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BEST DANCE CLUB Minneapolis 2006 - Level

Readers' Choice: First Avenue

Downtown Minneapolis has entered an era of decadence unsurpassed in its long history—we'd tell you more, but the Humvee limo is waiting outside, and it runs out of gas in about 30 seconds. So consider Level a throwback to a time before VIP-everything: namely, the early '90s, when Level's beautiful stonewall space under the historic Lumber Exchange Building was occupied by a club called the Rogue, overflowing with hipsters, hip-hoppers, GLBTs, and goths. Today there is no dress code at Level, and the velvet ropes sectioning off semi-private spaces within are casually manned, if at all. The cover charge is low, the drinks cheap and strong. The aura of class comes not from overbearing security or forbidding prices, but from ready staff, perfect digs, and quality music. With gifted veteran DJs spinning an array of house music Thursday through Saturday, and electronic dance music on Sunday, the sunken main floor is a dark heaven designed to separate exuberance (grooving) from observation (drinking), while a second discotheque in back allows the same peaceable division for fans of rap and old-school. There are no lights save for the "intelligent" ones, as well as the red lamps illuminating the bar and DJ, which makes the atmosphere enveloping. Red carpet and mirrors deepen the effect. And the backroom is literally hot, with giant pipe-pillars gathering moisture and leather couches absorbing the exhausted. The entire experience argues for Minneapolis to get over itself already and just have fun.

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