A mile southwest of downtown Minneapolis, at the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and 26th Street, sits the CC Club. Dim and covered with dark wood panelling, it’s an atmosphere that has been almost completely unchanged since the mid-Seventies.
Written by Dan Pederson / Photographed by Nicole Feest
Torn red leather seats, beer mirrors and neon signs advertising brews that no one drinks anymore bring back childhood memories of my uncle’s smoke-filled basement. Ragged bathrooms, cheap beer and the statuesque regulars slumped on the bar stools leave no doubt that this is a dive of the highest order. You’re as likely to be served by a 20-something as a 60-something; they all have the same demeanor. A few steps through the door and it all becomes frozen in time. As with all the best dive bars, the CC Club has something about it that calms the nerves. The blur of voices and the taste of cheap beer whisper that not only does the CC not know who you are, it doesn’t care. The place expects nothing from you. Pull up a chair. Have a drink. Have another.
It may look the same, but the scene here has evolved over the decades. The CC Club gained its notoriety during the late Seventies and it grew through the Eighties, becoming a hub for the burgeoning Minneapolis music scene. It became a place for punks, hardcore kids, and other cultural deviants to congregate. Among countless other artists, writers, and musicians, local bands such as The Replacements, Husker Du, and Soul Asylum took up residence at the CC Club. Late nights and early mornings were spent in staggers and shouts, the musicians recognized by many but rarely bothered by anyone. The legend grew through (potentially true) stories of drugs and drinks, bands formed and shattered, and every passing barfly’s chance to be a part of it. Despite these bands gaining national fame, the CC was always somewhere they returned to, their names now inseparable from the place, ghosts of the old days still felt in the air. In the decades since, artists of all stripes have passed through, some famous, most not.
Expanding from the days of punk and indie and grunge until now, the CC has remained a representation of the counterculture. Today, save for the blue collars and old timers, the dive remains filled with a seemingly disparate young crowd. Hipsters and hardcore, emo and metal — all molds of the modern remnants of movements. They lack the activism or shock of past movements and the sway of strong-willed ideals, but such is the state of things. The modern cultural deviants point their focus inwards. Even the old movements are filtered down to something less than jarring. You might not want to rag on a punk for fear of a fist to your head, but it’s not likely that you’d feel the force of their movement on your life. They are no longer a representation of something much bigger. This is a story told within the CC Club. It holds the tame new, what’s left of the roaring old, and those folks that aren’t much interested in either.
Regardless, it does have a romanticism about it. Many people I know suggest that it is the place to go. To the creatives, it’s a bit of a staple, the rumored hall of legend. You’ve got to put in your time there, just to let it settle into your bones. As if it’ll change you, make you more whole, fill the gaps, the immense expanses of fear and expectation that come when you’re a newly free adult. Some find it and move on, while others don’t have the skin for it. Others find that the place itself is all they need, and they never leave.
So when you find your way here, what should you order? What’s a dish they do best, what’s a drink you can’t find anywhere else? Sensible questions, but not relevant here. When you’re at the CC you drink what gives you a fuzzy head and a good conversation, and you eat what makes you stop being hungry. All means to an end, a ticket to watch and to mingle, to observe who walks in for their first time and to shoulder up to the ones who rarely leave. No punk, no indie, no metalhead, no hipster...there is no pretense within this den. You are who you think you are, any pretension is lugged through the doors on your own shoulders.
Before it was Treehouse Records, the building housed the well-known and ridiculously named record joint Oar Folkjokeopus. It exists cater- corner on 26th and Lyndale from the CC Club, and the two share more than mere proximity. Oar Folk sold punk rock records from the infancy of the movement and onward. It was the sole dispensary of note. Lesser known cuts and the limited pressings of all the best local bands filled the racks. This led the shop to become a dominant force in the scene. Run by musicians, frequented by musicians, it wasn’t uncommon to find the guy who wrote the record you held in your hands browsing the racks beside you. If the CC Club was where artists went to celebrate bursting out of the Minneapolis scene, Oar Folk was where those same people met and nurtured it into a thing to be celebrated.
In the years since, the stoic corner store has experienced changes in management, ownership, and in 1984, a devastating fire that gutted the place. It got back up and running, and continued on until 2001 when it was replaced with Treehouse Records.
It’s windows half-covered in posters and bills, one can get only a glimpse of the inside before stepping in. Through the door and the air hits your nostrils, the smell of aged album jackets bringing warmth and nostalgia. Like old books, the worn edges and that particular scent of times passing fills spaces almost tangibly. It’s a welcoming thing. A blasted and frayed couch settles near the entrance, the kind that might eat you should you sit down and sink into it. Beyond are the mainstays, rows of LPs new and used, CDs and 45s. Prints of all sizes and sorts cover the walls, plenty of them old enough to be advertising releases of cassettes.
When you find yourself browsing the racks, tip your ear towards the folks behind the counter and their hangers-on. Many have been here since the early days of Oar Folk and during the formation and splitting up of many of the local groups that passed through. Overhearing banter between them, all seemingly familiar faces to one another, is a comforting experience. Opinions on re-releases, suggestions to someone seeking something new, talk of which musician has just been through the door; they are conversations that have probably been had a thousand times but they continue anyway, drifting on the air and adding new layers of history deep into the walls.