Duluth RecyclaBell


For the sake of Duluth music history, and inspired by a reunion show, we take a look back at the RecyclaBell and the mid-1990s Duluth music scene.

Random tidbits pulled from the Internet:

  • The three-story Duluth Telephone Exchange building, at 1804 E. First St., was built in 1921 and for many years was used by Bell Telephone, hence the Recyclabell name.
  • Duluth musicians performed there from about 1993 to 1997.
  • Apparently the first show there featured 12 Dimensions of Love, Size 12, Anchor and Lorenzo’s Tractor. Rob Fernquist shared this poster on Facebook.



about 10 years ago

The only show I ever saw was Low back in 1992 or 1993 (I forget exactly which year). We showed up late and the place was packed. We couldn't get into the actual performance area, so we waited and listened outside the doors. It sounded amazing even from our vantage point. We stood and listened until a couple of Alan Sparhawk's old band members from Zen Identity (obviously drunk and jealous) showed up and attempted to heckle the band from the lobby. I'm not sure if they ever got kicked out, but they annoyed us enough that we were forced to leave.


about 10 years ago

The reunion show needs to see if Feminist Blowjob will reunite.


about 10 years ago

The first show I ever played with my high school band Slick Monkey was at the Recyclabell, opening for Anchor, Running With Scissor and 18 Dimensions. Naturally, we were horribly inept musicians and basically scared to death. My only memory was blowing the building's circuit breaker during our opening cover of Gratitude by the Beastie Boys. The whole place went dark for a few minutes while someone figured out where the panel was. It sorta made us feel like powerful rock Gods at the time.


about 10 years ago

I'm not sure how many people were in Feminist Blowjob, but I do know that Lee Rocchio, Chris Williams and Todd Fromberg were members. They had a twister wheel of songs that the audience could spin and that would be the song they would play.  Fortunately, or unfortunately the needle kept landing on the tune "Shooter" for their whole set. Good times.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

The News Tribune Attic has posted a pair of stories from 1996:
Duluth's Recycla-Bell club for teens, 1996

One of the stories mentions how building owner Joyce Campbell convinced the band Feminist Blowjob to change its name to Appeasing Joyce.

That's Joyce in the second photo. The top photo is of Mark Kuiti performing with the band Lift.


about 10 years ago

It's great to see so much enthusiasm for this.  It was a very important thing we did there, and I think it really paved the way for the vibrant scene that we have going today.

Zen Identity also played that first show.  They signed on late, so didn't end up on the poster.

Low's first show was definitely in '93.

Pretty sure I remember the lights going out on Slick Monkey.  I remember a time when the police showed up during Running With Scissors.  I told them to keep playing no matter what happened.  The cops were looking at the fuse box trying to figure out how to shut down the sound system until I explained that they would be in the dark with 300 pissed off teenagers...


about 10 years ago

Funny. The whole thing started as a rather laid back "Teen Night." Joyce and Chris opened the cafe area for friends of their daughter Christine to come and hang out on Saturday nights. We'd hang out and be dorks, playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking tea.  

They had some musical equipment that they were storing for their neighbor John Ward (who was super awesome) and used when they had their political rallies. John Nichols, Jerree Small and I started just jamming occasionally. After a few weeks we found out about the big theater space, and I had the bright idea that we might use the place to do shows.  

To that point we had been doing shows at the dance theater above the Electric Fetus, and we once rented the American Legion Hall way out east. Once we hit on the RecyclaBell, though, there was no going back.  

It's absolutely amazing the fact that we consistently had 200-300 kids. Didn't matter if we did one show a month or one a week. Everybody came out because there was nowhere else to go.

The best thing about it was that it was all 100 percent cooperative. Anybody could play anything they wanted, and everybody pitched in to help with organizing, promoting, etc.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

This Recyclabell reunion was a weird, yet sweet experience. I never went to the Recyclabell in the 1990s, but I've heard a lot about it.

I showed up at for the reunion concert at the Quaker Meeting House promptly at the listed starting time of 8 p.m. When I stuck my head into the theater I saw that absolutely no one was there. Then I heard some conversation coming from the basement, so I went down and found some of the musicians eating tacos. They invited me to join them. 

After about a half hour the group in the basement had grown to maybe 20 people, and we all went upstairs to start the concert. There were a few more people up there, and eventually the audience grew to about 40. 

Jeremiah Brown posted photos of the performers on Facebook:

Rob Fernquist:

Jerree Small:


Alan Sparhawk:

Each of the musicians spoke briefly about their memories of Recyclabell and then played just a handful of songs, but with the late start it was quickly 10 p.m. and I was on the verge of cutting out before the end, but something made me stick around.

Rachael Kilgour was to be the final performer, but word got out that someone had gained entrance to the empty Recyclabell building next door. So everyone filed out of the Quaker Meeting House and into the Recyclabell, where Kilgour played a few songs on her acoustic guitar as we wandered through the pigeon-infested shell of a building.

It was very dark, but a group managed to huddle for a photo, lit by several phones.

Sometimes it pays off to not go home early.


about 3 years ago

I see the old place is getting a renovation as offices and apartments. Long live the Recyclabell!

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Where in Duluth?

Who was here before the current business expanded into this area?