street musicians downtown Fargo

Inner City Music: A Name Behind the Guitar

street musicians downtown Fargo
TESSA BECK | THE SPECTRUM
Mike and Dan Wahlstedt perform downtown on a cool, Friday night.

Beyond the bustle of downtown Fargo, a melody drifts up the sidewalk.

Set up on the corner of Broadway and First Avenue, Mike and Dan Wahlstedt serenaded Friday night’s downtown crowd with acoustic, post-punk jams.

Fargo, and downtown in particular, has established itself in recent years as an up-and-coming hub of entertainment possibilities.

Look past scheduled events: the streets are filled with musicians offering their talents to those looking to listen.

Mike, a senior at Concordia, is a regular on the busking scene since last year. A roommate prompted his involvement, and now he can be found most Friday and Saturday nights, and during occasional noon hours.

“You can play whenever you want, and (people) have to listen to you,” Mike said, jokingly, “It’s a good way to get exposure.”

Dan joined the festivities for the first time as drummer. Both mentioned the possibility for venue-centric performances once their band, Sheepshank, is located in the same city.

Both of the Wahlstedts mentioned classic and modern rock as influential genres to their performance style. The duo’s set list was a combination of recognizable alternative and pop-punk selections.

The typical season for a downtown music performers is loosely early spring through late fall. Mike is an exception, playing nearly year-round.

He offered advice for new artists.

“Stay away from my spot (laughs) … But really, just go out and play the music you like … My roommate last year was big into Irish music, and he played that,” Mike said. “People like whatever, so do what you like.”

A busking permit is $50 per year and covers the entirety of downtown. Fargo holds the unique advantage of having a centralized nightlife location – giving performers a clear-cut destination.

Mike also mentioned other cities in the U.S. do not provide permits to performers, making busking a sneakier undertaking.

Playing in an active environment like downtown Fargo provides opportunity for a variety of responses from a fleeting audience.
“Some people are really enthusiastic and sing along,” Mike said.

“Of course there’s the drunk a——s who tell you how to do your job, or ask to play my guitar.”

Specific highlights include children dancing along during the lunch hour or mass sing-alongs to Three Non-Blondes.

Outdoor musicians lend a hand in the venue culture of Fargo, and add additional narrative to the arts culture in a witty, nuanced way. Buskers become familiar with one another and offer support at open mic and coffee shop performances.

Rain or shine, keep an eye out for the bandana-wearing shaggy blonde.

The Wahlstedts are up for a sing-along.

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