To supplement our oral history of the Foxfire Coffee Lounge, here’s a look back at some of the out-of-town performers who passed through the club, often before anyone knew who they were.
The Magnetic Fields
JUSTIN ULYSSES MORSE [Firefox sound engineer]: I brought a Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder down there and recorded the Magnetic Fields live. I’m sure I have that tape someplace.
TOM ROSENTHAL [Foxfire booker]: It was just Stephin [Merritt] and [Claudia Gonson] playing keyboard. I didn’t really know them. I knew them more by reputation than I knew what their music was like. So it was a surprise to me that they were that barebones as well. But it was a great show. It was packed and people were very quiet.
CLAUDIA GONSON [manager/band member, the Magnetic Fields]: We had this idea that we could drive super-fast in one day from wherever we were, maybe somewhere in South Dakota. It was a ten-hour drive, and we gave ourselves exactly ten hours, with zero wiggle room. I had the map all figured out to land us into Minneapolis just in time for the show. My recollection is we drove up, rolled over the loading dock, and onto the stage.
JEREMY ACKERMAN [singer, Walker Kong and the Dangermakers]: It wasn’t what I expected from a Magnetic Fields show. I was a fan, and I was just really used to the electronic, ‘80s-sounding Magnetic Fields, so it was really different — almost acoustic.
MORSE: Their mellowness was able to carry in that room, because for the most part people were sober.
TODD FINK [singer, the Faint]: All the bands we met on the road on our level definitely knew of the Foxfire, or had played there or were going to play there.
ROSENTHAL: The Faint was something that a couple kids who’d been there told me, “You’ve got to check these guys out.” And their booking agent was relentless. That guy called for a couple months. The first time they played, there were ninety-five kids out for that show. Every single one of them was like, “When are they coming back?” After that, we had to book them for a matinee and evening show, and they both sold out.
ERIC BLOCK [Foxfire regular]: They were total unknowns, but they had this cool DIY light show, and they put on a whole production in that little back room there. That was fantastic.
Death Cab for Cutie
ROSENTHAL: Death Cab for Cutie were another one of those bands, like At the Drive-In, where they had a very strong idea of their identity and their sound and their direction. They were going to go someplace.
DAN HAUGEN [Foxfire barista]: I remember not knowing who Death Cab for Cutie were. It was slow enough that I was able to just wander back. I want to say there were twenty people there.
ROSENTHAL: I had to talk [Love-cars] into doing it. I wanted a strong local act who would draw.
JAMES DIERS [writer; singer, Love-cars]: I believe it was one of their first headlining tours. I remember it being not terribly full; maybe it was even a weeknight. They made a great impression as people; it was fun to just hang out and talk about music in a place where that was the focus.
At the Drive-In
TOM LOFTUS [founder, Modern Radio Record Label]: I’d seen Murder City Devils in the Entry, and was talking with the bass player, and he was like, “We just got done touring with At the Drive-In. If you ever get a chance, you should definitely see them.”
STEVE PEDRO [Foxfire booker]: It was such an insane, energetic show. I remember specifically [Cedric Bixler] just going crazy and climbing up the wall — like, walking up, running up the wall, and then flying off. I don’t know how you do that.
LOFTUS: They were just completely spastic. It was like, “Wow! That was crazy.”
ROBIN KYLE [Foxfire barista; singer, Valet]: I met Wesley Willis. I got head-butted by him for making him the wrong sandwich. I made it on wheat bread, and he said it was going to break his teeth. So I made it on white bread and he gave me a head-butt as a thank-you.
MORSE: I had seen Wesley Willis at the Uptown Bar a few years before, and it was sad because it was a bunch of 30-year-olds laughing at him. But the Foxfire show was kids, and they loved it. They were eating it up. He encored for about a half-hour. He’d say, “Say rock!” and they’d all yell “Rock!” “Say roll!” and they’d all yell “Roll!”
LINDSEY THOMAS [City Pages music editor, 2004-06]: That Wesley Willis show made me so sad. Seeing someone with obvious mental disabilities — I left early. It almost felt mocking of him.
The Dismemberment Plan
CRAIG FINN [singer, Lifter Puller]: At one point we drove back right from the last date of the tour with the Dismemberment Plan at the Foxfire. And there was this huge line — it was like, “Wow.” It felt really good, like, “This big show is about to happen.”
ROSENTHAL: I remember listening to Emergency & I a lot at the time. Travis [Morrison, the band’s frontman] was really a big fan of the place. I remember him telling the audience, “You should be very, very thankful you have this place.”