To the north there is a wide range of bars with live music but few with such a distinct personality as the Jade Fountain. This Duluth cocktail bar can only be described as unique and alluring. Dim lighting and collected art combine with social drinks and Chinese cuisine. The Jade Fountain opened in 1968 as a restaurant and bar until it closed in 2015. It reopened in 2020 under new management, and the 70s-themed Polynesian cocktail bar retains all the design and architecture of its retro days.
Local music fills the space well, and one band in particular is a new favorite at the Jade Fountain. Babie Eyes, a band from Duluthian with folk, soul and gospel influences, play in the lounge on August 4. One of the core members, Heidi Feroe, describes the Jade Fountain as “a giant living room…it’s comforting to be there.” She laughs when she mentions that the group chose to bring their own lights; it’s hard for them to see in the murky shadows.
Feroe has a 3.5-year-old daughter, Nora, who inspired the band’s name. “I thought about waking up every day with baby eyes,” she says. As someone who regularly meditates and focuses on her spiritual journey, Feroe is passionate about getting a new perspective on life every day. This translates into the band’s music. “We never play a song exactly the same way,” says Feroe. “We kind of stuck a bit, [and] we are open to change things. The band’s original music is a combination of indie folk and alternative rock, and they sing about “love, loss and spiritual renewal”.
Babie Eyes is a recent creation, fully formed in March 2022. There are three core members (Heidi Feroe, Curtis Bellows and Ian Alexy) and two additional members (Jacob Mahon and Kenny Bressler) who join when they can. Mahon is also a member of Duluth funk band New Salty Dog, a band that got Feroe into the music community.
Feroe was in a different band before going through harsh experiences of depression, feeling stuck in her house and not playing for years. “Finally, I had some sort of change,” she says. “I got pregnant, started taking care of myself and completely changed my life.” She was inspired to get back into music when she saw New Salty Dog. “I went to see them every Tuesday at the Ripple Bar,” she says. He missed the musical community and the experimental shows that had allowed him to be creative.
Feroe is all about getting out there – and that’s when she started pursuing music in particular. “I heard music on the street and followed the sound to a house where they were playing,” she says. “I asked if they needed a singer. I had no experience, so I was just scared.
Duluth’s music scene is one of Feroe’s favorite parts today. “It’s the best right now,” she said. “Everyone supports each other. [and] I’m so excited about [the younger people]. They seem to be really progressive in their thinking, and just cool. There are also more women in the community now compared to when Feroe just started in 2011.
Although only a few months old, Babie Eyes is already working on recording music. Feroe’s vision is to record all of this live. “I want to capture the essence of the five of us,” she says. The band is making big strides, recently playing for the first time in Minneapolis. They joined Lyla Abukhodair and Delicate Friend at 331 Club a few weeks ago. Now they will play the Jade Fountain for the second time this Thursday at 8 p.m. For updates on music and future shows, follow the Babie Eyes Facebook page.