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Moon Palace Books Illuminates Diversity

Moon Palace Books
Moon Palace Books

The Listing – Moon Palace Books

  • Location
    • 3032 Minnehaha Avenue
    • Minneapolis, MN 55406
  • Website
  • History
    • Book store opened in 2012. Venue opened early 2018
  • Size
    • 900 square feet, 120 standing capacity, 75 seated.
  • Seating
    • Depending on the show
  • Food
    • Geek Love Cafe offers salads, pizza, wings, and a breakfast menu for mornings
  • Parking
    • Free parking for patrons in the lot behind the venue
Moon Palace Books
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Photo by Katie Cudnowski

The Blueprint

Moon Palace Books has consistently grown since its inception in 2012. Each time expanding their space by moving locations and passing books hand-in-hand, all with a goal in mind. Owners Jaime and Angela Schwesnedl wanted a multi-functional space geared towards adding music into their bookstore. When, last March, they added Geek Love Cafe, curated by Dylan Alverson of Modern Times, it quickly led to securing a beer and wine license. From there it was then an easy and natural jump to add the live music venue. The 120 capacity performance area is connected to the side of the cafe through a doorway. The low lighting and dark brick walls are an evident contrast to the purple and green of the bright modern cafe space.

Moon Palace Books
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Photo by Katie Cudnowski

The venue lays out as a simple square. A thick curtain and low stage centers a wall, while a half-moon hangs in the back corner, a remnant from an earlier event. Two speakers frame the front, while a Mackie 808M mixer sits next to the stage. As Jaime shares, “The room sounds remarkably good for its shape.”

There are plans to upgrade the mixer, hang speakers from the ceiling, and raise the height of the stage, but overall, the venue has a charm and identity that connects with a lot of music fans. You feel close to the stage anywhere you stand. You don’t have to wade through waves of people to fight for a spot. There are no view restrictions to be concerned about if you arrive late. The drinks are outside the room and away from the music. It’s a venue perfectly sized and shaped to enjoy the show, without any distractions.

Moon Palace Books
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Moon Palace Books
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Photos by Katie Cudnowski

The bookstore is a treasure trove of books. Each shelf is filled with quality choices and recommendations from its staff. The music section carries the addictive series, 33 1/3, which are small consumable stories about classic albums. There is a kids’ corner filled with childhood classics. Almost everyday there is a reading, storytelling, or trivia events taking place in the store. It’s a blend of national and local writers, all pulled together to present their craft.

The courtyard is used for farmer’s markets, weddings, and a stage for the Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Festival in July. It becomes a high volume place to relax and drink once springtime hits.

Moon Palace Books
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Photo by Katie Cudnowski

Behind the books and bricks lies a heartfelt element. It’s a solid, consistent message which runs through Moon Palace Books. You see it in the wide range of artists that grace the stage. You hear it in the diversity and eclectic music that finds their voice. It’s a sense of pride and commitment to speaking up, leading by actions, and providing a safe space for our differences. As Nona shares, “It feels more important to be more vocal about our goals and where we stand on things. We’ve been trying to give priority to more programming for queer people, people of color, women and anyone else who’s been underrepresented.”

This message comes directly from the passionate owners who are willing to stand up for their beliefs.  They provide gender friendly restrooms and a catalog of books that challenge people’s views and educate on different perspectives. This leadership trickles down to their genuine staff, who feels valued. Moon Palace Books is quintessential to our community in these values and moral obligations.

Nona Marie Invie, Music Program Coordinator

Moon Palace Books - Nona Marie Invie
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Photo by Zoey Melf

When Nona Marie Invie heard that Jaime and Angela were opening up a venue, she reached out to be a part of it. She knew they were committed to social justice issues, reflected by the wide range of speakers and authors they consistently had at the bookstore. It was their commitment to making the workspace safe, accessible to all genders, and the knowledge of how they treat their employees that spoke to her.

She started booking for Moon Palace Books in 2018 and her organization skills and experience as a traveling musician immediately came in handy. As a member of Dark Dark Dark, Anonymous Choir, RONiiA, and Fugitive, she’s seen all sorts of venues across the country. When touring, she’s always had the most fun in unique spaces that didn’t blend in with all the others. She also knew how it felt to be the only woman on stage and how most venues typically showcased white men. It was this spirit and motivation to make Moon Palace Books a different spot and focus on people of all color, queer people, and the entire LGBTQ+ community. This was not going to be “Part of the old boys club.”

Moon Palace Books
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Photo by Katie Cudnowski

Nona has focused on giving artists a chance, and finding a spotlight for those that are underrepresented. National artists continue to find the venue due to its unfinished basement charisma. It’s becoming the unique kinda space that traveling artists remember and can identify in a long tour of venues.

As for her time off, Nona shares that the job has made her more of a reader. Non-fiction, memoirs, and books on tape help fill her time when touring.

Insider Tips

If you are planning to shop for books before a show, get there early. The bookstore closes at 9pm, with the cafe staying open in the evenings. As for hidden gems, head upstairs into the used book area. It’s filled with a variety of books that you’re sure to find something worth taking home. If you’re looking for a sneaky good meal, the Fight Club salad is worth breaking rule number one for. But you didn’t hear that from me.

The Guest Room

Willow Waters, Musician

Last fall I had the pleasure of hosting my CD release show at Moon Palace Books.  I could not have asked for a more perfect space to debut the album, Wisdom in the Trees, to the community.  The cozy atmosphere of a bookstore and the endless potential of the black box space lent itself perfectly to my artistic vision for the evening.

Willow Waters Moon Palace Books
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Photo by Nick Henry

After that nearly sold out performance, I was left feeling inspired to put together another event in the space.  I am so grateful to Nona and the staff at Moon Palace for hosting me once again this April for a Thursday night residency with my band The Earth Tones.  Each show will have a unique theme that highlights an aspect of my musical expression and deeper spiritual yearnings.  Every night will be a completely different experience, with The Earth Tones playing wildly different sets of music.  The lineups have been curated to feature primarily acts fronted by women, non-binary folk, queer folk, and/or POC.

Moon Palace Books
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Artwork by Emme Mandara

On April 4th, we will explore the power of Groove and Movement to express through the physicality of vibration and sound.  On April 11th, we will let our Words and Stories guide us to a deeper level of community and common understanding.  On April 18th, we will be transported beyond the physical realm to give credence to our Dreams and Visions.  On April 25th, we will return home to the ground we stand, honoring with profound gratitude the Earth and Roots.”

Upcoming Events

Full schedule can be found here. A few immediate highlights include:

5/31- River Sinclaire Release Party with Plant Music and Desert Liminal (CHI)

6/19 – Potty Mouth, Colleen Green, and Oftener – “Potty Mouth’s scrappy debut full-length, 2013’s Hell Bent, sounds like it was recorded in a practice space, so the upgrade on their sophomore album SNAFU is immediately obvious. The drums are mixed to arena size, and the surfaces gleam with studio polish, thanks in part to engineer Courtney Ballard (Good Charlotte, All Time Low, State Champs).

6/22 – KFAI’s MSP Sound Music Showcase – featuring Haut Glu, Nova Human, Please Stop!, and Smellkin Ernesto.

6/29 – She Rock Punk Jam – We offer a very safe, supportive environment for folks with little or no stage experience and for those who are veterans of the music scene. This is a performance opportunity for women, gender nonconforming and trans folks of all ages and experience levels!

7/20 – Honeycutt, 4th Curtis, and Scrunchies – Honeycutt from Boston is a dreamy guitar pop band.

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.

331 Club

Caydence Records and Coffee

The James Ballentine Uptown VFW Post 245

The Baroque Room

The Cedar Cultural Center

The Parkway Theater

The Warming House

ICEHOUSE

The Hook and Ladder Theater

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