By Jesse Marx
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Outside the Boss suite, at the bar, I talk to Clifton Davis Jr., who says he's from Detroit and in town on business. It's his first time at Myth—a decision he made based on word of mouth in his hometown and in Milwaukee. "I wanted to see what Minnesota has to offer, and I heard that this was a good place for black people," Davis, 34, says. "Detroit is Detroit and New York is New York, but this place is cut from the same cloth. Next time back, I'm getting a suite."
Back downstairs, Kool & the Gang gives way to deft, seamless remixes of songs by Prince, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and OutKast. The dance floor is about half full, but customers are standing three-deep at each of the main-floor bars—maybe 1,000 people in all. The decor is sparse and shiny—glass fixtures emitting low-level mood lighting and metal barstools are the rule.
At one of the bars beside the stage, there's a large Asian contingent. It's nearly 11:30, almost time for the "interactive dance" show. "Shot girls," a stable of waitresses in very low-cut black dresses, are selling test tubes filled with liquor for two dollars apiece. They come with names like Blueball, Scooby Snax, and VCR (vodka, Coke, and root beer), and every one tastes like candy.
Jay Vang, a "computer graphics supervisor" from the suburb North St. Paul, is awaiting the Vegas-style revue. "The whole thing about this place is that it's all about being big," Vang, who is 22 and of Hmong descent, says. "That's what I like. It's the atmosphere."
If the crowd is racially mixed, the musical vibe is not: Hip hop and R&B are the dominant genres emanating from the DJ booth—even on a so-called Top 40 night, it's clear that youth culture is African American culture. Even in white suburbia, it's a hip-hop nation. "Look around the world, and the whole thing is black culture," Quest's Ryan says. "Every kid emulates it now. It's everywhere."
Then the onstage curtains part, and a troupe of six or eight dancers comes stomping out toward the audience. They are multi-ethnic men and women, and they unveil a choreographed routine to a remix of Britney Spears's "Toxic." Cell-phone cameras are held aloft all around the club, pointed toward the stage. Attention is paid to one woman in particular, a blonde whose main fashion statement is a white bra. She appears to be wearing a headset mic, but she's not making a sound as she lip-synchs to the song. Within minutes, the curtains close. Show's over.
Outside the club, a group of white young men are having a little run-in with the cops and their dogs. One of them gets dragged toward a squad. Another is screaming into his cell phone, trying to reach another friend. "I said we're at Myth, you dumbass," he shouts repeatedly. "And if you don't come and get us, we're all going to jail!"
There has been a lot of fretting in some local rock circles that Myth would sound the final death knell for First Avenue, booking acts that normally would play the legendary Minneapolis club. But the truth is that Myth's business plan has little overlap with what goes on in clubs downtown. "We absolutely want to see First Avenue around forever, and maybe we can last that long," Derek Bunnell says. In fact, Myth is an in-between venue, booking acts that are too big for First Ave and too small for places like the Xcel or Target Center.
"Until this point, there was no mid-range venue in the Twin Cites," says Jeff Kehr, noting that the competitive space Myth occupies is more analogous to the Orpheum or the State Theater. "We've created a niche that makes us a stepping stone for bands that are on the way up or on the way down." Kehr cites an early show at the club by Korn, a band that had seen its arena-sized fan base taper off in recent years. The next time through town, according to Kehr, the band was back up, sharing a bill at the Target Center.
Live acts aside, though, Kehr says the club's focus has turned to dance nights, especially the Top 40 Friday nights and hip-hop Wednesdays. Those nights have been successful, and Kehr says the club is loath to book touring acts on those nights for fear of losing its loyal dance-nights base. Most of the touring acts have been booked by industry heavies like Live Nation and Clear Channel, but Myth has its own in-house booker as well. "To tell you the truth, we'd love to turn that whole part over to an outside promoter," Kehr says. "There's too much overhead. We'd be happy running a bar and dance business."
That doesn't mean that downtown clubs aren't affected by Myth. Observers point to the practice of clubs renting out their space to promoters for shows at a baseline fee that is the industry norm when bookings aren't done in-house. "You know how many guys can afford to keep up with a $10,000 room rental?" says James Ryan of the Quest, referring to what he says Myth charges promoters as a starting point on live shows.