There's a huge gulf between the earthly bounds of the small-capacity bar/nightclub and the teeming edifice of the 18,000-seat sports arena—not just spatially, but in the type of bands that take the stage. Fortunately, it's a gap that First Avenue has been filling admirably for decades. The feat has been especially impressive in the last few years, when First Ave has had to weather a nasty booking market and competition from newer, bigger venues. Yet the club grinds proudly on. April alone has brought us alt-country star Neko Case, the recently emancipated from Audioslave Chris Cornell, Afrobeat funksters Antibalas, and the weekly hipster-friendly dance night Too Much Love. These events, like thousands of shows before, always hold the potential to be the best you ever saw, or at least one worth storing in the hard drive you keep in your head. It's a native right to complain about First Avenue's grotty looks, but the fact is that the atmosphere defines "rock club" for everyone who calls the Cities home. Close your eyes, and we bet you can picture the checkered dance floor, the faintly glowing skyline silhouette on the second floor, or the hundreds of band-logo stickers that cover the door to the DJ booth. The room never seems to change, but in fact it does: Recent improvements include food catering and flat-screen monitors for those clubgoers stuck near the back. Our memories should be safe as long as they don't paint the ceiling white.