D?j? Vu all over again
With the help of four bands and over 200 patrons, the spirit of a former tavern was resurrected by Dennis and Traci Fick, owners and operators of DAT Bar, on Saturday night.
“I was playing at a show about an hour north of Medford that night,” Dennis stated during intermission on Saturday. “We were on set break when all of a sudden this biker guy comes up to me and asked if I run Deja vu in Merrill. I said well yeah why? He said you better get down there, your sh*t’s on fire.”
The fateful night Fick is referring to was that of Jan. 24, 2004.
At 8:14 p.m., units of the Merrill Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 413 W. Main Street. The building consisted of apartment units as well as the newly named Kamikaze Bar, formerly known as Deja vu.
“I was stunned!” Fick further explains. “I called everyone and couldn’t get an answer. I called the sheriff’s department and they told me it was bad, but everyone got out ok. I remember heading back to the bar and coming over the hill by what is now Knuckleheadz Bar, I could see the fire from the hill and I thought the whole block was on fire.”
“We had just played there the weekend before, and that night we were headed there for a birthday party,” recalls guitarist Jeff Sandbom, of the band Led Devil. Little did the band know at the time, the band’s show the previous weekend, would be the venue’s last.
“When we rolled up, the whole place was just engulfed in flames. It was just nuts…the smoke was so thick and black it was unreal. It was a very sad time. I don’t think I will ever forget that night.”
According to the original Foto News article dated Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2004: The fire had started in a garage behind the building while an LP turkey deep fryer was in use. The fire started in the rafters of the garage and bystanders spent 15 minutes trying to douse the flames with snow and water. The fire quickly spread to the wall of the garage and into the main structure, ending in a total loss.
“Our world was flipped upside down that night,” Fick adds.
Deja vu wasn’t just a bar that booked bands; it was the hub of a small but tightly-woven music scene in the ‘90s. There weren’t many bars that were open to having heavy metal bands at the time, but they had a home at the ‘Vu.
“The ‘Vu brought a lot of people together,” Sandbom adds.
“Some of the bands I have been in may never have come together without that bar, like “Six Pound Sledge” for example. The band I’m in now; Led Devil, cut their teeth in that place, the ‘Vu was really our launching pad. Even now, that is kinda tough to think we were the last band to play there. I loved that bar….a lot of people loved that bar. We miss it”
“The bar was only about the size of just the bar area at DAT,” Fick recalls.
“It was tiny no doubt” Sandbom agrees with a laugh. “But we made it work.”
“It was that place ya know?”
“It was that place you could go let your hair down, meet up with good people and have a good time.”
“On any given night we could pack just as many people in there, as we did during Saturday’s event, maybe even a few more” Fick adds with a grin.
Saturday’s show was the second of its kind.
“We launched the event last year as it marked the 10th anniversary since we lost the bar,” Fick explains. “We thought it would be a cool idea to see if we could get some of the Deja vu crowd back and some of the bands we had back in the day. We ended up booking five bands last year and seven showed up to play. In addition we had well over 200 people show up to have fun, celebrate friendships and the crazy times of the ‘Vu. Everything went so well last year, we just had to do it again. This past Saturday was just amazing.”
Saturday’s show kicked off with the Wausau based “Wisfits” followed by “The Goddamns,” “Led Devil” and finishing with the Milwaukee based band “Conniption.”
“We had four great bands and over 200 people show up once again to have a blast with us. Every member of the bands we booked had played at Deja vu at one time or another, so that’s cool in itself.”
“I would definitely say that night was huge for everyone” Sandbom agrees.
“We don’t play very often. It’s almost like a ‘bigfoot’ sighting when we do, so to get that many people together is amazing in itself. It’s rare these days to get four metal bands together at the same place and have that big of a night with that many people. All the bands really rocked it, it was just a pretty powerful event.”
“Traci and I are just so appreciative and thankful for everyone who came out to celebrate with us, it really meant a lot. We are already working on planning next year’s event.” Fick adds.
The night would prove to be a double header for the couple and their establishment, as last Saturday was the second annual ‘Cabin Fever Jamboree.’
Patrons were treated to 10 hours of Bluegrass/Alternative Country music from bands such as the Evergreen Grass Band, Mad Polecats, Riff Raff String Band, The Ditch Runners and headlining singer/song writer Joseph Huber, formerly of the .357 string band.
“Last year, a couple of friends and I started talking about having a mid-winter event,” Fick said. “There just aren’t a lot of large events in the winter to bring all the Bluegrassers together. So with the help of a few friends, we got in touch with local bands The Evergreen Grass Band who is from Eau Claire, and the Ditch Runners out of Point.”
“They came down to play and we ended up attracting 175 people. The event was just a huge success. It was a shot in the arm for us as an establishment when we needed it most.”
As with the Deja vu anniversary event, the Ficks aimed to capitalize on their success, and perhaps even top their previous success with last weekend’s jamboree.
“This year we wanted to step it up. We booked four national touring bands, three made the show,” Dennis jokes.
“One of our bands got stuck recording in Nashville. Outlaw country artist Joseph Huber was our headliner this year. We were lucky enough to catch him on tour in support of his most recent album “Hanging Road” which is currently listed as one of the most essential albums of 2014 by “Saving Country Music.”
“Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson have also made that very same list. Joseph is so talented, it’s a shock to me he still does bar shows. He is one of the best song writers I ever met.”
“With that being said, it’s kinda funny how there is a running joke around here that if my 26-year-old self knew what my 46-year-old self would end up listening to, I may have taken some drastic measures,” Dennis adds with a laugh. “I hated country!”
“We ended up having another huge success, better than last year. We had great fans and musicians alike and best of all; we didn’t have any issues with the crowd which of course makes the event all that much better. It ended up going just as we planned with a mellow afternoon of music followed by a raucous bluegrass/outlaw country show that night!”
The Ficks are already excited about planning next year’s 3rd annual Jamboree and are currently working on that as well as another Deja vu memorial event.