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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Caden Sierra
Caden Sierra
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Hey. My name is Caden and I'm from the Chicagoland area.  I'm currently going into my 3rd year at NMU.  I'm a multimedia production major with a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. For as...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Merlot Mansion’s ‘Classic Fest’

The Merlot Mansion’s Facebook page offers a little description for those who haven’t had the pleasure:

“We’re Merlot House. We make noise in a basement.

My beautiful picture
My beautiful picture

“Usually it’s punk, indie, folk, metal, or hip-hop (but we DO like everything).

“Don’t start fights, mess with our pups, make a mess/break things, or park in our parking lot and (s—) will be cool baby.”

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The Merlot Mansion is a poorly-kept secret in Marquette’s fringe scene. Its walls bear witness to many acts, mostly musical, and the snowy ground outside its door is tamped smooth during the transition months by the soles of shoes—mostly Vans and Doc Martens. Cigarette butts accent the base of the porch like chin-stubble.

A box of Franzia sat on the kitchen counter, its spigot overhanging the edge, occasionally oozing a beet-colored droplet which hung, quivering, until the next fill-up. Coffee cups were on offer from a cabinet above the sink and were filled, and re-filled, from the box of wine. Merlot, of course.

Inside the house, a small queue gives away the location of the bathroom. “It’s the only door that locks,” you’ll be told, if you ask a frequent visitor where to go. The living room is like any other party house’s living room on a weekend: two couches and a recliner, lounging party-goers, empty cans and bottles. Not that it’s messy. It’s lived-in, drank-in, played-in.

The basement, transformed from a cold, clammy space to an ethereal punk-rock venue, was lit by one bare light bulb. This bulb, one of the new curly types, found itself inside the mouth of the lead singer of a musician at one point. Standing up straight is an exercise in spinal compression; the floor is under your feet, and the basement ceiling is, at maximum, six feet up. Good posture is for support beams only.

The basement is where things really happen, the living room, kitchen and porch serving as a series of lily pads en route to solid ground. Split and warped planking descends, one step at a time, to the Michigan-style basement—the walls are rough-cut stone and dirt—and as you reach the bottom landing, the music approaches full volume.

It would be a helluva lot louder if two-dozen bodies weren’t dampening the waves of sound coming from the far end of the space. Under that single bare bulb, a bearded man stands with a guitar, a professor I’m told, howling and sweating and expelling a voice that will deafen anyone foolish enough to stand next to the PA system.

This is Merlot.

“In the couple of years since I started going to shows at the Merlot, I’ve hardly missed any,” Trent Davis said, a junior human-centered design major. “The crowds have been smaller lately, and shows aren’t quite as frequent, but I think it’s on the upswing.”

This house, a nondescript two-story place right in town, has been a venue for musicians for years. The Merlot has hosted acts from all over the Midwest, but local bands dominate most weekends. Classic Fest, a charity show raising money for the bands and for Planned Parenthood, is the fifth annual event hosted at the location. Perennial favorites like The Chanteymen played in the dim basement; The Chanteymen and Gerko, Marquette locals who have some experience with rock and roll gigs, performed right alongside The Hazy Seas, a band for whom Classic Fest was one of their first few shows.

While other basement-show locations have come and gone, such as the Loaf House on Sugarloaf Avenue, the Merlot Mansion is demonstrating some staying power and continues to entertain. Students may enter and exit the scene, but punk rock is here. And it can ordinarily be found in a Marquette basement.

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