Best Concert Venue Minneapolis 2011 - First Avenue
First Ave's 40th birthday was quite the landmark, so it's appropriate that the House That Prince Built celebrated the occasion in style, with a number of renovations and additions taking place at the legendary venue. The most prominent of those was the appearance of the Depot, a full-fledged restaurant that sprouted on the far side of the 7th St. Entry and managed to add a welcome new dimension to the concertgoing experience without sanitizing or diminishing it. The new, homogenized stars on the repainted exterior admittedly lack the charm of the old ones, but the fresh slate of bands was nonetheless a welcome change. Besides, the VIP Lounge's transformation into the expanded Record Room more than made up for any potential shortcomings, opening the door to the sorts of enormous blowouts like Bassgasm 3 and the Gayngs "Affilyated" showcase that only a venue of First Ave's stature could accommodate. For all the upgrades and expansions, though, the Mainroom rightfully remains the jewel in the crown of the complex, its superb sound and iconic space still the stuff of every young Twin Cities musician's dreams.