by Cyn Collins
The 331 Club is as hot as it is yellow. They give people different musical experiences every day of the week. This Northeast bar/music venue is nestled within a burgeoning arts community, a perfect location for experiencing it all.
The 331 Club, at 13th Avenue and 3rd Street, is a comfortable space for a host of musicians and patrons, regular and new. Add in the dark cozy vibe, excellent entertainment for the low price of zero dollars, cheap drink specials, comfort food, ideal location and weekly musician residencies, and you’ve got one of the hottest venues in town.
owner Jon Oulman, also the proprietor of Oulman
Salon and Gallery a few blocks down the street, said the 331 was a rough
and tumble place that was a “design and build on the fly” project.
His son Jarret Oulman, 331 Club’s General Manager and booker, said, “The
331 is physically in the middle of everything happening in Northeast.”
When it came to revamping the rundown club, he added, “It was a lot of
shooting from the hip and blowing up with grenades.”
The Oulmans completely renovated the 331 and added a kitchen. They painted the
room dark blue-violet and the exterior sunny yellow—you can see it like
a welcoming beacon from afar. The 331 opened its refurbished doors to a welcoming
community on Jon’s birthday, Feb. 27, 2005, a mere 26 days after the purchase.
Jon was already involved in creative businesses on 13th Avenue, such as the
Minnesota Center for Photography and the salon and art gallery he opened two
years ago. He purchased the bar as another means of creating community. Jon
said, “Working with people and their aesthetics, whether it’s beauty
[or] the arts, the bar is a natural offshoot of those because it’s about
creating community, and collecting people is a big part of it. There’s
always a saloon or bistro where creative people congregate. Downtown in the
‘70s and ‘80s [it was] the New French Café, then it was the
Loring Café. I’ve developed art patrons. But you go to a gallery
opening maybe every couple months. A bar you can go to as often as you like.
It’s experiential. There’s a community around a tavern. It’s
a place for people to congregate.”
Jarret agrees with Jon about community building and people collecting. One way
he accomplishes this is by hosting music residencies. This allows musicians
to get comfortable in one place and have a good time playing regularly. It’s
mutually beneficial as patrons look forward to seeing musicians regularly, getting
to know them on a personal basis.
residencies began when Quillan Roe (of Accident Clearinghouse) and his wife
played as the Mammy Nuns’ guests during one of that bands first Tuesdays
at the venue. Roe and his wife made an appearance on a Monday as the Roe Family
Singers, and Jarret gave them regular Mondays “because they work really
hard and are really talented.” Quillan’s other band, Accident Clearinghouse,
recently began a weekly residency called “Wednesday Night Re-Union.”
Quillan said the group’s very excited about this as they’ve always
wanted to try something like Trailer Trash’s regular Wednesday shows at
Lee’s Liquor Lounge.
Jarret said of the Re-Union, “It’s a wonderful time! We have a downhomey
theme with a kitschy patriotism theme. It starts with Drinking Liberally. They
meet and discuss politics from 6–9 p.m. That’s a national organization,
and we’re proud to host them. We have a blue plate and a gray plate special,
a North vs. South theme [smiles] with tater tot hotdish and frito pie. After
the band plays, the entire bar gets together [for a] a family photo! [laughs]
It’s a blast!” The frito pie was inspired by Raleigh, whose famous
Texas tacos are featured on Tuesdays.
Le Cirque Rouge de Gus Cabaret and Burlesque perform Saturdays. Jarret says
“They’ve got the best visual and interactive show in Northeast.”
They include The Tin Star Sisters, favorites of Jon’s (and mine), who
play accordion and xylophone and
Sundays Brad Senne hosts “Beight Music Acoustic Crash,” featuring
three to four acts plus Senne himself, who said the shows present “a wide
variety of mostly unknown but very talented musicians who play an hour
“James Leonardo’s Record Collection” is on Thursdays. Leonardo,
a friend of Jarret’s and sister Laurie (who works at the bar and salon),
is “a music history buff. He’s got everything from doo wop to speed
metal … he plays everything!” Jon said.
has a couple rules for bands: “One, they’ve gotta be cool, but two,
they’ve gotta have a good time. A lot of the musicians that have been
playing have a great time and don’t want to stop!” Jon enjoys the
Clementine Pickers, who “play straight through for five hours! The members
on stage keep changing. They start out with ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’
and then pace the shows so they’re ending with really rocking blues numbers.”
Asked about the Twin Cities music scene, Jarret said, “It’s got
a huge headwind. More people are paying attention to local music. I think a
big part of it is the grown up punk rock kids. They’re playing country
music. It has to do with what people want to feel [and] what they want to receive
from music. In Minnesota, people want to eat comfort food because it’s
cold. People want to listen to country music because they don’t want to
pay attention to the cold. They want to hear pure, heartfelt, soothing music.
I’m not saying country music can’t be smart. But it’s a simple,
pure beauty. Bluegrass, country and blues … it seems like the perfect
For more info on 331 Club, visit their website at 331Club.com.