There’s a new music venue in town where we won’t have to worry about local residents complaining about the volume.
It’s a music venue where mentions of “the dead” probably aren’t references to Jerry Garcia’s old band.
And just like First Avenue, it’s a music venue where Tiny Tim’s name is written somewhere on a facade.
The venue in question is none other than Lakewood Cemetery Memorial Chapel. The historic and ornate mini-cathedral — located on the grounds of Minneapolis’ most prestigious graveyard — has announced details of a new monthly series, Music in the Chapel, featuring acts you’d typically see in rock clubs, not among tombstones.
“We simply think it’s a good way for people to come in and enjoy this beautiful setting,” boasted Lakewood Cemetery president Rob Gjerde, whose grounds include the graves of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Sen. Paul Wellstone and — yep! — “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” singer Tiny Tim.
The series kicks off April 8 with all-women vocal group the Anonymous Choir, which specializes in reinventing rock, soul and folk tunes from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and the Stax Records rosters. Future gigs include David Huckfelt of the cult-loved folk-rock band the Pines on May 6 and the alt-twangy harmony duo Dusty Heart on June 10. More shows will likely follow if all goes well, with jazz and gospel acts also in the mix.
Live music amid burial grounds is not an entirely new idea. Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, Calif., has famously become one of the city’s most popular concert sites over the past decade after performances by Lana del Rey, the Flaming Lips, Sufjan Stevens and many others.
In Minneapolis, the historic Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery has hosted movie screenings and concerts by local indie-rock darlings Low and Jeremy Messersmith. Those events doubled as fundraisers to help preserve the Pioneers & Soldiers grounds.
Aside from gospel and classical music for Memorial Day and other special events, this is Lakewood’s first foray into live music booking. The cemetery isn’t hosting its series for financial purposes — tickets are only $10 — but rather as a way to be more welcoming to the community.
“Lakewood is reimagining the role of cemeteries in every day life, and we think this is a great way of doing that,” Gjerde explained. “The venue itself is a perfect fit for shows like this.”
It does indeed seem like a great spot for a gig. With a capacity of about 160 people, the chapel promises an intimate and acoustically divine space in a dramatic setting. A 65-foot dome tops off the Byzantine-style historic structure, built in 1910 by renowned architect Harry Wild Jones with a 10-million-piece mosaic interior.
The shows there will be alcohol-free, in keeping with Lakewood policy. They also take place on Sunday afternoons instead of Friday nights.
Anonymous Choir leader Nona Marie Invie said the uniqueness of the venue is exactly what attracted her to playing the series.
“I enjoy performing in non-traditional spaces, and the I think the natural reverb of the chapel will make Anonymous Choir sound really beautiful,” she said, noting one more added incentive for playing Lakewood: Her great-grandmother is buried there.
“I don’t have any hesitation at all about performing in a cemetery setting,” Invie added. “It will hopefully be a beautiful spring day with the sun shining, lessening the chance of a ghoul sighting for sure.”