Koerner and Glover play the 400 Bar again
By Sarah Ashworth, Minnesota PublicRadio
Minneapolis -- Tonight, and every Wednesday night through February, local music icons "Spider" John Koerner and Tony Glover will take to the stage at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. It's a homecoming of sorts for the legendary folk and blues musicians.
They're now in their seventies, but they first began playing around the city's West Bank in the 1960s. Morning Edition producer Sarah Ashworth stopped by one of their recent shows.
Glover told her that being back on stage brings back lots of memories.
"It's kind of nostalgic," he said. "I've met several women who I ended up living with back when it was a bar."
Women also make up some of Koerner's memories. He says he met at least one of his wives at the 400 Club. Back in the 1960s, the bar was part of a vibrant music scene near the University of Minnesota's West Bank. Glover says it was an exciting time and the West Bank felt like Greenwich Village. Today, he views his once-a-week gig in far more practical terms.
"It's a way to get out of the house, after dark. It's kind of like it's familiar, it's comfortable like an old shoe, but there's always something a little different about it that keeps me awake, keeps me interested," he says.
On stage, Koerner and Glover sit side by side. Old friends, hanging out, playing their favorite songs. Glover slouches a bit in his chair. As he plays harmonica, his silver rings catch the light. Koerner's on his left and his nickname still holds. Like a spider, he's thin and all legs. While he plays his 12-string guitar, one leg taps loudly.
"The music I play with Tony, or Tony plays with me, is old traditional stuff, which is really solid material," Koerner says.
They've never played together regularly, although from time to time they would join their friend, the late Dave Ray, and perform as the trio Koerner, Ray and Glover. But their lives took them in different directions. Somehow they always found their way back together -- and back to the West Bank.
"I think of this as being home, pretty much," Koerner says, but the neighborhood, which is now a thriving immigrant enclave, has a new feel. "Back in the old days it was kind of the hippie era, and that was probably the most interesting of the times. Now of course it's quite different."
Koerner refers to the fans on hand as the "gray hairs" in the audience - they make up a lot of the crowd. But Koerner says he's encouraged to see younger people also showing up-- like Tommy Saunders. He's part of the band, Local Thief, that opened for the duo.
"They still sound the same after you know how many years they've been playing, they still sound great I think," Saunders says. "It's nice to be able to hear that now, when we wouldn't have had the chance before."
Koerner and Glover's set lasts a little more than an hour. Between songs, Koerner tells an "Ole and Lena" joke, and talks about the mild winter weather. After a one-song encore, the two begin to pack up. It's a little different from how their shows ended forty years ago.
"Back in those days, we might get done playing here and then look for a party to hang out. These days, when I'm done, I get home as quickly as I can and hit the sack," he says with a laugh.
- Morning Edition, 02/01/2012, 7:45 a.m.