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BEST ROCK CLUB Minneapolis 1999 -

Readers' Choice: First Avenue

The new-look 400 Bar of the late 1990s is just a single room on the West Bank. It can have slightly higher cover charges than spoiled Minneapolitans are used to, and it doesn't exactly break attendance records every night. So why have we been going there more often than to any other rock club of late? It's the booking. Give credit to 400 manager and co-owner Bill Sullivan, who did years of road time with the Replacements and Soul Asylum and has earned his status as a booking agent whom national and local acts trust. In the past year, Sullivan's club has been the roadhouse of choice for seasoned middleweights such as Elliot Smith, Joe Henry, and Alex Chilton, among others. In the meantime patrons have been treated to indie-rock gods Olivia Tremor Control, the boundary-pushing Nordic Roots Festival, and the Thursday-night winter gigs of local folk-rock sensation the Mason Jennings Band. Once in a while, you can stumble in off of Cedar-Riverside and come across the latest local supergroup featuring Sullivan pals from Minneapolis rock monsters like Soul Asylum and Run Westy Run. The 400's no-frills décor is clean and basic with nice rock photography on the walls, and none of the tacky beer-lamp trappings of too many dingy sports bars. That reflects the club's resolve not to be just another drinking dive with a stage, but rather a music venue first and foremost. Support the 400 while you can: It's worth the extra buck or two.

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