MOORHEAD — To paraphrase Martha and the Vandellas, “Summer’s almost here and the time is right/ for dancing..." on the patio.
As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, bars and restaurants are opening their doors to customers, but also giving them space outside to relax and listen to music.
A handful of area establishments have plans for regular outdoor sets, including RiverHaven Events Center, Fargo Brewing Co., Edgewood Tavern, Pub West, Tailgators, Brewbird, Granite City and the new 701 restaurant and rooftop lounge.
The concerts give bars and restaurants another attraction, as well as offer music fans something they likely missed over the last 15 months — seeing and hearing live music.
“All of my friends were excited to get out and play again,” says Aaron Duma, co-owner of RiverHaven Events Center in Moorhead, which hosts outdoor shows on Thursday nights.
He didn’t have to look much further than his cellphone to assemble a summerlong lineup of shows.
Still, he didn’t want just the same old sets by the same old acts. Moody River Band will play a Tom Petty album, “Wildflowers,” front to back, while Jon Wayne will team up with local reggae band Heavy is the Head. Matty Johnson will host a tribute to Sublime. San Haven Chuckle is doing Alice in Chains unplugged with Nate Pitcher. The Cropdusters, Jessica Vines and Pat Lenertz are all booked for June shows.
Fargo Brewing’s Wednesday night series features David Allen, Cave Canary, Kyle Colby, Lenertz and Tom Peckskamp.
“We always knew when we laid out the patio that we wanted to do a small stage for local singer-songwriters. We want to support local artists,” says Aaron Hill, Fargo Brewing's co-founder.
Fargo events promoter Jade Nielsen is partners in both Fargo Brewing and RiverHaven.
RiverHaven will also host a weekly rotation of food trucks, with Pico, Blackbird Woodfire, the Hot Dog Peddler and more all scheduled for a visit.
“We’re really doing a lot of fun stuff,” Duma says.
The first show of the series, which happened last Thursday, May 20, featured Usher’s House as the food truck and a set by Peckskamp, nods to the building’s history as the former home of Usher’s.
The 7:30 p.m. shows will be all-ages, with a $5 per person charge at the door. Concerts will seat from 100 to 125, more for bigger acts and some standing-room-only dates.
Duma says eventually a bar may be set up outside, but for now patrons will have to go to the inside bar and get their own drinks.
The weekly dates also offer the public a chance to see inside the renovated former American Legion Post, which is otherwise a rental space. The 1936 building was part of the Works Project Administration, which kept Americans working during the Great Depression.
“It’s wonderful,” Duma says about people coming in and checking out the space. “We’ve always wanted to share this with the community.”
The American Legion moved out in the 1990s and after sitting vacant for years, it reopened in 2001 as the Red Bear Grill & Tavern. In 2006 it switched over to the nightclub The Broken Axe, then in 2008 changed to the bar and restaurant Usher’s House.
Duma’s connections to the building go back to 2006 when he started as a bartender at The Broken Axe. He was so well-liked by regulars that after it changed over to Usher’s in 2008, a Duma Burger was added to the menu and stayed on until the restaurant closed in 2017, years after he had left.
Duma says some of this year’s patio acts, like Peckskamp, Lenertz and Jon Wayne, have been playing at the building since 2008 when it was Usher’s.
Giving people another reason to come in and check out a new space is one of the reasons Hill is so excited about Fargo Brewing Co.'s Wednesday night outdoor series.
The renovated space just reopened a month ago and now that the patio is coming into place, it allows for more events for Fargo’s oldest brewery.
“It’s a great opportunity to hear great local music and have a great local beer,” he says.
If you go
What: Thursday Night Patio Concert Series
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays
Where: RiverHaven Events Center, 700 First Ave., N., Moorhead
Info: Admission is $5 per person for most shows; https://riverhavenevents.com/
If you go
What: Fargo Brewing Patio Series
When: 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: Fargo Brewing Co., 610 N. University Drive, Fargo
Info: Free; http://www.fargobrewing.com/