Nothing sets the Minneapolis music scene abuzz like news of a new venue.
So word spread quickly after the south Minneapolis independent bookstore Moon Palace announced in 2017 that the much larger building to which it was relocating would include a 110-person-capacity performance space. By the time Nona Marie Invie took on the duties of booking the venue, she had her pick of musicians.
“People are really hungry for new spaces,” she says. “They’re sick of the vibe at a lot of places around town, and looking for something that makes them feel more comfortable and more welcome, without the attitude.”
But rather than just booking friends and friends’ friends, or hot locals who might fill a room, Invie saw it as an opportunity—and an obligation—to help create the kind of place “where people weren’t just excited to play, but excited to participate in the community of artists who play there.”
Invie has been a familiar face on the local scene for years, in the bands Dark Dark Dark and Anonymous Choir (both on “indefinite hiatus,” she says), and with her current solo electronic project, IN/VIA.
“I’m 34. I feel like an elder in my community,” she says, smiling at her slightly hyperbolic phrasing. “I’ve toured a lot as a musician, and I feel like I have my wits about me so that I can be responsible, and that I should take the time to invest in a space like this, and cultivate the kind of community this space is made for.”
Her booking philosophy: “I want to see a broad representation on stage over the course of the night. When I’m working with people to book the shows, the first thing we talk about is that’s a priority of the space here—to have people of color, femme, queer people, bands that incorporate all different types of people. There are so many good performers out there, and we need to make an effort to include underrepresented musicians.”
It’s a way of doing business Invie shares with Moon Palace’s owners, Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl. “People deserve a place like this where they feel that it’s OK to be themselves, where they don’t have to posture or be scared standing in line to go to the bathroom.”
She strives for “a general positive vibe. It can be hard to explain unless you’ve been to a place where’s there’s seedy stuff happening, where you don’t exactly feel safe, people’s drinks are getting drugged, those sorts of elements that lead to unpleasant show experiences.”
Not that bands who play Moon Palace will find themselves in some sanitized room with all the charm of a community center. The unfinished decor presents the atmosphere of a basement show, without any of the sketchy risks that come from playing and seeing music on the fringes.
“It feels kind of DIY here, even though everything is on the up and up,” Invie says. “It’s got fire exits and everything.”