Who The Folk?! Eli Flasher

From first loving the Grateful Dead and attending concerts in his early teens, Eli Flasher has spent the last decade working at Minneapolis’ iconic First Avenue. From putting up calendars in the bathrooms to bringing in the bands, Flasher talks about how he got started, his travels, and more in this week’s Who The Folk?!

I heard you work at First Avenue and have basically done every job there. Can you tell me more about how you started?

So I actually applied to an ad on Myspace about 10 years ago for an internship there while I was still in college at the University of Minnesota. And I came in and did very basic office work a couple hours a week, filing papers and putting up calendars in the restrooms there. Just pretty menial work. But at the same time I was also going to school and while I was there I was booking bands through their activity council for the Whole Music Club. It was a venue at the U of M. While I was interning at First Avenue and booking bands at the other venue, it kind of just worked out that when my internship was coming to an end they decided to give me a part-time trial job there. It was mostly just settling shows, working the day of the show and making sure it goes right, paying the band. After that, I was booking a couple of local shows and they liked what I was doing so it turned into a full-time booking job. I’ve been doing that for the last roughly 9 years. I took a year off and traveled for a bit.

Where did you go to travel?

I went to New Zealand for seven months and then I went to Southeast Asia for four months after that.

Wow. That’s quite a trip.

It was random but I had just turned 31 and I thought if I wanted to travel, I should do it before I got too much older. No wife, no kids.

So that’s a long time to be working at one place. What has kept you there for so long?

In all honesty, I grew up going to shows at First Ave when I was 13 or 14. I was a huge music geek but don’t have any musical talents myself. So I would just go to concerts. It was kind of like my dream job growing up. When I first started I was mind-blown. It’s a cool place because there is a small room in there where a lot of small bands start out and it also has the big room next door- the main room- where all the big bands play. It’s cool because I scheduled bands seven years ago who were playing in the small room and five years later, they’re playing in the big room. There’s room there to grow bands which is unique and a lot of other venues don’t have.

So you’ve seen quite a few bands over the years. Do you have any stories of meeting some of them?

Yeah, I don’t have a ton of rock star stories, I guess. A few nights ago I was settling a show so I was working pretty late like 1:30 a.m. and when I was leaving I saw a guy looking at the wall covered in stars of bands who have played there in the past. So I went up to him and found out it was Ryan Adams who was playing two sold-out shows in St. Paul. I met Maya Rudolph from Saturday Night Live. I get a ton of Facebook requests from people in bands. It’s fun but it’s less rock n’ roll than people think it is when they first hear I work at First Avenue.

Going back a bit, you mentioned you were a huge music geek growing up. What kind of music were you into?

It’s been kind of a strange progression. I’m 33 so we still had MTV growing up as a kid. I used to watch videos and listen to the radio and cassette tapes. When I was younger I was into Rage Against the Machine and Blink 182! And kind of alternative rock back then. I went to Herzl Camp as a kid and had a brief encounter with Phish, a jam band, and the Grateful Dead. When I was 15, I went to my first Phish concert. It was quite a scene, kind of a wild scene. By the second set, I was having a great time and dancing myself.

Favorite Jewish Food?

No doubt matzah ball soup. I’ve been to other restaurants and other people’s houses but nothing compares to Grandma’s matzah ball soup.

Favorite Jewish Holiday?

I guess for me it’s always been the High Holidays, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah because those holidays always meant a couple nights a year, everyone would get together as a family and have a nice meal together.

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