First Avenue (nightclub)
|The Mainroom and The Entry|
First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis
|Former names||Greyhound Bus Depot (1937–1970)
The Depot (1970–1972)
Uncle Sam's (1972–1979)
|Address||701 First Avenue North|
|Location||Minneapolis, MN 55403|
250 (The Entry)
|Opened||April 3, 1970|
First Avenue and 7th St Entry (locally known as The Mainroom and The Entry) are two music venues housed in the same landmark building in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The names are derived from the building's location: the corner of First Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis. The building is marked by 531 stars on its exterior along the First Avenue and Seventh Street sides commemorating past venue performers.
The building opened in 1937 as a Greyhound bus station. It was noted for its art deco style and amenities of air conditioning, shower rooms, and public telephones. The floor inside was a checkered terrazzo, while the sidewalk was made of shiny blue bricks with white trim.
The transformation from a closed Greyhound depot into a concert venue was the dream of local concert promoters, Skip Goucher and Tom Fineberg. Their dream was to open a funky, no frills nightclub in the former downtown Minneapolis bus station. But they lacked the funds, as well as the liquor license, to make that dream come true. Thus they looked for backers, and they found them in Allen Fingerhut, Danny Stevens and Wilson Simon. Unfortunately, once Fingerhut, Stevens and Simon entered the scene, Goucher and Fineberg's dream was transformed into a fancy, purple-shag carpeting club with little in common with the funky bus depot club of their dreams. And the two of them eventually got aced out by those holding the purse strings. Danny Stevens (who owned the class-A liquor license from the Hotel Hastings) and Allan Fingerhut opened the doors on April 3, 1970 to showcase a two set evening with Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
In July 1972, the venue was renamed "Uncle Sam's", becoming part of a national franchise of the American Events Company. Fingerhut and Stevens were joined on a new management team in 1979 by Steve McClellan, Dan Lessard and Jack Meyers, the club's financial manager, changing the club's name to just "Sam's". With disco making way for progressive rock, the club got another name change on New Year's Eve in 1981, when it became "First Avenue."
The name change to First Avenue did not affect the club's growing popularity. During the 80s, local artist Prince helped put it at the forefront of music venues in Minneapolis. Prince made it his main stage, the place for him to try out new material, and used it as the set for many scenes in his movie, Purple Rain.
The club had already been mentioned in Newsweek (1986). When the club turned twenty in the 90s, it started to get national recognition—with mentions in magazines such as Rolling Stone and Time. Around this time, there was an increased interest in DJs and house music; and the VIP lounge on the second level was unveiled, featuring DJ music and personalities.
The club was shut down by Fingerhut in late fall of 2004 for financial reasons, causing a wave of protest from music fans. The issues were quickly resolved (the judge presiding in the bankruptcy case noted, "I gather there is some urgency about this"), and the club was reopened by new partners Meyers, McClellan, and Byron Frank (a longtime business manager), with shows resuming after only one week's closure. Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis promised to do a stage dive at the first show after reopening, but ended up dropping the idea when he discovered that the show would feature the heavy metal band Gwar. Rybak had crowd surfed at a "Rock for Democracy" event at the venue earlier in the year.
McClellan ended his 32-year stint at First Avenue in 2005, and formed a non-profit company, the Diverse Emerging Music Organization (or DEMO). After McClellan's departure as General Manager, Jack Meyers was appointed to the position and continued until 2009, when Nathan Kranz took over.
The nightclub has been the starting point for many bands that have come out of the Twin Cities (including Prince, The Revolution, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, American Head Charge, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Dillinger Four, Dosh, The Jayhawks, Curtiss A, and Hippo Campus, among others).
Bands and artists have performed at the nightclub and influenced the Minneapolis music scene from 1970 onward, as exemplified by the silver stars that adorn the black building's exterior (every star has the name of an artist who has played at First Avenue or 7th St Entry). First Avenue also appeared in Prince's 1984 film Purple Rain, and many of the film's music performances take place at the venue.
The club was named in Playboy Magazine's Guide to Best Nightclubs in the World at #15 out of 20 in the November 2013 issue.
During the Theory of a Deadman concert on August 12, 2015, part of the ceiling collapsed, pulling down part of the sprinkler pipes. Three people were slightly injured, two of whom were taken to the hospital.
7th St Entry
The 7th St Entry is a smaller venue (capacity 250) attached to the historic First Avenue (capacity 1500). This space was once used as a restaurant area (the "Greyhound Cafe") in the bus station, before it became the music venue that is known today as "The Entry" among the locals. "The Entry" opened its doors in March 1980 (under club Sam's) as a venue that catered to local bands. The 7th St Entry is a venue where smaller and lesser known bands play (more popular bands play the First Avenue main-room). Several recordings have been recorded live at The Entry, including Hüsker Dü's first album, Land Speed Record; the song, "Cables," on Big Black's Atomizer album; Rifle Sport's live album, Live at the Entry, Dead at the Exit; and Motion City Soundtrack's, Commit This to Memory live DVD.
In November 2005, First Avenue released its first compilation CD celebrating 35 years of history. The 16 track CD, Bootlegs Volume 1, is a collection of songs recorded in either the Main-room or the 7th St Entry. Most of the songs on the CD were bootlegged, thus forming the title of the CD. Bootlegs was produced by Karrie Vrabel, with the liner notes written by Steve McClellan. All the proceeds of the CD go to McClellan’s non-profit organization, DEMO. The goals of his organization are "to support musicians while promoting gender equity; diversity of music style and genre; diversity of musicians from local communities; careers in all stages of establishment; and the staging of performances with high production values."
In addition to producing the CD, First Avenue & 7th St Entry published a promotional book in 2000, First Avenue & 7th Street Entry: Your Downtown 'Danceteria' Since 1970. The book was written, edited and designed by Rebecca Noran; and contains information on the history of the club. Furthermore, the club published a magazine entitled the In House Magazine for a brief time in 2001.
First Avenue is also home to F1RST Wrestling, a local professional wrestling company currently owned by professional wrestler Arik Cannon. It showcases Minnesota's top wrestling talent and brings in bigger names, including Sean Waltman, Jerry Lynn, Tyler Black, Colt Cabana and others.
- Entertainment: First Avenue; January 17, 2008 article; Minneapolis Star Tribune; retrieved February 05, 2013.
- First Avenue History; First Ave on-line.
- Minnesota Society of Architects (2005). Architecture Minnesota 31. Minnesota Society American Institute of Architects. p. 54. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
- Noran, Rebecca (2000). First Avenue & 7th Street Entry: Your Downtown 'Danceteria' Since 1970. Minneapolis: First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. pp. 15-20.
- Purple Rain; at Fast Rewind.
- Moley, Raymond; et al. (1986). Newsweek, Vol. 107, Issues 18–26. Indiana University via Google Books. p. 71.
- David (July 18, 2004). "Mayor RT Rybak Stage Dives and Crowd Surfs at First Avenue during Rock for Democracy". HowWasTheShow Blog. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
- "The First Avenue Massacre - What Steve McClellan's Pink Slip Said"; by Jim Walsh; City Pages article.
- Diverse Emerging Music Organization; organizational website.
- "About Us: History: Current". First Avenue, 701 Ventures. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
- Top 10 Cities That Need Statues from '80s Movies: Minneapolis (Purple Rain); TIME article.
- Keller, Martin (August 4, 1999). "Young Spuds in a Longhorn Daze". City Pages. Village Voice Media. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- Riemenschneider, Chris (November 4, 2011). "Guitarist dies after GWAR plays First Ave". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Jay Knoll (August 12, 2015). "First Avenue evacuated after ceiling collapse, injuries reported". KARE 11. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- Phil Helsel, Shamar Walters (August 12, 2015). "First Avenue Ceiling Collapses During Theory of a Deadman Show in Minneapolis". NBC News. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- Music: 7th St Entry; Minneapolis Star Tribune article; retrieved .
- "Music". Minneapolis Star Tribune article.
- Features: First Ave; Minnesota PBS
- First Avenue 'Bootlegs,' vol. 1; First Avenue website.
- DEMO Blog.
- First Avenue website.