For the past ten years Beaners Central has been a hot spot on the Duluth cultural scene. The atmosphere was laid back, the decor artsy, the wireless Internet access free and the staff always there for you. On those occasions I dropped in it seemed to have captured the flavor of Sixties Bohemian.
Over the years it seems like many good causes have done their fund raisers there. And I was aware that on Wednesday evening they had an open mic night for musicians who did three song sets. And that a lot of small groups and a few bigger names have performed there.
Last week I had lunch with Jason Wussow, owner/founder of Beaners, and I discovered the real reason this place is so successful. Jason is just a really nice guy.
My aim in meeting Jason had nothing to do with Beaners. In fact, I only just discovered the connection. I's become interested in a project called Cooking On The Car. Last winter, Jason Wussow and Dan Dresser decided to thumb their noses at winter through doing something a buit unusual. Driving to the Southwest to get away to warmer weather is not that unusual. Driving to Taos, New Mexico, and cooking all of your meals on the manifold of a 1989 Toyota Camry is unusual. Making a documentary about the experience even moreso.
It was fifteen below when they left. Their first meal that day was a venison quiche. Other meals included cooked pheasant, mahi mahi, Hungarian stew and more. If you missed in on the big screen, you can purchase the DVD here.
Wussow, 33, is exceedingly likable for some reason. He owns a business and the building that houses it, and the recording studio, yet comes across as so laid back about it all. I asked how he promoted Beaners and made it so successful. "Mostly word of mouth," he said. "and email lists. But the music acts do a lot of their own PR." A number of name bands have graced the stage here, including Mason Jennings before he became a national name.
In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner is instructed to "Build it and they will come." For Wussow there is just enough magic there to keep us coming.
Beaners also hosts art shows, and currently there is a show by Nancy Miller that is quite exquisite featuring mixed media mosaic-like works. I myself signed up for a stint in July, tentatively themed The Many Faces of Ennyman.
Dresser and Wussow had been looking forward to heading back on the road for a second round of Cooking On The Car when an unanticipated, but fortuitous, event occured. Independent film making team 4 Track Films has taken an interest in the project. With backing from the Zeppa Foundation, Jason Page and Carrie Boberg will carry the Wussow/Dresser experience to a new level. That's the plan anyways. For sure their work is part of a significant movement in the decentralization of Hollywood power. The sequel is now scheduled for January.
This Friday night there's a kickoff party at Beaners and I believe there will be food available that has been prepared on the engine of a car. Yummm. Eight o'clock. Be there or be square.
ABOUT Jason Wussow
From Jason’s MySpace page:
I’ve been playing music for a while now. I started playing guitar when I was 5. I played in my 1st bar when I was 15 and haven’t looked back. In high school I started out in Metal bands and moved into Alt Rock. Finally I found ska music. Desmond Decker, The Skatalites, Hepcat, and all the rest. The gateway band for me was Skank and Pickle. Any ways, I started a ska band called Fluxskapacitor. This is where I got my 1st real taste of touring. We toured hundreds of shows over the course of many years and many horn players. In 1998 when everyone quit except for Matt Norby and myself we both decided to pull the plug. That’s when I opened Beaner’s (www.beanerscentral.com). It sounded like a good idea to stop touring and run a club, but that idea lasted about 6 months. I started going crazy doing sound for band after band and not being on the road myself. After 2 years I started a ska fusion band called No Room To Pogo. This band lasted for about 4 years and had a great line up including Sara Softich (www.yeltzi.com www.myspace.com/sarasoftich ). As all bands seem to do, Pogo ran it’s course. I made a nice transition into Sara’s band. The guitarist left at the right time. Currently I am touring with Yeltzi supporting our newest album "Snow in August" a twisted, gypsy bluegrass ode to cold and winter Snow has fallen in few places before Labor Day. Yeltzi comes from one of them. Snow in August is our debut album as Yeltzi featuring Sara Softich and myself. It's our first recording to fully capture the twisted, gypsy bluegrass sound that's evolved from years of combining their individual styles on stages through the country. When I'm not on tour or working at Beaner's, I like to record bands live and in the studio below the club. We have started a sweet studio called Sub Central Records.