Underground Minneapolis venue closes

SHEILA REGAN | Updated 6/25/2013

Off-the-radar West Bank music venue Medusa ends its six-year run.

Shuttered underground West Bank music venue Medusa.
Photo by Sheila Regan

If you’re trying to find the address for Medusa, the underground music venue in the West Bank neighborhood, you won’t find it on the Internet. Though the space has been active for five-and-a-half years, has hosted bands from all over the world -- from Dan Deacon to Dutch composer Harry Merry -- and regularly brings in large crowds for shows, it has remained, incredibly in this age of social media, off the radar.

Now, Medusa enters into the status of legends, as the notorious space is closing after organizers were told to leave by their landlord, who is looking to sell the property. They held their last event Monday with performances by bands such as Scaphe, False, Myrrh, Jose Bove and more.
 
The crowd was thick on closing night in Medusa's main room -- with the dimly lit main stage decorated with artwork and broken guitars that hung on the walls like musical taxidermy -- and in the back room, and outside, where the audience could catch a breath of air outside the non-air conditioned building.

“I consider it the Vatican of DIY spaces,” said Adam DeGross, who has helped book shows at Medusa and was planning on moving into the building if it hadn’t closed. He also took many photographs that ended up in his photo book, "Pay Attention: MN Subculture Photography." “Everyone’s got a story about this place,” he said. According to DeGross, Medusa booked around 170 shows a year for the last two years.

Jaime Carrera, who has played at the space in his band Cock ESP, says performing at Medusa tended to be “as chaotic as possible”. Coming to the venue was groundbreaking for him personally. “It showed me what was possible,” he said.

“It’s a great community space,” said Bryce Beverlin, who plays with Scaphe and other bands. “Stuff can go on here that can’t go on at any other space.” Beverlin thinks of Medusa as a musical community, a place where musicians can take risks and experiment. For others, it was a place to party, which he thinks was a detriment. He feels bittersweet about its closing.

Medusa has gone through numerous phases since 2007. “The torch has been passed in five waves,” said Skorpiain Vanderbrook, a current resident who also plays in bands such as False and Jose Bove on the last night. He described a space with growing plants and an art deco interior in the beginning, with each successive group of organizers putting their own stamp on the venue.

From punk to psychedelic to dance shows, the space has provided a platform for everything to heavy metal to more experimental sounds, according to Kevin Cosgrove, who played at Medusa’s first show with the band International Novelty Gamelan in 2007, and regularly performs. “There’s been good times and bad times,” said Cosgrove. “That’s what I love about this place.”

Besides performing, Cosgrove acted as a volunteer, working the door and “working the lot”, making sure that people didn’t wander too far from the property and disturb neighbors. The money collected at the door for the most part went toward rent. Local musicians often didn’t get paid, Cosgrove said, although touring acts almost always did.
 
“Money was a big stress,” said Joe Berns, who lived at Medusa for a time. The renters together paid around $3,000 a month including utilities, and Berns ultimately moved out because it “had become toxic,” he said, with incidents such as bed bugs and worms. Not to mention the big pit of oil underneath the building, which he believes is from the days the building was an old mechanic's shop.

Gracie Young, who lives at the space and helped run it with four other people, said she became involved about two-and-a-half years after it started. After doing unpaid internships with nonprofit arts organizations, she decided she’d rather work for free for something that she really cared about. Her dedication to the space came out of “respect for the DIY community,” she said. “We’ve tried to book everything we can.”