Carleton’s student-run music venue, The Cave, is finally back in business. Founded in 1927, the original goals of The Cave were simple; A Carletonian article published in 1935 stipulated this mission statement: “a place where students [can] gather informally to dance, talk, and indulge in skillful methods of doing nothing on a competitive basis.”
Over the years, the space has shifted from a tea room to a cabaret theater to a pub into a music venue, where it has hosted the likes of Toro y Moi, Angel Olsen, Frankie Cosmos, Car Seat Headrest, Wilco, Phish, slam poets and numerous student bands. Lee Clark, SAO’s Director of Student Activities, said, “I’ve seen The Cave operate as a bar, restaurant, study lounge and music/entertainment venue.” However, after COVID-19 hit in Winter of 2020, most of the events in the space, especially live music, came to a standstill. Apart from last year’s drag show and a few other student performances, The Cave ceased to bring in artists from outside the Carleton community. It was transformed from a Carleton cultural staple into a rarely-visited element of campus.
This has all changed this fall. The Cave has begun to host live bands again, many coming in from the Twin Cities. Groups including Death Lens, Oftener, Linus, Kids Ski Free and Kill Us Online have already graced the venue’s main stage. Carleton’s own Lele Beats (Leander Cohen ’22), is returning this weekend for a DJ set.
Will Prim ’25 is The Cave’s booking manager this year, and he shared his excitement about the space’s return to its past prominence. “The Cave was a big part of my decision to come to Carleton, and I am beyond stoked to have it slowly getting back to its former glory,” said Prim. “We have had four bands come through The Cave so far this year, and each one has talked to me about how cool of a space it is. We are super lucky.” Fellow music enthusiast Joe Petrini ’24 echoed Prim’s excitement: “I love music. Especially at The Cave!”
But live music is not the only function of the space. General Manager Faith Hanshaw ‘23 shared her thoughts on The Cave’s versatility: “It’s a place that can be used in a lot of different ways, which is why we often have a lot of different student orgs using it on our non-band weekends…we are working to ensure that all students feel welcome and included at our events.” Nonetheless, Hanshaw singled out live music as being an important part of The Cave’s return to form: “Having that back now is kind of the last piece of our rebuilding…[it] makes the place feel a lot more normal.”
This sense of inclusivity extends into The Cave’s management. The venue has always been a completely student-run operation, a value re-asserted by Clark: “Student employees of The Cave should feel part of the decision making process and serve as a liaison between the student body and the college administration regarding the management of the facility…employees should feel that they are gaining something valuable—something other than a paycheck every two weeks. It’s real life experience running a small business.”
For now, The Cave is still working hard to attract students and regain the cachet it once held at a time when there are more social events on campus than ever before, especially after two years of near-total inactivity. Nevertheless, Prim has high hopes for the space’s future. “I hope [it] remains on the radar for students when figuring out weekend plans,” said Prim. “The Cave is a great spot, and I hope it continues to grow more and more relevant as time goes on.”
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