Trailblazers 2016: First Avenue

Lizzo flew home Thursday so she could perform during the block party to celebrate the life and music of Prince outside First Ave. nightclub in Minneapolis on April 21, 2016.

Lizzo performs in front of First Avenue as part of a memorial for Prince // Photo by Nate Ryan

When Prince died this past April, fans from around the world flocked to First Avenue to pay their respects. His star, which someone quietly painted gold, became a memorial as flowers piled up on the sidewalk beneath it. For some visitors, this was their first time seeing the club that Prince made world-famous in his cult classic film “Purple Rain.” The venue hosted a street party on the night Prince died, opened its doors for all-night dance parties, and it brought The Revolution together for three cathartic reunion shows in September.

What fans from out of town (and even some from in town) might not have realized, is that not only is First Avenue still an active music venue, it’s an increasingly pivotal player in the Twin Cities’ live music scene.

In addition to the shows First Avenue hosts in its own Mainroom and 7th Street Entry—often the most exciting shows in Minneapolis on any given night—its staff also book bands in venues across town. That includes gigs at the Turf Club, which First Avenue bought in 2013, and big outdoor shows like this summer’s Wilco concert at Hall’s Island.

In 2017, First Avenue is poised to expand its influence even more. It will manage the 2,800-seat Palace Theatre, a historic venue in downtown St. Paul that’s soon to reopen after a $15.6 million renovation. They’re also proposing to build an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the Mississippi in North Minneapolis, on the former site of a barge depot. The amphitheater would fill a gap in local performance spaces, making the Twin Cities even more attractive as a destination for touring bands.

As First Avenue approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, the coolest club in town has never been cooler.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.


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