• Fri. May 20th, 2022

All moving parts

Inside the Troll Lounge, tucked into a corner of the small stage, you can hear the deep rhythms of a base, the strumming of a guitar and the occasional tune of a fiddle mingling with chants, laughter and conversation. The Moving Parts, who have been together for about 12 years, became regular performers during what some might call the show’s “revival.” As part of Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge 4-25, the Troll Lounge offers food, drink, entertainment and good company (fair warning, good company sometimes comes in the form of trolls, but good company all the same).

To say Fargo is lucky to have the abundance of entertainment we do is an understatement. For living in what looks like a tundra, in a state with one of the smallest populations, you can find a variety of events almost every night of the week in town. One of the city’s hidden gems, the Troll Lounge now draws crowds with its unique and welcoming atmosphere.

Formed around 2010, The Moving Parts got their start in what was then called The Winery, where Mel’s Bakery is now located in Fargo. After many nights of live music and even being invited on stage to play with a friend’s band, Charley and Mary Johnson decided to make it official. They got some friends together, updated their setlist and started playing like regulars. They finalized the group name after the fact.

“The manager of The Winery at the time said, ‘How can I let you know? You have so many different people in your band, what do I call you?’ We said, “Well, that’s tough, Brett, because there are a lot of moving parts,” Charley explained. “He said, ‘Well, why don’t you call yourself that?'”

Over the years, there may have been many moving parts in terms of band members, but one thing has remained constant: great music.

“Most people would call us what they would call Americana; so some old folk music, some alternative country, some newer stuff in the last 20-25 years, simple country tunes you’ll recognize and some old standards,” Charley said.

Some common hits are “Crazy” by Willie Nelson, “Ain’t No Use in Tryin'” by Trampled by Turtles, and lots of Bob Dylan. One of the members, Michael Olson, wrote some original songs which the band also plays.

Like the origin story of The Moving Parts, the lineup fluctuates each night, but we have the breakdown:

Charley Johnson
Pres/CEO of FM CVB, former local broadcaster: guitar, vocals and occasional 5-string banjo

Mary Johnson
Retired RN in Labor and Delivery/OB-Gyn at St. Lukes’ -Meritcare-Sanford, and finally Essentia: vocals, harmonicas, tambourine, shakers

Michael J. Olson
Retired (mostly) senior communications guru, with a resume ranging from Capitol Hill in Washington DC to Microsoft, Otter Tail Corporation, Prairie Public TV, National Car Rental and a few others: guitar, vocals, 6-string banjo

Kate Henne (“Dakota Kate”)
Senior technical information developer for Infor: violin, mandolin, vocals

Randi Olsen Heinold
Program Associate for the Barry Foundation and owner of Naturally Randi Kay: vocals and guitar

Max John
Professional musician who works in the moonlight at Doolittle’s: double bass

In the group, Charley captured not only the living room audience, but also a number of viewers across town. Prior to founding The Moving Parts, Charley spent around 40 years working in broadcast journalism.

“Everyone I knew who worked in journalism, whether it was broadcast journalism or print journalism, all felt like it was a calling,” Charley said. “We weren’t paid very well, some of us made a living, but it was a calling. We felt like we were doing some important work, so it was exciting, it was fun.

His journey began when he worked for his high school radio station. While in college, he spent summers working for KSTP-TV in Minneapolis as a theater manager, saying that’s where he got “the bug” in broadcast journalism. A few years out of college, Charley found his footing on what was then KXJB-TV Channel 4 as a photojournalist. He later moved to regular anchor at left and also served as news director. After 15 years, he started at KVLT-TV Channel 11 as a news director and co-anchor. These two stations eventually merged to form what we know today as Valley News Live, and yes, Charley was there for that too.

“It’s fun to be the first person to know things or the person who tries to figure things out. Dig into stories, get to know community leaders, and find out all the good and bad things about what’s happening in your own hometown. It was a wonderful experience,” Charley said.

The Moving Parts, in order from left to right: Michael J. Olsen, Randi Olson Heinold, Mary Johnson, “Dakota” Kate Henne (back row), Charley Johnson, Max Johnk (on bass)

After so many years as the news chair, Charley decided to venture out of this world and started at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau (FM CVB). While it was a big career move, now as President of FM CVB, he can still interact with his community like he did when he was chasing the beat…when he’s not singing along with them in the Troll Lounge.

“I think the three [jobs], if you want to include the band in that, have a link because they all involve dealing with people and getting involved in the community,” Charley said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have had the chance to hold this position for the past 10 years. I never thought I would want to do anything other than broadcast journalism, but it’s been a wonderful change.

Charley said he’s never been accused of being introverted, so it’s no surprise that he and the band, The Moving Parts, help bring the Troll Lounge to life on the second Thursday of every month.

The walls of the Troll Lounge are lined with trolls atop a magnificent Norwegian mountain mural.

When the band started, they and another regular, a band called Tucker’d Out, were among the only live shows and events held by the lounge. But now, Bar Manager and Events Coordinator Maren Jorgensen and Son of Norway Board Member John Jorgensen are excited to find this gem in the heart of downtown Fargo.

“There was life that needed to be brought back,” Maren said. “It was that hidden gem that we always say we don’t want to be hidden anymore.”

About a year ago, Maren and her husband, John, began to see that the living room needed to be expanded. John looked at its opening in 1975 and saw that it was open six to seven nights a week, compared to what it was doing with just two events a week and closing at 7:30 p.m.

Combining their knowledge of media, promotion and entertainment, the couple have now created a hotspot for live entertainment and casual evenings. Now you’ll find live music and weekly events like bluegrass and Americana musicians, comedy, open mic nights and even “unkaraoke”, singing karaoke but from your seats that filled the living room capacity .

Maren and John hold the Sons of Norway, and in particular the Troll Lounge, close to their hearts. They hope others will experience the space and the people who call it home.

“I always tell people if you leave stressed, I hurt you,” Maren said. “Have a good drink, talk to people and listen to the band. We call it the little piece of paradise downtown.

The Troll Lounge is filled with old friends and warm light. Even at the first step under the arched doorway, you can feel the comfort between the wall walls and hear the laughter bouncing off them. You’ll find good music and better company

To find the full list of events at Troll Lounge and find out when you can see The Moving Parts, visit sonsofnorwayfargo.com or trolllounge on Facebook.