Review: Jazz Night at Sidestreet

Image of the race hoglund quartet performing at sidestreet
The Race Hoglund quartet (Nik Gruber, Joey Pettit, Race Hoglund, Ryne Ortez) perform at Sidestreet.

Jazz Night, held Mondays at the Sidestreet Grille and Pub, feels like one of downtown Fargo’s best keep secrets. In this intimate and comfortable setting, you can relax and enjoy some fantastic live music in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Fargo-Moorhead has a lot of local jazz talent, thanks in part to the number of local colleges and music schools, and this event is a great way to check out what it has to offer.

The Event

Jazz Night features a rotating cast of contributing bands, with a different group taking the stage each week to perform music that fits somewhere under the wide umbrella of jazz. Their styles range from swing to bebop, smooth, hard bop, or New Orleans-style. From time to time you may be lucky enough to spot a schedule of upcoming acts posted up in the bar or on their Facebook page, but more often than not it’s a roll of the dice as to who you’ll see. The one exception is the first Monday of each month, which always features the house “Big Band” playing upstairs.

The Setting

Jazz night is every Monday at Sidestreet, from 7-9 p.m. If you time it right you can take advantage of some happy hour specials, which run from 2 – 7 p.m. before the music starts: half-price appetizers, $3 pounders, and $1 off other beer, liquor, and wine. If you’re hungry, there’s a full menu of bar & grill favorites like nachos, wings, burgers, and pizza, with several vegetarian options available. Sidestreet also features a rotating list of more than 50 beers on tap, with a few bonuses like cider and kombucha in there too.

Pool tables and dart boards offer a bit of extra entertainment along with the music, and now that football season has started, you can check out the Monday night games on the room’s many TVs in between songs and during breaks.

If you haven’t been to Sidestreet for a while, they’ve made a few upgrades in the last couple of years. The small parking lot on the building’s west side is gone, replaced by a new patio area. Rest assured there’s still plenty of downtown parking in the area, especially on Mondays. The building’s second floor, where the aforementioned Big Band nights take place, is now home to The Four and Four, a wedding and event venue named for the building’s cross-street location.

The Vibe

It’s evident even before the music starts that this is a friendly place. A lot of the audience is clearly regular attendees, chatting and laughing quietly with one another while seated around long tables. The place tends to get pretty full, but you’ll likely still be able to score a seat somewhere. Band members mill about talking with friends and family in between warming up. Their stage is a raised area used for seating outside of events, the tables and chairs pushed aside to make room, so it’s an intimate setting.

Once the music starts, the crowd makes a point to show their appreciation, applauding enthusiastically after the musicians’ solos and spirited flourishes. Dancers take to the floor during upbeat numbers, stopping by one another’s tables to invite different partners to take a twirl.

The Music

Two Jazz Nights, one in August and one in September, featured the Race Hoglund quartet, or at least an iteration of it. Hoglund assembled the lineup only the week before the first performance in order to cover for another group that couldn’t make it. Joining him on his tenor saxophone were Nik Gruber on guitar, Joey Pettit on double bass, and Ryne Ortez on the drums. Their last-minute collaboration proved effective; both shows were great.

Hoglund always set the tone while leading the group with his saxophone, punching up the energy and squealing out a fast song, then deftly pivoting to a softer, chiller vibe for the next. He bantered with the audience a little in his introductions: “This next song is about fruit!” for Herbie Hancock’s ‘Cantaloupe Island,’ and, before the song ‘Sir Spiral,’ explaining “It’s a song about my curly hair.” When a would-be comedian at the bar repeatedly called out for “Freebird!” he playfully shot back, “Yeah, we heard you the first four times.” After lively solos, he often sat to take a breather near the neon blue glow of one of the stage’s pull-tab machines.

The talent of each member of the group was evident. Gruber’s guitar was bright and smooth in solos, lending a sunny vibe to the quartet. The sound in the room is excellent; Pettit’s bass notes always sounded distinct and clear to the ear, never muddy, and they reverberated nice and loudly in the chest, pulling the audience along with the groove. Ortez was the youngest of the quartet – he’s a Junior at Fargo South High School – but his drumming talent is clear. He exerted measured technical control of the beat, maintaining a steady foundation for his bandmates during their solos, then unleashed volleys with his sticks and brushes during his own.

The crowd thinned out a little as the night wound along to a variety of tunes, including ‘In Walked Bud,’ ‘New Beginnings’ and ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’ But most people stuck around until the end, enjoying the music.

The Takeaway

With good food, cold drinks, great music, and a comfortable atmosphere, you’ll find Jazz Night a relaxing and enjoyable night out to start your week.

IF YOU GO

Jazz Night at Sidestreet

Mondays 7-9 p.m.

Sidestreet Grille and Pub,
404 4 Ave N, Fargo