Metal fans find a venue at Bargames

Published 9:05 am Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bands from around the region and a few from around the country have made their way in the past year to a bar in Northwood called Bargames.

The bar is using its second-floor stage as a venue to bring in rock and metal bands. And the fans of the music, too. Its owners hope to expand in 2010 to folk and some other genres.

Three partners opened Bargames on St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year after learning through word of mouth in the fall of 2008 about the opportunity to lease the former dinner theater at 830 Central Ave. It had been home of Ruby Jo’s and before that Blue Moon.

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These days, the owners are a duo — Rich Mirelli of Alden and Eric Mickelson of Albert Lea. They have brought national acts to Northwood such as L.A. Guns, Psychostick, Vains of Jenna and Rhino Bucket.

Their venue also has welcomes local acts, such as XXile of St. Ansgar, Iowa; Crooked Halo of Hampton, Iowa; Astral Space of Charles City, Iowa; Midwest Crackers of Anoka and A Sure Reminder of Albert Lea.

Mirelli — who has lived in the Midwest since 2002 but speaks with accent from his native Long Island, N.Y. — said Northwood has buzz going for it, with Diamond Jo Casino west of the city, Worth Brewery downtown, a few new restaurants and specialty shopping choices.

He said Bargames brings out-of-towners to Northwood and contributes to the buzz.

9 o’clock tonight: Soundstill, Red Moon Harvest, Saul, Crooked Halo

8 p.m. Jan. 16: Mixed-martial arts cage fighting

9 p.m. Jan. 22: Cowboys from Hell, a tribute to Pantera

9 p.m. Jan. 29: Midwest Crackers

8 p.m. March 18: Kicking K8

9 p.m. March 26: Pain of Evolution

“We’re known as the weird bar in town,” he said.

He said Bargames welcomes all kinds of people from anywhere and has its local regulars. It gets its name from the first-floor games of pool, darts and Foosball. There is a year-round pool league and a summer darts league.

Mirelli, who is the mailroom supervisor at the Albert Lea Tribune, said Northwood is a good place for a music venue because bands travel north and south on Interstate 35 from central Iowa to the Twin Cities and vice versa. The bands from both places can get paid to perform during one night of their trip, offsetting the cost of travel.

Bargames is publicizing its New Year’s Eve activities for tonight. The music starts at 9 p.m., with four bands, and there will be champaign at midnight. It costs $5 to enter the second-floor music venue.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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