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First Avenue's Dayna Frank and Nate Kranz look over the finishing touches underway this week at the Turf Club, which reopens Thursday with a newly raised ceiling and other changes. / Jerry Holt, Star Tribune
When the doors open tonight on the “new” Turf Club, the most common reaction among patrons will probably be how much it still looks like the old Turf Club.
“It’s kind of embarrassing, because people are like, ‘Well, what the hell have you been doing for the past three months?” laughed First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz, whose crew took over the 1940s-era St. Paul Midway area venue late last year and closed it for renovations June 1.
During a preview of the new digs Tuesday, however, First Ave owner Dayna Frank made a point of showing off all the heavy (and costly) work that did actually go into the place -- including a $200,000 sprinkler system, a similarly priced kitchen installation, new sound and air/heating equipment and a rebuilt roof. Oh, and there’s some new plywood in the otherwise unchanged Clown Lounge basement bar.
”It’s mostly things people probably won’t notice for now,” said Frank, who is confident that folks will at least appreciate the undeniably major bathroom improvements on both floors.
The club recruited local singer Maggie Morrison (Votel, ex-Lookbook), a mosaic artist by day, to create some special tile flourishes in each of the restrooms based on the club’s '40s-style horsetrack-themed logo. They mosaics will be joined by the posters of an indisposed Frank Zappa and a large-reared woman, which previously greeted users of the upstairs bathrooms.
“The Zappa poster dates back to the Rob Rule era, so we had to bring that back,” said Kranz, referencing the club’s well-known booker during the late-‘90s and early-‘00s. Other posters promoting gigs from that era have also been rehung in the bar’s main room, where the tables now fold in and out of the wall to provide more legroom when the 300-capacity venue fills up for a show. The ceiling was raised in the roof reconstruction, which -- along with the opening of the back crorner near the new kitchen -- also gives the room a more open, spacious vibe. A new 20-beer tap rack was added to the bar, the front part of which was rebuilt but otherwise looks just like before.
The new Turf crew did not have to hire an artist to paint the new mural behind the stage, which was actually hidden behind curtains throughout the bar’s history as a rock club. But plenty of work was done around the rebuilt/enlarged stage, including installment of a new Electro-Voice sound system that is essentially a smaller version of the one at First Ave. Delay speakers were added on the other side of the room to offer better sound to patrons standing back near the front door or Clown Lounge staircase.
Speaking of the front door, St. Paul’s unofficial music mayor Martin Devaney was hired to work the door on opening night as a nod to the club’s own unique, non-Minneapolitan identity.
The food service – including lunch, dinner and brunch – is the one new addition that will most discernibly mark the beginning of a new era for the venue more than anything else, but it’s not scheduled to begin until Sept. 5.
Seated in the club’s new downstairs green room Tuesday – which is actually painted green (but so are the upstairs walls now, too) -- Frank and Kranz looked over the final draft of the menu with Turf manager Josh James, who’s one of several holdovers from the club’s prior ownership. The food will be heavily Southern-flavored, with such highlights as Carolina shrimp with grits, crawfish- and bacon-filled mac and cheese and a fried-chicken sandwich. The bar’s basic burger is apparently something to brag about, too.
“A lot of people told us that -- even with the huge variety of food in this area -- you can’t get a good burger in the Midway,” said Frank, who’s otherwise happy to have not messed too much with the good thing that was the Turf Club before its renovations. “It was all about making it a place that will be around for a long, long time.”
The music calendar for September is already crammed with the likes of JD McPherson, Benjamin Booker, the Jayhawks, Nick Waterhouse, Shonen Knife, Hawkwind, Lee Bains III and Mike Watt’s new band. Here’s the lineup for this weekend, including the Saturday show just announced yesterday:
THURSDAY: Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee, Erik Koskinen, plus a likely surprise guest (9 p.m., sold out).
FRIDAY: Reunited Amphetamine/Reptile noise-rockers Hammerhead with Comb Boats (10 p.m., $10).
SATURDAY: P.O.S.’ and Astronautalis’ duo Four Fists, plus Solid Gold and more surprise guests (9 p.m., $20).
SUNDAY: Cosmic pop twangers Night Moves with Carroll, Rupert Angeleyes and the Chambermaids (9 p.m., $12-$14).
Louis Lee (center) surrounded by Acme club regulars. / Photo by Tom Wallace
Acme Comedy Co. is taking its show on the road in the biggest way possible.
Louis Lee, the owner of the Minneapolis club, is taking three comedians to Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau, the first time the Acme brand has traveled outside of North America.
Lee, who is from Hong Kong, thinks there's a lot of potential in an area that is just starting to get a taste of American comedy through movies and TV sitcoms.
"It's like the '80s were over here," Lee said."Beyond bars and restaurants and hotels, there really isn't a place for comedy yet. But I think it's in the early stages of it happening. The main reason I'm doing this is to see how feasible it is and how the media reacts."
Lee purposely picked three comics -- Pete Lee, Tom Segura and Chad Daniels -- who have never performed in the area.
"That part of Asia gets the same 10 or 15 guys all the time," he said. "I want to try to bring something new and generate some interest over there."
No word yet if the frequent flyer miles go to the comedians or Acme.
While the rebirth of one mainstay rock club is on hold for a while, there’s good news about the reopening of another: The Turf Club just announced it will host a grand re-opening party Aug. 28 with local country-rock favorites Dead Man Winter (led by Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles), Frankie Lee and Erik Koskinen.
Another big Turf show was just announced for Sept. 4 with the Jayhawks, who are already set to play First Avenue the following two nights and reportedly have something playful in mind for the warm-up gig (on sale Friday at noon).
With an eye for a mid-size room across town that will add to its booking options, First Ave bought the Turf Club last winter and promised to spruce the place up without ruining its good vibe. The doors were shut June 1 for renovations, which began in earnest almost immediately.
Among the heaviest work was adding a kitchen (to serve pub grub a la First Ave’s successful in-house eatery the Depot), a new roof, a new sound system and, yep, new bathrooms. While they were closed for summer, the Green Line opened its light-rail station right outside the Turf's front doors – which, by the way, were also replaced with new doors.
“We’re just now getting to the part where everything is getting put together and it’s really starting to look great,” said First Ave general manager Nate Kranz, talking between interviews for the club’s new staff positions Wednesday. He said the Aug. 28 should be an easy target to make.
“We gave it a 10-day buffer, so barring any major glitch, we should be fine.”
While there were some not-so-pleasant surprises in the reconstruction process, there was at least one good one: The crew discovered a large mural of horses that had been hidden behind a curtain. It probably dates back to the 1940s and will now serve as the backdrop to the new stage.
The first week or two will be seen as a “soft opening” to test the staff and kitchen, but things won’t be soft for long. Among the acts already down to play the new Turf are JD McPherson (Sept. 9-10), Shonen Knife (Sept. 16), Nick Waterhouse (Sept. 20), Ty Segall (Sept. 24), Mike Watt’s new band Il Sogno del Marinaio (Sept. 28), Christopher Owens of Girls (Oct. 4), Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook (Oct. 14) and Sondre Lerche (Oct. 17). There’s also a great classic Turf lineup with the Birthday Suits and the Blind Shake scheduled Sept. 13 -- the day the Replacements are also booked to play St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood.
Previously advertised to open next week, the 400 Bar at the Mall of America is still a long ways off.
Next week’s concert with former Wings/Moody Blues member Denny Laine is now listed to take place at something called the 400 Gallery, which is a room inside the neighboring Midwest Music Museum. Same thing with the bar’s would-be first show by Nashville band Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden, also originally announced for the bar but now taking place in the gallery on Monday night.
Joe O’Brien, who partnered with co-owners Tom and Bill Sullivan at the old 400 Bar before its closing in December, downplayed the distinction between the two rooms on the MOA’s nightlife-oriented fourth floor.
“It's all one complex under the 400 Bar umbrella -- museum, venue, restaurant,” he said. “This is a listening room, offering fans a unique opportunity to experience great music close up and uninterrupted.”
Clearly, though, fans thinking they're going to see "the new 400 Bar" next week will be disappointed. The white-walled gallery space only boasts a 100-person capacity. Alcohol will not be served there, but O’Brien said fans can get a drink “steps away at the other great bars on the fourth floor.” Those include Hooters and Corona Cantina #1.
A peek through the windows at 400 Inc.’s bar and restaurant space Tuesday confirmed a lot of work still needs to be done there. In fact, it looked as if little to no work had been done in the long-vacated former sports bar space. Tables and chairs sit in dusty piles, and the old football mural is still up behind the bar. O’Brien would not provide more details on renovation plans or a projected opening date for the bar.
Thankfully, the 400 team's Midwest Music Museum opened as projected last month with the Grammy Museum-curated show "Ladies and Gentleman... The Beatles!" The $7 exhibit will be on display through Sept. 7 and was updated locally to include many photos from the Fab Four's 1964 concert at Metropolitan Stadium, where the MOA now stands. Admission to the exhibit is included with the price of next week's concert tickets (and how could it not be included?).
In related news, the 400 Bar's Bill Sullivan is dusting off some of his own old photos and stories of a different kind of legandery rock 'n' roll band and hoping to make a book out of it. The former tour manager for the Replacements just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund "Lemon Jail: 'Mats Tour Diary 1983-1986." That, too, might make a great museum exhibit, though maybe not a family-friendly one like the Beatles show.
POSTED BY KAREN ZAMORA
The night doesn’t have to end after Tuesday’s All-Star Game at the Twins Stadium. The usual 2 a.m. last call will not apply to many Minneapolis bars celebrating the main event.
All-Star Gamers have plenty of options to continue their fun.
Thirty-one downtown bars will remain open until 4 a.m. on game night. Many of which will host DJs and really late-night happy hours. Click here for an interactive map with street addresses.
Bars in Kansas City where the 2012 MLB All-Star game took place did not have extended bar hours.
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