Climbed to the top of the Foshay Tower last Sunday with the Shhawner. Was quite fun scanning the city, scoping out all the buildings and roads and peeping on the peeps below. i've been on a bit of a building admiration kick lately; reading LOST TWIN CITIES (how could they tear down the Metropolitan?!!!), wandering about the buildings downtown (Erwin is quite the font of info on dt buildings) and catching a birdseye view of the city (i'd never been up to the top of the foshay before) was icing on the cake.
Got me thinking a couple things; 1) i really like living in the twin cities and 2) and right here, right now i feel like i'm living in a grand and golden age of concert venues. So i'm thinking i should scribble a few notes down about some of my favorite concert venues before they go the way of the marigold.
Fine Line (capacity ~750)
Not really a fan of this place. Seems like it wants to be two bars in one (a live show bar and a trendy downtown hang bar) and i'm not sure that philosophical divide ever works out well. The dance floor creaks like a sea shanty and i'm always afraid i'm gonna fall through to the basement. It has reserved seating right overhead. i'm just too proletariat to get behind reserved seating in a bar, and my paranoid tendencies really make me hate something right on top of me. And although they have some pretty good brews on tap, they over-serve and the crowd tends to get a little out of control by the end of the evening (i almost got trampled at a Peter, Bjorn & John show....btw who stage rushes a PB&J show?)
However, the fine line does tend to get a number of acts i love (i think they are probably the next size down from first ave) so i'm compelled to go fairly often. And i did see a Boo Hewerdine/Darden Smith show there back in the 90's that i really enjoyed.
7th Street Entry (capacity ~250)
Not sure what there is to say about the entry (or first ave either for that matter). It's like Lambeau Field, a mecca for the believers, if you are a fan, you must go at least once. it's definitely a dive and it looks way better in the dark than it does in the light of day (or at least in the light of houselights). It's pretty much a closet with steps and a stage, but it works. and when it's rocking (I particularly remember a show with the Soviettes) it's a pretty fun place to be, and the crowd keeps it together (in my experience). and there's a handy wall to lean against and an even better half wall to lean on. so it's got that going for it too.
Oddly enough, i've only been to the entry about 4 times in my life (we are talking about 25 years of steady show going here). you might be thinking it's because of the disgusting bathroom (and the fact that the bathroom is right next to the stage and who would want to draw any attention to the fact that they are hitting the head) but i think it's more a case of i'm too slow on the draw. the place is so small and sells out before i either hear about the show or make up my mind about it.
Cedar Cultural Center (capacity ~450)
Up until a couple of years ago, i'd never been inside this venue. Now it seems i'm there all the time. partly a function of different (better) booking, equally a function of me kinda digging the place. definitely shows its roots as a more traditional theatre stage and it's weird having the acts basically walk through the crowd to get to the show. but for all it's spaciousness (i feel like i'm in a hay mow sometimes) and small stage area, the sound is good and although the stage is, i never feel cluttered. and the crowd is typically one of the most show intelligent i've encountered. I feel like i wanna facebook everybody who goes to a Cedar shows.
Turf Club (capacity~400-but i think that includes the basement and the bathrooms)
i love vinyl. even when it's on the floor. throw in a little formica countertop ware and i'm in love. throw in some great bands playing on the longest sightlines this side of heaven and you have an institution. I'm still amazed at how still the audience was during the Bon Iver show a couple winters ago. a dearth of random conversation, not a clink of glassware, not even the fevered click of texting. So atypical of the Turf Club, but that's my impression of the place, Nirvana. (and ya, i know better, but still)
Triple Rock (capacity ~400)
I'll always miss Blondie's a little bit (not sure it was our home base during college, but we sure went there a lot), but Triple Rock Social Club is a great reinvention of the space. Great shows, decent sound and i like the space (they can pack a ton of people in there and i always feel like i can move around) Some pretty great shows too. Passion Pit from last year was easily my favorite show of the year, and white lies/friendly fires from the year before was one of my favs in 08) but some acts work way better than others. Jens Lekmann tried to shush the crowd during a show here in november of 07 (least i think it was 07) which was the second funniest show shush of all time (beth orton will always be #1 in my heart for trying to shush the fine line crowd, although she was just as obnoxious as the crowd "I've got a tiger on me bum.") But c'mon. Triple rock means party down. Ain't no hushed reverence here, only madcap pogoing and indie rock n rolling. and they have surly!
Varsity (capacity ~ 500)
I avoided the Varsity for the longest time. I was skeptical of its conversion to a show venue. It used to be MY movie theatre back in college. I saw The Hobbit there with Paul Panka, for gosh sakes. How could they turn it into a bar...and a sorta trendy bar by the same guy who owned the loring (pasta) bar? Scandalous. So i ignored it. Oh sure, i went to a show or two (Mark Kozelek, Mates of State/Black Kids---where i tripped over a weird step angling onto the dancefloor and tore my thumb open...still have the blood stains on my baseball cap----i really need to wash that cap) but mostly, i denied its existence.
but then something happened. something glorious. a show that changed everything. a show that allowed the venue to arise from the ashes of my memory into something renewed, changed and exultant. All Hail the PHOENIX, a show where time and space and band came together in the most perfect storm of all.
We sweated our souls out at the Phoenix show.
Not even a very handsome guy offering up anything (ANYTHING!) for a scalped ticket could have made me miss this show. and although it was phoenix that got me in the door, it was the varsity that made me keep coming back. and i'm really digging the redesign (no more jutting steps to trip over), especially the upstairs peek a boo situation.
First Avenue (capacity ~1500)
ok. i still see the majority of my shows here. not sure there's anything i can say about the place that hasn't been said before and better. Went here first with friends from college in 1984. Can't tell you how many times i've been back. at least 50? maybe 100? (although i suppose that isn't that many)
lots of great times here.
i still laugh my ass off remembering when Karl met Ryan at the Soul Calibur machine----Karl was very disappointed that my friend wasn't the very built and handsome 6foot 5inch African American, but rather the kind chubby excitable white guy playing against him. or the time a way handsome guy was hitting on my and then al came back with drinks and scared the guy off. or the time ben took my change (sitting in front of ME) to pay for his drink (not only did he not ask, he didn't even think anything of it!!!) or the hours melloy and i killed before shows playing araknoid (i still suck, btw). or the time i told the singing chick behind me that i came there to hear ben folds, and not her (and that her singing was very flat----her boyfriend laughed at that)
lots of great shows too. midnight oil in 88 first and foremost. Yeah Yeah Yeahs the first time through. Hot Chip (the second, not the first) a Guided by Voices show that went on FOREVER (but didn't they all) the Waterboys. Violent Femmes. lots of great shows (but no prince oddly enough). i'd need to consult the wall of ticket stubs to remember them all (and that's a room away...too far to walk.)
Fun, Fun, Fun. and perfectly goldilocks; not too big, not to small, just right.
400 Bar (capacity~350)
But of all the venues in minneapolis (sometimes st. paul) the 400 is my favorite. it's modest and unassuming. the floor is small and half the bar doesn't afford a view of the stage. you get support beams in your sightlines (you also get support beams to lean against so even on that one). the stage is sooooo small. bricks fall off the building facing. despite that (or because of it) i love the 400. it has character. and it has great shows.
two of which (the National circa Alligator) and Grant McClennan (RIP) and Robert Forster just prior to them reforming the GoBetweens (i'm looking at that ticket stub now...monday june 14, 1999, they spelled Grant's name incorrectly)are amongst my top five shows of all time.
it was so packed at the National show (and i was right in the middle of it) that when Superfan bought me a Pabst, people had to pass it overhead to make it to me (and i could barely drink it because a) it was a pabst and b) my arms were pressed to my sides).
dunno, just something about that place (not sure exactly what) brings out the best in performers i think.