By HPR Staff
Our opinion: How can it be 17 years?
It’s hard to believe that Ralph’s has been gone for 17 years. I was lucky enough to experience the tail end of its legacy, though technically I wasn’t old enough to be there (legally). If memory serves me right it was the first bar I got kicked out of. Neil Hamburger was playing that night.
To provide a bit of context I haven’t been kicked out of a bar since I was 20, if that says anything, but here’s my PSA:
1. Don’t drink underage
2. If you do drink under age, don’t risk some poor bartender’s job
3. Don’t get any ideas here…
There was a certain magic to the place. It was gritty, it was DIY and it was a hotbed of creativity. I remember every electrical pole near MSUM was plastered with posters for past and upcoming shows. These posters were individual works of art, we’re talking multi-colored hand-pulled, numbered and signed screen prints. I used to have a handful of them. In fact, I traded a friend a Dead Moon print I pulled off one of the bulletin boards at the Art Department (after a show, of course) for an Amelie poster.
The first time I went to Ralph’s, My pal Alex and I were the kittens within our group of friends, we’d refer to a few of them as the “old punks” when in reality they were probably my age now... It’s weird to think that one minute you’re the jerk getting kicked out of the bar for being too young then the next you’re the “old punk.”
We’d often hang out by the back door and wait for one of our other friends to let us into Ralph’s, we’d often muse that we knew half the bar and we weren’t even old enough to be there. If we couldn’t get in we’d meet up with our friends on the sidewalk outside and find out where the afterparty was, if there was a party, we were generally pretty good at sniffing it out. If we didn’t do that, we’d hang out at the Wellington, an apartment behind Mexican Village that he shared with our friends Dan and Ben, for a flood of people to stampede through the door; on those nights, the afterparty found us.
Ralph’s is where I saw my first punk show (The Soviettes), the first place I ever planned an event (a bonkers HPR fashion show), and the first bar I ever snuck into while I was underage. I didn’t even drink back then. I just wanted to talk to people who were trying to build a creative or unusual life, instead of just working to live. (Although most of us were doing that too.) And when I finally turned 21, those conversations about art and music and books drew me back. You could walk into Ralph’s and stretch a few dollars into a couple of beers and a feeling that you made sense somewhere.
– Alicia Underlee Nelson
From hipsters and scenesters to many local media types, Ralph's was the place to be on a Friday night. Many friends of mine played in the local noise-rock bands that performed there. I'll never forget the nights hanging out by the soundboard or jukebox. My ears won't either!
– Rick Gion
I got to see several epic shows in the back room, which was such an incredibly intimate space you could count on ringing ears. One of the best was Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – I think it was 1994. There was just no separation between spectator and artist like you find at places with taller stages. Following the set, the band might just melt into the audience. After the Blues Explosion show, I chatted with a sweaty and exhausted Russell Simins.
I loved seeing Neil Hamburger absolutely kill at Ralph’s, drinks spilling everywhere. I stood near Casey Borchert, Alyssa Notermann and Adam Hagen. Brandon Opdahl was there, too. We just howled, tears streaming down our faces. I’ll never look at a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken the same way again.
A lot of people talk about interacting with members of Green Day at Ralph’s, but for me, the one that got away was the June 13, 2000 White Stripes show that was thankfully recorded and later released as “Under Moorhead Lights All Fargo Night.” John Lamb once tried to identify who actually attended that one. Standard opened and Amy Jo’s minimalist, Mondrian-inspired poster remains one of the most beautiful ever designed for a Ralph’s Corner gig.
I met Katie Smith across the river at Duffy’s on a freezing cold December evening in 2000. It was love at first sight for me, but she wasn’t so sure. She must have liked me well enough to tell me she was going to be at Ralph’s the next night, so I located some courage, showed up, and found her at the bar. The rest is history.
– Greg Carlson
When I think of Ralph's Corner so many things come to mind. Back then our deadline for HPR was on Wednesdays and we would work our asses off so we could get done by Midnight and get to Ralph's before it closed. So many of my friends I made there, So many amazing memories. When I would talk about it, I realized after a while, I was the old man... telling old stories. Does anyone care, should they? Thank you to everyone who helps keep these memories alive, us oldtimers owe you one.
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