Up north, there’s a wide range of bars with live music but few with a personality as distinct as the Jade Fountain. This Duluth cocktail lounge can only be described as seductively unique. Dim lighting and collected art pair with worldly drinks and Chinese food. 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 lounge kept all the design and architecture of its retro days.
Local music fills the space well, and one band in particular is a new Jade Fountain favorite. Babie Eyes, a Duluthian band with folk, soul, and gospel influences, is playing the cocktail lounge Aug. 4. One of the core members, Heidi Feroe, describes the Jade Fountain as “a giant living room … it’s comforting to be in there.” She laughs when she mentions that the band chooses to bring their own lights; it’s difficult for them to see in the murky shadows.
Feroe has a 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Nora, who inspired the band’s name. “I thought about waking up every day with baby eyes,” she says. As a person who meditates regularly and focuses on her spiritual journey, Feroe is passionate about having a fresh perspective on life each day. This translates into the band’s music. “We never play a song the same way exactly,” says Feroe. “We kind of jam it out a little bit, [and] we’re open to changing 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’s funk band New Salty Dog, a group that compelled Feroe to rejoin the music community.
Feroe was in a different band before she went through some hard experiences with depression, feeling stuck in her house and not playing for years. “Finally, I had kind of a change,” she says. “I got pregnant, started taking care of myself, and changed my life totally.” 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. She missed the music community and the experimental shows that had allowed her to get creative.
Feroe is all about putting herself out there—and was when she first started pursuing music especially. “I heard music down the street from me and followed the sound to a house where they were jamming,” she says. “I asked if they needed a female singer. I had no experience, so I was basically just scared.”
The Duluth music scene today is one of Feroe’s favorite parts of playing again. “It’s the best right now,” she says. “Everybody is supporting 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 was just starting out in 2011.
Despite being only a few months old, Babie Eyes is already working on recording music. Feroe’s vision is to record it all live. “I want to capture the essence of the five of us,” she says. The band is making big steps, recently playing for the first time in Minneapolis. They joined Lyla Abukhodair and Delicate Friend at the 331 Club a few weeks ago. Now, they will be playing the Jade Fountain for the second time this Thursday at 8 p.m. For updates on music and future shows, keep up with Babie Eyes’ Facebook page.