Local Current Blog

The New Direction: Fargo’s cozy community for hardcore rockers

Tiny Moving Parts perform at the New Direction in January. Photo by Alissa Reynolds.

The hardcore music scene in Fargo-Moorhead has a nonprofit community home: the New Direction. What used to be the coffee shop Red Raven, the New Direction has hosted over 200 shows since its opening in 2011, according to co-owner Jack Stenerson.

The Fargo venue has not only hosted concerts but also art shows and punk rock garage sales, and will soon begins hosting comedy nights every Tuesday. The garage sales provide an opportunity for anyone in the local community to bring in their old music, t-shirts, and any other miscellaneous items to sell.

“We like to do little weird things like that…we want to have as many things going on here as possible,” Stenerson said.

The New Direction puts all of its profit back into the venue and paying the bands, said Stenerson. Even though the New Direction is not legally a nonprofit, it runs like one, subsisting on donations, volunteer time, and income from ticket sales.

“We wanted to be [legally] nonprofit, but it was just this long drawn-out process that would end up costing a lot more money than it’s worth,” Stenerson said. Stenerson adds that the venue was close to shutting down last summer when its rent was increased; however, after negotiations, the venue was able to stay—and its musical community has continued to thrive.

Hardcore and punk are the main genres represented at the New Direction, but the venue has been host to hip-hop and indie artists as well. The volunteers at the New Direction try to make their space as accommodating to the bands as they can. There are couches, video games, and a foosball table available for use. They even try to feed bands when they can, Stenerson said.

High Hopes, a band from Fargo, recently played at the New Direction.

“We feel like there are not many that do what the New Direction does to support local music,” said High Hopes vocalist Leighton Folk. “The number one rule [the venue proprietors] always seem to follow is to make it a priority to support the artists.”

Folk adds that he enjoys the up-close feel, similar to a basement show, and how the show is set up “with a musician’s schedule—and wallet—in mind.”

The New Direction is the only venue in Fargo that is all-ages all the time. The main goal for the venue is to get as many people to see the bands as possible, Stenerson said.

“It’s really the only way for all-ages people to be able to play music to other kids, otherwise there are just 21-plus shows or huge shows that a local band would never get a chance to play,” he said.

Every winter the New Direction holds a three-day festival, New Direction Fest, to celebrate the birthday of the venue. This will be the third year of the festival, which includes art shows during the day and concerts in the evening. In the past there have only been local bands performing, but this year the organizers are hoping to have more regional bands perform.

The volunteers will never turn a fan away if the fan can’t afford to see a show. Everyone is welcome to any event the New Direction puts on.

“Everyone is welcome here…[we’re] a weird community of misfits,” said Stenerson. “It’s cool.”

Kayla Culver is studying multimedia journalism and public relations at Concordia College. Once she graduates she will be pursuing a career as a music journalist. She blogs irregularly at chameleonears.comAlissa Reynolds is a photographer based in Minneapolis.