While weighing their licensing options with the city, the operators of Minneapolis' small but ambitious new live music hub were happy to get classified as a theater rather than a club — even if that meant they would be more limited on who and what they serve from the bar.
"We wanted to be a venue where people are coming for the music first and foremost," Maren Macosko said. "Not for the booze."
So here comes the Cloudland Theater, a comfortable, 150-capacity space opening this week on a cozy corner of E. Lake Street. It's not really a theater, but it's also not like a lot of other music venues in town at the moment.
Formerly a singer/guitarist in the 2000s-era punk quartet the Soviettes — and now a high school math teacher by day — Macosko is opening Cloudland with her bandmate Brad Lokkesmoe, with whom she has played in the more recent rock groups the Gateway District and Partial Traces.
The longtime friends worked up the idea for the venue in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd's murder, when both the live music scene and the area of south Minneapolis around the venue (including the Longfellow and Seward neighborhoods) were still licking their wounds.
The name "Cloudland" is a nod to it being a shared dream. Memories of the sorely missed punk haven the Triple Rock Social Club fueled their plan, as did other lost venues such as the Hexagon Bar and Cause.
"A lot of places have closed in the last five years or so, and it felt like something was missing from the scene," Lokkesmoe said. "It felt like there was especially a hole for a smaller place like this with an independent spirit."
They found their dream space at 3533 E. Lake St., a street corner away from Merlins Rest Pub and three blocks from Hymie's Records.
A storefront space in a historic century-old building once believed to house a brothel, it most recently housed an architect firm. The architects had cleaned up the space, exposed its brick walls and even added some acoustic treatment in the ceiling.
The site also used to house some kind of machinery shop, which was another plus for the incoming business owners: "The floor is heavily reinforced," Lokkesmoe noted, "so people can dance and jump around all they want up here."
That sales pitch will be tested right away this week with the first series of concerts.
First up is Australian band Vintage Crop on Wednesday with Dummy and Kapital (7 p.m., $15), which Lokkesmoe said is emblematic of one kind of booking he foresees there: "An out-of-town band we really like but that isn't well known paired up with some local acts, all helping each other out," he said.
Other concerts this week include: Florida's Night Witch with Buio Omega and In Lieu on Thursday; local barroom rock mainstay Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band with Lifestyle Shakes and more Friday, and then Kansas City punk band the Nature Boys on Tuesday. That latter show was supposed to take place at the house-party hub known as Nudieland, where a still-unsolved mass shooting took place, killing musician August Golden, in August.
Macosko and Lokkesmoe hope to generate a DIY, house-party kind of atmosphere at a lot of their shows, but with the high-quality sound gear, sturdy stage and general comfort that they appreciate by being musicians. And it won't be all punk or indie-rock, they clarified. In fact, they've mapped out plans to have seating for 65 or so patrons for acoustic shows and other mellower fare.
They will be serving beer and wine, by the way, just not hard liquor. Pub pizzas and some other finger food will often be available, though they urged patrons to dine before shows at Merlins Rest or any of the other great eateries along that end of E. Lake Street.
For now, advance tickets are available online via cloudlandtheater.com or Eventbrite.com. Most of the shows will be 18 and up, although Sunday all-ages matinee gigs are being planned, too. So are the occasional film screening and other nonmusical events — though there's no doubt where the Cloudland operators' hearts lie.
Macosko and Lokkesmoe said they still "bleed music," but being in their 40s now they don't want to tour like they used to or play their own gigs as often. So operating Cloudland is their way to "stay involved," Lokkesmoe said.
"We want to return the kind of support we felt we had when we were coming up as musicians," he said.
There maybe has never been a better mission statement behind a new club — or theater, or whatever you want to call it.
Where: 3533 E. Lake St., Mpls.
Tickets: Usually $10-$15, 18 & older, cloudlandtheater.com or at the door.