through one of the night's many upbeat soul statements.
Adam Levy leads Hookers & Blow through one of the night's many upbeat soul statements.
Photo by Steve Cohen

A deli by day and a lounge by night, Icehouse is a gorgeous, large space with red brick walls, and reclaimed wood from floor to ceiling. The wood ceiling was a conscious choice to improve the room's sound quality, compared to the many ornate tin ceilings around town. And, it boasts an excellent full PA system. "I'm a lighting guy, so it will be full-on production," says co-owner Brian Lieback, a tech person renowned for his stage lighting, production and sound skills. "That's what I love about the room. It can be jazz, but it won't be so big and cavernous. It can also expand. We have the balcony so we can do a full-on show."

The extensive cocktail list includes several "shots" at $5 a pop.
The extensive cocktail list includes several "shots" at $5 a pop.
Photo by Steve Cohen

Lieback and partner Matthew Bickford (owner/chef of Be'Wiched Deli) hired former Turf Club manager Dave Wiegardt to serve as Icehouse's bar manager and booker. In fact, Wiegardt confides that a lot of after-hour scheming for this venue occurred at the Turf.

"Our inspiration started in the [Turf Club's old basement bar] Clown Lounge, when Matthew and I would go and tie one on and really get into the music -- I think Dave only kicked me out once or twice," Lieback recalls with a laugh. "We'd be like, 'Wouldn't it be cool to do something in this vein, with Matthew's food?' I've always wanted to do a music venue, Matthew's always wanted to open a restaurant, so we combined our hopes and here we are." 

The upstairs balcony area has a variety of vantage points that have minimal stage obstruction.
The upstairs balcony area has a variety of vantage points that have minimal stage obstruction.
Photo by Steve Cohen
The outside patio is far from an afterthought in the flow of the space.
The outside patio is far from an afterthought in the flow of the space.
Photo by Steve Cohen

Icehouse's stage is beautifully built with reclaimed Douglas Fir from an old snow fence in Wyoming, and the sight lines should give an excellent view from multiple angles. There will be a burnt orange velour curtain behind the stage, which can be pulled away sometimes for projections. Adding to its visual delights is a small area away from the music to dine and chat, with huge windows overlooking a stunning new Icehouse Plaza featuring a Zoran Mojsilov stone sculpture using historic facia from the Metropolitan Hotel with cool lighting at night.

But most importantly, "The stage is smack-dab in the middle of the dining room," Lieback says while showing us his "favorite spot" -- the balcony, stage right with art decorating the brick walls. "I don't know if you can make much more of a statement than that. We're serious about the music!"

The crew's longtime friend and collaborator J.T. Bates, who had a Monday night jazz residency with his band Fat Kid Wednesdays from 1998 to early 2011 at the Turf's downstairs Clown Lounge, now will bring Monday night jazz to Icehouse. After more than a year since Fat Kid Wednesdays' last performance, Bates is excited for the return.

2528 Nicollet Ave. S.
2528 Nicollet Ave. S.
Photo by Steve Cohen

"This feels really good because it's like family. They really want it there!" he says. "And, there's the excitement of bringing our friends." Bates adds that programming will be similar to his Clown Lounge nights, but will feature different bands rather than a house band, and avant garde jazz will only be a portion of what he has in mind for the night.

"They're friends of musicians, so their commitment will be huge," notes Mike Rossetto, who plays with Bates in the Pines and is the Cedar Cultural Center's marketing coordinator. "Musicians will enjoy playing there. It won't be like a corporate music venue just trying to fill nights with music."

Rossetto and the Pines' David Huckfelt will host eclectic duets as part of "Duo-Tone" Sunday nights, the Southern-themed Sunday brunches are set to be replete with gospel and folk, and weekend nights will feature lounge music. Thursdays will be the larger showcase nights booked by Wiegardt, a music-lover and a drummer who performed at the Turf with bands such as the Magnolias, and Tulip Sweet. On those nights, "We'll have big shows when we'll be doing kind of what other venues are doing," says Weigardt. "It's going to be a space where bands naturally find a home, as opposed to: we've got to fill a Tuesday, a Wednesday."

Related:
Icehouse: A sneak peek before today's Eat Street opening


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