On Nov. 19 the Fraternal Order of Eagles will be celebrating its 120th year of existence. As an international charitable non-profit organization, the mission statement can easily be summarized as “People Helping People,” which resonates with what Eagles #34 does for the community.
It’s no small task to run an organization that carries a lot of regulations with the city, and for many of the young adults who attend a show in one of their three rooms, learning that the entire venue is non-profit is impressive. The venue recently invested about $100K into doing repairs to the ballroom, ceilings, electrical wiring, and repainting walls. It gives them a strong building going into the future and, in many ways, gives them a chance to raise the bar.
“It’s interesting to be in here when it’s a really busy night where you get swing music in here, country over there, metal in that back room and somebody who’s playing Def Leppard on the jukebox.” ~Len Mathe, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The venue is unique in that they have three different sized rooms that can support music. The Buechner Room has a capacity of 49 and is often used for heavy metal, punk bands, and, more recently, smaller acoustic acts. It provides a chance for local bands to get their feet wet and test out their material.
The Shadewald Hall has a capacity of 124 and includes a larger stage, lights, and a bigger sound system.
The Mattson Ballroom holds 210 and is named after Ernie Mattson, a World War II veteran and survivor of Pearl Harbor. He was a longtime member of the organization and was known for bringing along his harmonica to shows.
The Mattson Ballroom was recently updated with new ceiling fans, draping, a replaced wall, and repainting to give the room a brighter feel. One of the items that had to remain the same was the Christmas lights onstage. They have become a staple for bands, and removing them would have caused a ruckus.
Some nights, all three of these rooms are filled with bands and different styles of music. You grab tickets at the door and a wristband for the specific room. The venue doesn’t charge a rate for the band to use the room and 100% of the door goes back to the artists.
At $28 a year, a membership to Eagles #34 is very inexpensive for the perks that come along with it. The benefits include everything from discounts on car rentals, hotels, health care, and travel, to the Memorial Foundation, which is designed to give medical and educational support to children of Eagles who lose their lives through employment or military service. If a person is active military, a veteran, firefighter, or police officer, the first year of membership is free. It’s not a secret society and they want to welcome a younger generation as members to help continue the generosity of their mission. The majority of their business is from non-members, as the city of Minneapolis requires them to be an open club.
“We’re an Eagle’s Club, we’re American Legion Post #1, and then we’re open to the public. So we run three separate hats,” shares Mike Hadel, Aeire Secretary.
The calendar is a shuffle of traditional and new bands. A look at their calendar shows diversity from country music to Cajun dance music, Argentine tango to jazz and blues and honky-tonk. For many of the bands, there is a monthly schedule for attendees to follow. First and third Mondays have square dancing, which is unique in that they have live musicians playing the music.
Carol Dahlquist, a Trustee, explains that she typically gets 10-15 inquiries in a week from bands that have heard about the place from other bands. The benefit of getting 100% of the door is a huge opportunity for an artist to grow and promote a show. The word-of-mouth mentality has grown as a lot of the bands have been coming back and bringing their friends.
“The dancers know that this place is here and it’s has a good dance floor. I’d say it’s through a lot of different methods that they find out about this place. They clearly pass the word on as kids certainly do with the metal shows,” explains Len Mathe.
The goal and heart of the venue comes with how much they give back to the community. The Eagles host a lot of benefit events and ways to raise money for local charities. From gathering barrels of donated food to assisting in covering costs for local causes, “People Helping People” remains the core focus.
They recently sponsored the first all-girl boy scout troop by donating a thousand dollars. The kids over at Matthews Park shared that they needed new shirts, so they bought shirts for them. Southwest High School has a wrestling program that didn’t have uniforms. They approached the Eagles hoping to get $500 and by the time they walked out, they had received $3,500 and were able to purchase all new wrestling uniforms for the team.
That spirit of giving translates through the community and builds a sense of pride and comfort in being at Eagles #34. The blending of different ages with all the diverse music in the bar area, the revamping of the food menu to steer away from fried food, and even the huge complimentary parking lot are all symbols of a venue building a better community by providing for all different kinds of needs. They’ve provided a location for an LGBTQ+ country night that was previously at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, and are expanding into R&B and Motown music. The infectious spirit of community is seen every night at the venue.
“It’s gotta be a Minneapolis thing cause everyone gets along with everyone. The bar areas and commons areas all fill up when bands are on break. Watching everyone get along and talk is amazing,” shares bartender Danette Carlone.
For Mike Hadel, the signs of respect are everywhere at the venue. For instance, one night there was an old-style rock and roll band in one space, and a punk band in the other room. The younger kids wandered over to see the band. The older crowd started showing them some dance steps. It was great to see the young and old having a great time and bonding over music.
Carol Dahlquist notices there is a different mindset when people are coming in and paying a cover charge. The standard belief is the cover charge is to cover their expenses, but when they find out it’s all going to the band, not an owner, the feeling of directly supporting local music is empowering. People are happy to pay knowing their money is directly helping the band.
The Guest Room
Peter Hanson, Pianist with Swingin’ On A Star
About two years ago, Peter Hanson heard from his three-time Grammy-nominated saxophone player, Steve Clark, that he should contact Eagles #34. Their group, Swingin’ On A Star, plays a lot of classic American songbook music from artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and George Gershwin. The venue had a great dance floor, good stage, and great sound system, which made for a perfect fit for their group. They’ve been playing once a month ever since, to great crowds of dancers. His favorite part of the Eagle’s mission is their drive to support live music in the Twin Cities. “They do that as well as anybody else,” Peter says.
Another bonus of the venue is the dance floor. The wooden dance floor makes it easier on the feet and knees. The venue doesn’t place any tables next to the stage, giving artists like Swingin’ on a Star a close connection to the dancers. Peter believes that dancing to music is a deeper form of listening. It engages not just your ears, but your body, and enables one to identify with the form of the music. Whether it’s Rumba or a Cha-Cha, the music is transmuted into action through the creativity of the dancers.
“The dancers have to pay close attention to the music and not just to get the rhythm, but to get the spirit of music. And so I’ve always really appreciated places that encourage dancing. And the Eagles is one of those places.”
The band consists of Dorothy Doring with vocals, Steve Clarke on sax, Joe Steinger on percussion, Rick Korinek on bass, and Peter Hanson on piano. Peter shares that the chemistry of the band is really important. Sharing stories, jokes, and sharing what’s happening in one’s life creates a culture within the band that translates directly to the audience. The spirit between the dancers and band is an energy that feeds on each other.
“There’s a certain synchronicity that happens when the music is written by someone eighty years ago, Irving Berlin or George Gershwin, or Duke Ellington, when that music comes into sync with the performers and their interpretation and the dancers and their interpretation. There’s kind of a multiplying effect that really creates a lot of joy,” Peter claims.
Looking for a comfortable place for karaoke? Every Tuesday in the bar there’s a crowd that rolls in just for the singing. With pull tabs, a large bar area, and a $5 late-night specials from the kitchen, it’s the perfect place to relax and sing with friends.
The full schedule can be found here.
Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.