Inside the Troll Lounge, tucked in a corner on the small stage, you can hear the deep beats from a base, the strum of a guitar and occasionally the tune of a fiddle mixing with singing, laughing and chatting. The Moving Parts, who have been together for about 12 years, have made themselves a regular performer during what some may call the lounge’s “revival.” As part of the Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge 4-25, the Troll Lounge offers food, drinks, entertainment and good company (fair warning, the good company sometimes comes in the form of trolls, but good company nonetheless).
To say Fargo is lucky to have the abundant entertainment that we do is an understatement. For living in what feels like a tundra, in a state with one of the smallest populations, you can find a variety of events almost every night of the week in town. One of the city’s used-to-be hidden gems, the Troll Lounge, now brings in crowds with their unique and welcoming atmosphere.
Forming around 2010, The Moving Parts debuted at what was then called The Winery where Mel’s Bakery now sits in Fargo. After many evenings of live music and even being invited up to the stage to play with a friend’s band, Charley and Mary Johnson decided to make it official. They gathered up a few friends, updated their setlist and began to play as regulars. They finalized the name of the band after the fact.
“The manager of The Winery at that time, said, ‘How do I publicize you? You have so many different people in your band, what do I call you?’ We said, ‘Well, that’s tough, Brett, because there are a lot of moving parts,’’ Charley explained. “He said, ‘Well, why don’t you call yourselves that?’”
Throughout the years, there may have been many moving parts in terms of band members, but one thing has stayed constant—good music.
“Most people would dub us what they’d call Americana; so old folk music, some alt-country, some more recent in the last 20-25 years, some straight-up country tunes that you would recognize, and a few old standards,” Charley said.
Some common hits are “Crazy” by Willie Nelson, “Ain’t No Use in Tryin’” by Trampled by Turtles, and lots of Bob Dylan. One of the members, Michael Olson, has written a few original songs that the band plays as well.
Like the origin story for The Moving Parts, the band’s lineup fluctuates per night, but we’ve got the breakdown:
Pres/CEO of FM CVB, former local broadcaster: Guitar, vocals & occasional 5-string banjo
Retired RN in labor & delivery/OB-Gyn at St. Lukes’ -Meritcare-Sanford, and finally Essentia: vocals, harmonicas, tambourine, shakers
Michael J. Olson
Retired (mostly) Sr. Communication guru, with a resume’ ranging from Capitol Hill in Washington DC to Microsoft, Otter Tail Corporation, Prairie Public TV, National Car Rental and a few others: Guitar, vocals, 6-string banjo
Kate Henne (“Dakota Kate”)
Principal Technical Info Developer for Infor: Fiddle, Mandolin, vocals
Randi Olsen Heinold
Program Associate for the Barry Foundation & owner of Naturally Randi Kay: vocals & guitar
Professional musician who moonlights at Doolittle’s: upright bass
In the band, Charley has captured not only the lounge’s audience but a number of viewers across the city too. Before he started The Moving Parts, Charley spent around 40 years working in broadcast journalism.
“Everyone that I knew who worked in journalism, whether it was broadcast journalism or print journalism, all felt like it was a calling,” Charley said. “We weren’t paid a great deal, we made a living some of us, but it was a calling. We felt like we were doing important work, so it was exciting, it was fun.”
His journey started when he worked for his high school radio station. During college, he spent summers working for KSTP-TV in Minneapolis as a floor director, saying that’s where he got “the bug” for broadcast journalism. A few years out of college, Charley found his spot at what was then, KXJB-TV Channel 4, as a reporter photographer. He then moved to regular anchor left and served as news director as well. After 15 years, he started at KVLT-TV Channel 11 as news director and co-anchor. Those two stations eventually merged to what we know today as Valley News Live, and yes, Charley was there for that too.
“It’s fun to be the first person to know things or the person who tries to find out things. Digging into stories, getting to know community leaders and finding out all the good and bad things about what happens in your own hometown. It was a wonderful experience,” Charley said.
After so many years in the news chair, Charley decided to venture out of that world and started at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau (FM CVB). While it was a big career change, now as the President of the FM CVB he still gets to interact with his community like he did when he was chasing the beat… when he isn’t singing along with them in the Troll Lounge that is.
“I think the three [jobs], if you want to include the band in there, have a connection because they all involve dealing with people and being involved in the community,” Charley said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have the chance to have had this job for the last 10 years. I never thought I would want to do anything except broadcast journalism, but this has been a wonderful change.”
Charley said he has never been accused of being an introvert, so it’s no surprise that he and the band, The Moving Parts, help bring the Troll Lounge to life the second Thursday of every the month.
When the band started, they and another regular, a band called Tucker’d Out, were some of the only live shows and events the lounge hosted. But now, Maren Jorgensen, bar manager and events coordinator, and John Jorgensen, board member for the Son of Norway, are passionate about uncovering this gem deep in downtown Fargo.
“There was life that needed to be brought back,” Maren said. “It was that hidden gem that we always say we don’t want to be hidden anymore.”
About a year ago, Maren and her husband, John, started to see that the lounge needed to be expanded. John looked back to its opening in 1975 and saw that it was open six to seven nights a week, compared to what it had been running at with only two events a week and closing at 7:30 p.m.
Combining their media, promotion and entertainment knowledge, the couple now have created a hotspot for live entertainment and casual evenings alike. Now, you find weekly live music and events like bluegrass and Americana musicians, comedy, open mics nights, and even “unkaraoke” a karaoke sing-a-long but from your seats that has filled capacity at the lounge.
Maren and John hold the Sons of Norway, and especially the Troll Lounge, close to their hearts. They hope for others to experience the space and the people who make it home.
“I always tell people, if you leave stressed I did you wrong,” Maren said. “Have a good drink, talk to people and listen to the band. We call it the little slice of heaven in downtown.”
The Troll Lounge is filled with old friends and warm light. Even at first step under the arched doorway, you can feel the comfort between the mural walls and hear the laughs that bounce off them. You’ll find good music and even better company