Local Current Blog

Lori Barbero: ‘I just wish I could save all the dogs, all the world, all the people’

Lori Barbero tends bar at a Grant Hart show, 2017. (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

Lori Barbero is a Minnesota music legend, drummer for Babes in Toyland and an artist who could fill an encyclopedia with her local knowledge. Like many musicians, she also works in the service industry; in her case, as a bartender. That means she’s doubly affected by restaurants, bars, and music venues closing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Before the outbreak, Barbero was scheduled to co-host today’s Morning Show in honor of Women’s History Month. Instead, by phone, she told The Current’s Jill Riley about her feelings regarding the status of her bartending job, her gigs around town, and how she copes with staying cooped up in her house.

Jill Riley: It’s a strange world right now. It’s a new odd normal for the moment, but how are you doing? How are you coping?

Lori Barbero: I’m doing okay. It wanes and flows. I think it’s probably because it’s just me in my house. I’m just finding things to do on my own, and there’s pros and cons to that, so it just is a catch-22 to everything, you know?

What are you hearing from people you know in the bar industry?

Well, everyone’s having a tough time. Thank goodness that we can apply for unemployment. I’m bartending at the VFW, and I do bartend on Wednesday nights for Transmission. We were supposed to have that last night. I was going to stay up all night and then just come into the studio.

I know, I was looking forward to that!

So that was a change of plans for both the scenes. I bartended Monday night. I did give up my shift because I didn’t want to go in, but no one picked it up so I did end up going in. Very surreal. We were about the only place open in Uptown, so it was pretty wild. I tried to wear rubber gloves as much as I could but the computer system didn’t work with gloves because it’s a touch screen. It was just kind of a nightmare.

I also had a few DJ gigs I was supposed to do in the next few days and those were also cancelled, including the 7th St Entry Anniversary Party. Then I was supposed to go to Jamaica this next Wednesday. My whole world is changed in so many layers, just like everybody. I’m nothing special.

I saw there was going to be a tribute to one of your old friends, the late, great Grant Hart.

It was the Entry last night. We all had broken hearts about that too. I talked to his wife Bridget for quite a while, and I see her as often as I can. Dylan Richie puts that together and it’s such a wonderful night of Grant’s friends, family, and music people that just get together. It’s a really warm time to celebrate his music and his life, and that also got shot to hell. It’s just layers of things where you go, “Well it’s kind of bad hanging out in your house by yourself” and then there’s all these other things. Me being an empath, I don’t really feel sorry for myself. I feel bad for everyone else. I just wish I could save all the dogs, all the world, all the people. I’m trying to foster a dog at the moment, because I lost my dog a few months ago.

Lori, looking forward to seeing your face but it’s nice to hear your voice this morning.

Thank you so much, and everyone take care of yourselves and each other.

Connecting with the music world during the coronavirus crisis

Hear more interviews with Jill Riley

Find out where to watch livestreamed concerts

Follow the music news

How to help