What happened to the music?

Colleen Stein

Colleen Stein

A few months ago, the freshly painted off-white of the Dakota Pub’s west wall of was adorned with a slapdash mural fashioned from bits of welded scrap metal and a splattering of acrylics. The modern art was an oddity on the walls of the Jackalope Lounge, with the rest of its wall space dedicated to rusted-out trail lamps, tin service stations with faded paints and a few bullet holes, and of course, a stuffed Jackalope.

Good luck finding any of that in the Dakota Pub. You’d be lucky to see any dust in the remodeled Pub, except possibly a bit of sawdust in those hard-to-vacuum corners. The removal of the Lounge’s rustic appeal isn’t exactly a loss, though. Frankly, it was a bit of a dive. An endearing sort of dive-but a dive, nonetheless. The real loss may turn out to be the music.

With the rechristening of the Jackalope and the closing of the University Mall’s Sound Station 7, the Brookings music scene appears to have taken a step towards the edge of extinction.

The Jackalope offered college kids and locals a place to plant their asses and sip suds while enjoying or ignoring the rhythmic thumping of music, usually performed by regional bands-amateur acts who would otherwise be rattling the dust from the rafters of their garages or basements to suffice their own amusement.

Hundreds of bands passed through during the years that the Jackalope (formerly the Joe House) thrived. On good nights, they pummeled crowds with that supernatural live music energy, leaving no evidence behind of their night of unbridled alchemy save crushed peanuts on the floor and a homemade flyer pasted to the wall.

Five Iron Frenzy, MU330, Acid Bath, Indigenous, Stuart Davis and Billy McLaughlin are among the more mentionable acts that graced the Jackalope’s stage. Regional bands who played formative shows at the Lounge include Bus Nine, Trend 86, Kory & the Fireflies, Janitor Bob & The Armchair Cowboys and Spooncat.

The fruitful days witnessing regional rockers tear up the tiny, tattered platform all but disappeared with the warm air of summer when Jackalope/Joe House owner Max Fjelstad sold the bar in early August and moved to Alaska. Two Brookings couples, Bill and Sandra Thelen and Randy and Deb Hope, bought the tavern and turned it into the Dakota Pub.

Still undergoing its transformation, the new bar catches harsh scrutiny from some die-hard Jackalope regulars. A walking tour shows why.

The Dakota Pub is a country-themed bar with an inviting, brightly-lit parlor, walls glossed over with a fresh coat of paint and newly laid carpet underfoot. A black plastic curtain hangs in the back, veiling the eyesore of splintered wood chunks and dust where the stage once stood.

“The first night I bought the bar, I walked across the stage and fell through,” Co-owner Bill Thelen said. “We had to re-wire the place to get it back up to code and the electrical box was behind the stage, so I gave my two sons a crowbar and hammer and within an hour they had the whole stage torn out.”

The situation may not be as desperate as it appears. Thelen went on to explain that he plans to eventually install a foldout stage to be located in place of the old one. When asked what sort of bands would be invited to perform at the new bar, Thelen replied,

“I will try to bring in bands that everyone wants to hear. I have preference for country music but I know a lot of other people like the sort of stuff Max was bringing in. I want to try and cater to everyone.”

While Skinner’s, a neighboring pub in downtown Brookings, offers live music every two months or so, the chances of local bands getting a chance to partake in the festivities are slim.

“We tend to go with the more well-known bands from the regional area,” Skinner’s bartender Greg Thornes said. “We hire bands that are sure to draw in a good crowd.”

John Mendelsohn, another Skinner’s bartender, is also local singer and guitarist who frequented the Jackalope in past years. The musician wishes the new owners luck in their business endeavor but realize the two pubs have little in common.

“I’ve played around 50 shows at the Jackalope.” Mendelsohn explained. “All I can say is that the Dakota Pub offers a completely different scene.”

Mendelsohn also addressed another loss of musical influence in the Brookings community with the closing of music store Sound Station 7, which was forced to shut down over the summer.

Brookings resident Bruce Pengra-a frequent collaborator to the Jackalope’s open stage Wednesdays-managed sound Station 7. The store sold a variety of new and used cds, posters, music paraphernalia, sheet music and instruments. Aside from competitive prices and a wide variety of stock, Sound Station 7 offered a service rarely found in today’s music stores; employees with a knowledge and passion for music.

Whether you were seeking advice on how to master a chord on your new Fender or craving a new indie album, Sound Station 7 had the wisdom as well as wares.

“It’s a shame the place closed,” Mendelsohn said. “It was the only real place you could go to browse through music and if you had a question on something, someone would be there to answer it.”

Area residents now only have the option to purchase their music-related artifacts from Sam Goody in the City Plaza or from the electronics department of Wal-Mart (which only sells the edited versions of profane albums).

While Sam Goody has a wide selection, the employees’ knowledge of music pales when compared to that of Sound Station 7.

“Since we sell CDs, DVDs and books, our employees need to have a broader range of knowledge about all the products we sell.” Sam Goody manager Crystal Anderson said.

When questioned on the instruments the store sold, Anderson admitted,

“None of us know how to play the instruments but we do have a guy who comes in once in a while to tune them.”

Despite the educational drawbacks, Sam Goody can offer an acceptable selection of movies and music as well as providing the service of ordering items if they are not in stock.

Local music consumers growing content with the services Sam Goody offers may be in for a shock: the days for the multimedia chain store could be numbered. Best Buy purchased all of the Sam Goody, Suncoast, and Mediaplay stores in February 2001.

The stores were recently sold in June 2003 to Sun Capital, which is exploring new ways to manage the stores. Of the 300 stores that were purchased, half will be forced to close. According to Laurie Bauer, the Director of Communications for the Musicland Group,

“At this moment, the company is still negotiating on which stores will be closed. Right now the list is not final. It will probably be another two weeks before we know for sure which stores will be out of business.”

The grim question of whether or not Sam Goody in Brookings will be among the stores to close remains to be seen.

The same can be said about the Brookings music scene. Lack of influence, guidance and opportunity could have a large impact on what tomorrow brings for regional musicians.

Mendelsohn explains, “There could be a huge population of musicians out there, but you won’t hear from them because there’s just no scene or place from them to play anymore.”

Hopefully, for the sake of the region’s starry-eyed, rafter-shaking local musicians, the scene is only taking a vacation.

#1.886769:2132851362.jpg:mic.jpg:”With the rechristening of the Jackalope and the closing of the University Mall?s Sound Station 7, the Brookings music scene appears to have taken a step towards the edge of extinction.”: