The Cabooze Is 40: Memories and Highlights

Open since 1974, the Cabooze has made its name through booking a variety of R&B, reggae, and rock acts, all the while supporting local bands who have gone on to play larger stages in front of national audiences. Serving niches of R&B/blues in the '70s and jam rock today, the venue has a history of booking something for everybody.

The Cabooze has hosted James Brown, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Snoop Dogg, Social Distortion, Sheryl Crow, and locals such as the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Trampled By Turtles, and oh so many more. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once came and stood front row to watch Peter Tosh play.

The club's reputation was established by early booker Charlie Campbell, who was with the venue until 1982. Since 2006 it has been owned by the After Midnight Group, which also owns the Cowboy Jacks restaurants and Sally's in Dinkytown.

Gimme Noise sought out some stories from the staff and from others around town. This is far from an exhaustive history, but nonetheless these are some of the nights that stood out. After all, notes booker Jeff Taube, "There's a story every night, it's if you can remember them all."

See also:
RIP Cabooze manager Jason Aukes


Blues Traveler's John Popper with the Gooneybirds
Jeff Taube (Cabooze talent booker): "There was one night where Blues Traveler was scheduled to play and the van broke down. I think it was a snowstorm. So John Popper, the harmonica player, came down and the Gooneybirds, which was the Sunday night house band at the time, backed him and they kind of threw it together and did some jams. It was a great show, one of the best down here."

Beat Farmers
Steve Makens (Cabooze general manager): "One of my favorite bands was the Beat Farmers. The lead singer wore a cowboy hat and a black, long trenchcoat and drank more Jägermeister than anybody I've ever seen on stage. They'd set bottles of Jäg around for him to grab and they'd put plastic over all the monitors there because he would just pick up a bottle [and dump it into his mouth]. He had one trick where he would sit down on the ground, put the bottle of Jäg in between his feet, and lean back and pour it into his mouth. He was just crazy.

"The first time I ever saw somebody stage dive -- he dove in backwards, actually -- the crowd carried him and then he gets onto the bar and starts singing and walking around the bar and then he drops back. It was just awesome... probably about '90 or '91."

George Clinton
Taube: "George Clinton played here. The driver that was supposed to take him back to the hotel after the show was completely drunk so she asked if I could take him back to the hotel, which I was more than happy to do. So I took him and his wife. They got in the car and I started to take them back to the hotel and immediately out came the goodies."

Fuck Danzig
Quinn (bartender): "How about the Fuck Danzig show? That stands out. On the marquee up front the next day one of our barbacks put up, in huge letters, 'FUCK DANZIG.' He didn't like this room at all, even though he knew all about it before."

Steve Makens: "He was fine during sound check. Something happened after sound check and he tripped out. He was fine..."

Quinn: "That's the only cancellation I can remember. It's very very rare that it would happen the day of the show like that. We still had a show that night, we had all the openers go on for a free show...he'll never play here again. He would never be welcome."


Marvin Gaye Tribute
Taube: "I used to do a Marvin Gaye tribute here (I still do it at Bunker's) that did very well. There was one year we had Odell Brown. He co-wrote 'Sexual Healing' and lived in Richfield -- just an incredibly miraculous musician with a huge, long pedigree of all the people he's played with and everything.

"He was putting out CDs out of his house and I said we'd love to have you come down for the Marvin Gaye tribute. If you feel like playing we'd love to have you play but, either way, you and your wife should come down. He came to the show and said, "I'm not going to play but this is a wonderful event. Thank you for having me." When it got time for "Sexual Healing" he was standing next to the stage and he just walked up and sat down at the organ. It was the first and only time he'd played the song in front of people and it was quite a deal for me to have him in the room. That was a special night."

Fela Kuti

Taube: "They came in through the back door and they laid down, not a red carpet, but like a carpet... His drummer played here recently... Fela was a big, big deal. He had 12 women with him. I'm like, 'What is this?' that was pretty interesting. We haven't seen that since."

Rebelution and J Boog

Quinn: "We had the power go out right as the opener started. It was out for an hour and half or something. We served beers in the dark with a flashlight.

"They brought the power off the bus and they did an acoustic set and then the power came on at the last second. It was pretty cool."

The Butanes
Quinn: "Not on a Wednesday, but like two years ago. There wasn't a large crowd in here. It was easy to move around. Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum walks in, buys a PBR tallboy from me, walks right up front and starts looking at Curt Obeda playing the guitar. Curt goes, 'Hey Dave!' He gets another beer. Next thing you know he walks up, takes Curt's guitar and starts playing. He ends the song, leaves, gets another beer and sits and watches the band, and then he just took off, all in about an hour. Curt was like, 'Dave Pirner, ladies and gentlemen, playing with the Butanes.'"

Willie and the Bees
Taube: "They hadn't played together in 14 years, their fans are pretty much 65 and up, and we had 950 people in here, which shows that those people do go out. They don't drink as much as the 21-year-olds but they do go out and they do drink and everybody had a good time. That was fun and it's nice to keep those connections. A lot of those people hadn't been to the Cabooze in 20 years and hopefully they see a show on the wall and come back. I would say Willie was the highlight [of the anniversary shows] so far."

Rebirth Brass Band
Chris Riemenschneider (Star Tribune): "New Orleans funk always seems to fit in well at the Cabooze, since they both fall between the crossroads of R&B, jam-band rock and hip-hop. Never was this more apparent than when Rebirth Brass Band played there just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005. I talked to Phil Frazier and a couple other guys in the band before the show, and literally all eight of them lost their home. They weren't playing for fun, they were playing for their lives. You could feel it in the performance. Remember: This is the music meant to turn funerals into a party. The club's then-booker (James "Taco" Martin) and the staff turned the show into a fundraiser for a NOLA charity (in addition to the normal gig money for the band). "We're starting the rebuilding right here," was one of the chants that night.

Kool Keith, Buckethead, GZA, Polica

P.O.S.: "My favorite thing that ever happened at the Cabooze was watching Kool Keith count to 30 in a freestyle. Or watching Buckethead play a guitar solo while swinging nunchucks. Or watching the GZA play for an hour and a half in a leather trench coat. Or Polica in the outdoor part. Or playing early Doomtree shows with our hippie friends. Lots of good memories."

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, Hot Tuna
Eric Peltoniemi (Red House Records): "One of my favorite memories was in the '90s going to see Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady and Hot Tuna (the Pete Sears and Michael Falzarano era). I had seen Jorma and Jack with Papa John Creach a few times back in the early '70s when I was living in San Francisco and it was great to reconnect with this magnificent American roots band. I also played there a couple of times with my own short-lived rock group, "A Thousand Pockets' (Leslie Ball, Jeffrey Willkomm, Bradley Gilbeaux, Max Ray and myself). We weren't too shabby either!"

Tramped By Turtles
Ryan Young (Tramped By Turtles): "The first time I saw Trampled By Turtles was at the Cabooze in 2004. They were pretty great, I thought. Fast forward a bit and I ended up joining the band!"

Additional noteworthy names who have played at The Cabooze:
Albert King, Johnny Winter, Dread Zeppelin, Insane Clown Posse, Ghostface Killah, Greg Allman Band, Steel Pulse, Har Mar Superstar, The Hold Steady, NOFX, Atmosphere, Charlie Parr, Tripp Shakespeare, Alabama Shakes, Greazy Meal, GWAR, Flipp, Babes in Toyland, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dinosaur Jr, Method Man, Roster McCabe, De La Soul, X

The next Cabooze 40th Anniversary Series show is this Saturday, featuring The Gooneybirds and Kung Fu Hippies. Doors are at 8:30pm.


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