BEST ROCK CLUB Minneapolis 2001 - First Avenue
In case you hadn't noticed, First Avenue is that Walkman next to the Target Center's boombox. It's that old black bus station that's been turned into a concert venue and dance hall. It's a former transfer point between Seattle and the East Coast that now serves as a transfer point between musical tastes. Inside, salsa royalty mingle with punks, weekenders spill drinks on scenesters, drag queens dance with rave kids. It's a commons. And now that commons is forever--or at least it won't be turned into a Shoney's any time soon. As of June 30, 2000, First Avenue closed a real estate deal with Hollywood Theatre Company that allowed it to take ownership of the building. The club wasted no time in covering its exterior walls with "artist stars" in celebration, marking its 30th anniversary by transforming the VIP Room into a bona fide third venue (with a successful Saturday hip-hop night) alongside the Mainroom and the 7th St. Entry. And even as we lament signs of pandering--the cheese-ball Friday-night dance fare makes local sports bars sound techno-literate--the place remains a decisive reason to live in the Twin Cities. Not only is First Avenue a beacon of hip and history in a downtown rich/poor with development deals and drink specials; it's a plain old good room--several of them, actually. There's the visually accessible physical layout: In both the Entry and the Mainroom, performers can be seen from nearly everywhere. And there's the club's zeal for mixing audiences and creating new ones in the process. If the venue continues to struggle with finding an umbrella identity, this is at least in part because audiences themselves are experiencing a similar cultural cross-fade into...whatever it is we're becoming.