Local musicians rally behind longtime Minneapolis DJ Jason Nagel

Jason Nagel

Jason Nagel Facebook

Since 1995, radio DJ Jason Nagel has been a steadfast advocate of local music. Now a handful of the musicians he helped elevate on-air will have a chance to lift him up as well.

On Wednesday night, a lineup of local artists including Adam Levy, John Munson, Chan Poling, Dan Israel, Martin Devaney, and Farewell Milwaukee will make some noise at A Night for Nagel, a benefit concert at the Turf Club. Fellow Minnesota music aficionados Andrea Swensson, David Campbell, and Brian Turner will act as MCs for the event while DJ Brian Oake will oversee a silent auction. Proceeds will help 47-year-old Nagel pay for healthcare costs associated his recent cancer diagnosis and treatment.

We spoke to Nagel from his current home base in Carlos, Minnesota, where doctors continue to monitor his condition.

City Pages: Take us back to the day you got diagnosed.

Jason Nagel: I was in Key West, Florida, working for Pirate Radio Key West. I had a sore that I needed looked at. I went to a doctor and he looked at it and said, “That’s cancer.” So I had a biopsy and it came back cancer. He started talking about getting an oncologist and I stopped him right there and I said, “I’m not going to do that here. If I’ve got to do the full chemo, radiation, and all that, I’m going to go back home to where my family and friends are.” I packed up. I jumped on a plane. I was back in Minnesota in less than a week. I moved in with my dad, who’s on Lake Carlos just outside of Alexandria, and started seeing an oncologist in Alexandria. I got treatment started pretty quickly. I had radiation and chemo.

CP: What stage is your cancer?

JN: Nobody’s ever used that phrase. I’ve never heard stage two, stage three, anything like that. There was a tumor on my bottom and it was big.

CP: At the time of your diagnosis, you didn’t have health insurance, right?

JN: That’s right. I didn’t have insurance through work. I had to get that squared away when I got to Minnesota.

CP: Do you have any coverage right now?

JN: I’ve got some Minnesota Care coverage.

CP: Thank goodness for that. But a friend or family member also started a GoFundMe for you, right?

JN: Yeah, a friend of mine, Sean Barnard, did that right away. I hadn’t even seen a bill yet. I was like, “I don’t know if we need to do that.” He’s had family go through this before. He was like, “Trust me. We’ll do this right now.” He put that together and gave me the link and I shared it on Facebook and Twitter and a bunch of other people did. I got a nice chunk of change from that. I haven’t worked since mid-June, so that’s not just covering medical expenses but my living expenses as well.

CP: How are you feeling now, physically and emotionally, considering the circumstances?

JN: Really good. The better I feel physically, the more restless I’ve become emotionally. I need something to do. The cabin fever set in as soon as my energy started coming back. Like I said, I haven’t worked since June. I’ve been doing some work for the radio station, as far as their playlists and stuff, from here, but most of the time during the treatment, I wish I’d kept a journal because it’s all kind of a blur looking back at it. I was in bed or on the couch. The chemo and the radiation wiped me out pretty thoroughly. Now that it’s been six weeks, I feel healthy again. I’ve got my energy and appetite and all that back. I’m so eager to get back to work.

CP: Will you be able to go back to work in Florida?

JN: I hope so. They’re holding my job for me there. My last treatment was about six weeks ago. I just had a scan yesterday to find out where I’m at, how much of it we got and how much of it still remains. Next week, I’ll meet with a surgeon at the U and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t need surgery. I don’t know what would be next, but I know my radiologist told me the best-case scenario is that I would just need to get checkups every three months for a year or two. If that’s the case, I’m going to go to Florida and I’ll come back here for my checkups.

CP: You’re having a benefit concert on Wednesday at the Turf. How did that come together?

JN: I did a Minnesota music show for somewhere around 15 years or more in one place or another – Cities 97, KTWIN, and a podcast for a little bit. So, yeah, over that time I’ve made a lot of friends in the local music community. One of them, Martin Devaney, stepped up. He did all of this. I didn’t have anything to do with booking it or anything. He’d just run dates by me. He booked all the bands. He worked to get the Turf Club. I was shocked. I was blown away at what a great lineup he put together.

CP: Will you be at the show for the entire night?

JN: That’s the plan. I have a doctor’s appointment in Alexandria on Wednesday afternoon. I will walk out of the doctor’s appointment, hit 94, and go directly to the Turf Club.

A Night for Nagel: Benefit Concert for Jason Nagel
With: Adam Levy and Frenemies, John Munson and Chan Poling, John Swardson, Dan Israel, Martin Devaney, Farewell Milwaukee, Little Man, Eleganza!, Niki Becker, and St Dominic’s Trio.
Where: Turf Club
When: 6 p.m. Wed. Nov. 8
Tickets: $7/$10; more info here