“Cold kills fashion,” a Gortex-booted philosophy professor down in Winona once told me.
With its “bold” not “cold” slogan and loppet races and snowmobile stunts and frozen-river zip line, the Super Bowl Host Committee would like to show the world otherwise, flaunting how indifferent we Minnesotans are to the elements. But I’m not so sure.
Around 9:45 p.m. last night, during the Super Bowl Live Prince tribute, after nearly 45 minutes of the crew recalibrating around a dozen or so cream and mint-colored guitars and rearranging an arsenal of on-stage heaters—and generally walking around in circles just to spite the thousands of snow-suited, flush-cheeked Minnesotans grooving in place to stay warm—the Revolution finally emerged.
“Greetings, icicles!” called guitarist Wendy Melvoin.
But lots had already left.
With my toes frozen, I turned to walk to the parking lot, passing by the armed county sheriff’s agents holding rifles on Nicollet Avenue. “I’m an army brat and I’ve never seen that,” a woman told my aunt.
The first sign that this isn’t your typical Aquatennial-style downtown party: The armored cars with guns strapped to the top and “Hennepin County” printed onto the side. Almost as ominous are the indications of the massive media presence to come. Desk chairs for ESPN hosts sat empty in Crystal Court, and an on-site CNN studio was darkened and vacant, waiting for caffeine, make-up artists, and the sun.
Traffic controllers were sending people up and down the numbered streets and blocking people from going down Nicollet before eight o’clock. A woman in a white fluffy-ball stocking cap spoke for the masses: "I'm starting to get pissed off."
But Monday night’s revelers seemed mostly OK with the crowds, and with the frigid temps too. During Morris Day and the Time’s “Cool,” mittens shot into the air gesticulating the “C” “O” “O” “L.” Puffs of exhaust from Jellybean Johnson’s mouth hovered around the stage during “Jungle Love.” And a giant projection onto the wall across from the IDS of a kerchiefed Prince’s Super Bowl XLI highlights kept some people dancing between sets.
Monday night’s event drew as many gawkers as music fans. “Who’s the guy in the red hat?” asked a woman next to me, holding up her camera during on of two truncated Morris Day sets.
A man next to me was incredulous. “I texted my daughter that I was seeing Sheila E, and she was like ‘Sheila who?’”
It’s hard to say what these non-fans wanted. Was this for ourselves? For television? Twenty-six years ago during Super Bowl week in Minneapolis, my uncle saw Dan Marino at the bar beneath the Target Center. Now a downtown resident, he says “it was peanuts compared to this.”
A clown outside the Local was accosted by police and had to show his credentials. People just breezed past him. Who wants a clown when you can see snowmobile gymnastics?
What was really on display was a vibrant yet practical-minded arsenal of cold-stopping clothing. During the long break, a man with a “Lakeland Alpaca” coat kept bouncing on one foot and then the other. A woman in a red, puffy onesie continued to do figure-eights with a stoic look, her hands shoved into the ample pockets. A third man, trapped in the Verizon-themed pen, must’ve been from out of town because he kept calling to friends to report on the steel pipe making up the fencing. “Just touch it!” he shouted. “It’s so cold!”
But countless people, truly, just left. And when I saw a guy wearing a big pair of snow-pants, thick boots, and a large, furry mammal on his head make for the doorway, it felt permissible, too. Like a forgotten principle of collective thermodynamics, once the group of people shoved into you—for me, briefly, it was a mad-bomber-hatted woman who continued calling herself “fun-sized” as she rib-punched her way ever-forward to the stage, her apologetic boyfriend trailing behind—your body heat dramatically dropped. If five people left, fifteen were quickly in close pursuit to the invisible exits once the news travelled from your body to your brain that you were standing on a cold downtown Minneapolis street at night in January.
When the Revolution opened with “Mountains,” a new stream of people poured in from one of the less-advance staging areas of people near Marquette Avenue. One man started pounding his large, fluffy mittens and jumping up and down as the band veered into “Let’s Go Crazy.”
As I numbly walked to my car in the Target Center parking lot, I passed by the Seville Gentlemen’s Club and through the fence grating, where a woman in a blue, see-through, seasonally inappropriate dress pulled on a black fur coat and stepped outside to smoke. The warm air from inside thawed my cheeks. In the club there were probably a surplus of workers waiting for tips, rent, car loans, for the real crowds to arrive.
Most everyone still feels local—I saw a lot more Minnesota Wild stocking caps than Patriots or Eagles gear, and many of the Bold North volunteers, with few tourists to welcome yet, called it a night before the music ended. I spotted a trio in their ice-blue parkas shuffling to their cars near the Salvation Army as Prince’s old bandmates’ version of “Purple Rain” bounced and rattled off frozen skyscrapers before slipping off into the night.