I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a lot of haters saying they don’t care/are glad that the Red Lion is closing, but those people are boring suckers. (On a side-note, I’d like to mention that I remember all of you who acted ecstatic when the Rick Boo-era NorShor closed, and I still hold a grudge.) Far, far too many of my hours, dollars and lung & liver cells were sacrificed in the Roar by the Shore, and I’ll miss stopping in when I’m in Duluth. (And yeah, I’m aware that Crew Jones and Ol’ Yeller are playing there this weekend, and I’m missing it.)
Maybe not my top-ten, but ten good memories related to the Lion Rouge.
+ Night before Thanksgiving, 1998: Brad Nelson and I read in the News-Tribune about this band the Black Labels that played on Wednesday nights, but we were mostly afraid to go into the Lion. After a few at the NorShor, we screwed up our courage and went in, only to find out that the Labels weren’t playing – there was a DJ instead. We ordered $1.25 Old Milwaukee drafts anyway. Some guy got up from the bar and started to dance by himself to “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” by Brand Nubian. At this point, we’ve been in the place like 30 seconds and are starting to decide that the place isn’t as bad as it had been made out … but then some guy stands up and cold-cocks the dancer. Both patrons were 86ed; ten minutes later, the dancer walks in the front door with the cops hot on his heels. They caught up, threw him on the floor and cuffed him at our feet. We were impressed.
+ Homegrown, 2000: As captured on film by Chris Bacigalupo, the Black-eyed Snakes play the Lion [see video on the album It’s The Black-eyed Snakes.] This was the first time I’d ever been in a crowd of people dancing and realized that the floor was bouncing up and down. A little bit scary, but wicked fun.
+ Summer, 2000: Tom the Bartender sings “Bus Stop” by the Hollies on a wireless mic during Saturday night karaoke. Oddly, he is more efficient at processing drink orders while doing this then when he is otherwise unoccupied. Plus, he actually sang the song pretty well. [I’ll let Paul Lundgren correct me on this, but at some point I believe former AWA pro wrestling star/jobber “Wild” Bill Irwin ran the karaoke machine at the Lion.]
+ September 27, 2000: As the Black Labels play “Teen Beat”, I watch Wilson Kipketer – the fastest half-miler in history – lead the Olympic 800m final until the homestretch and get out-kicked by a German who had been sitting on his shoulder the whole race. I have no idea why this was broadcast at midnight, nor why it was on the TV at the Lion, nor why this scene stands out so vividly in my mind.
+ Some winter night, 2001: I walked in and there some guy falls off his bar stool. He got back up, found a chair on the side of the bar and passed out until the Black Labels began playing. At that point, the guy stood up, and it was obvious that he’d peed his pants. Nevertheless, he was there until bar close, dancing up a storm. I still can’t fathom how he wasn’t kicked out.
+ Red Lion Winter Riot – night one, late December, 2001: Ben Marsden organized this two-night show; my brother drew the poster, which featured a snowman throwing a garbage can at a gingerbread man. I seem to remember Bone Appetit playing that first night, but even more interesting was getting an invitation to an after-hours rent party. The invitation, printed on a torn-off piece of manila folder, reads: After Party at 1424 E 1st St. Food Drink Music 1st Drink free. $2 admission. Dana Cunningham and I were killing our last beers when we got this, and of course we went. The only thing to drink was cognac, and some ladies were frying up chicken wings in the kitchen. It was a real, real weird scene – standing in a basement while little kids in their PJs wandered around. We bought two plates and bounced.
+ Red Lion Winter Riot – night two, late December, 2001: This was an infamous night which I may never live down. Somehow, I got the idea in my head that it would be a really good, fun time to punch everyone in the face since the show was called a riot. I hit Tim Anderson on the jaw and almost knocked him out, which was not the intent; that guy has a serious glass-jam. At some point, I tapped a girl I vaguely knew on the chin; a few hours later, she came back and told me that her friend didn’t believe I had hit her. Not recognizing the set-up, I repeated the offense and got totally bawled out in the middle of the bar. The only thing that saved me was Jonathon Livingston walking up and decking me in the middle of her harangue, which [sort of] vindicated me by showing that, indeed, these were jabs thrown in friendship.
+ Grandma’s Marathon, June 2003: My dad ran the half-marathon, I ran the full. After I finished, my brother, Chip Rogers, Brenda Brock and, of course, my pops and I went in and had several hundred cans of Black Labels. Todd Fromberg was our bartender, and he was in rare form – I can honestly say that I’ve never been as entertained at a bar by someone selling me beer as I was that morning. And I walked out of the place feeling a lot better than I did walking in.
+ Homegrown Organizing Meeting, 2006: OK, I wasn’t there, so this is second-hand and paraphrased – and this didn’t even happen at the bar! – but the story goes that everyone’s discussing the available venues and someone pipes up, “What about the Red Lion?” This question is answered thusly: “Well, we don’t think we’re going to put shows on there this year. The place is a bit … unsavory.” The only person in the meeting who finds this remotely funny is Richie Gunns of Bone Appetite, but it remains one of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard.
+ July, 2007: The last few times I was in the place, and the most recent – but trying to buy Mark Lindquist a B-52 and ending up with shots of rail whiskey (which absolutely ended my night), watching Charlie Parr play to a crowd of shirtless hippie dancers, heckling Donny Ness by singing “Throw Some D’s” at him, having a guy inexplicably threaten to “cut [my] heart out”, seeing Al Sparhawk make weird electric sounds for a Dutch camera crew and drinking PBR tall boys on the Fourth with the afternoon crowd will still be hard to forget.
OK, so what have you got?