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Star Tribune photo by Rich Tsong-Taatarri
Many Minnesotans whined when Rolling Stone’s recent list of the 20 best clubs in America did not include Minneapolis’ revered First Avenue.
Turns out that our favorite club apparently is considered a “big room” by the big magazine, which lists First Ave at No. 3 on its new list of 20 best big rooms.
Somehow our iconic 1,600-person nightclub is on the same list with New York’s redoubtable 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall, Atlanta’s renowned 4,700-seat Fox Theatre, Nashville’s landmark 1,300-seat Ryman Auditorium and the 2,100-capacity Surf Ballroom in Buddy Holly, Iowa, er, Clear Lake.
Topping First Avenue are the 1,200-capacity 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco’s legendary 1,100-capacity Fillmore.
To our way of thinking, the "best clubs" list probably should have been labeled "best bars." This is all part of Rolling Stone's series on "Venues That Rock." Amphitheaters, stadiums/arenas/ dance clubs and "readers choice" lists are yet to come.
But what does Rolling Stone know?
As a “fun fact,” it mentions that Prince reunited with his “Purple Rain”-era band, the Revolution, at First Avenue last year.
Fact: The Revolution went on without Prince.
Already hit with the cancellation of this summer’s River’s Edge Fest, Twin Cities music lovers were hit with more bummer summer concert news Tuesday: First Avenue called off its inaugural festival.
The landmark Minneapolis club confirmed the postponement in a press release after weeks of inquiring tweets and much speculation about one of the most anticipated concerts of the outdoor season. Most of the summer’s other big music bashes have already announced their lineups, but First Ave’s fest – scheduled July 20 at Parade Athletic Fields near downtown – was stuck in limbo.
“We had a lineup in place ready to go, and then over the course of three days our two biggest acts dropped out,” said First Ave general manager Nate Kranz, whose disappointment was as audible as a Motorhead gig at his club.
Here’s some of what the press release says from the club: “For our inaugural fest we hope to create an event that lives up to the high standards of First Avenue. If we had moved forward this year that would not have been possible.”
Kranz did not name names, but at least one of the pull-outs is coming to town for another big outdoor event. Another legendary act probably isn’t coming here at all.
A search for replacements came up short given the relatively late notice and an inability to shift the date of the event, which was set by a permit from the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board. First Ave’s fest will have its day, though. Kranz said he and his staff will circle the wagons and lock in bands even earlier for next year. They might even make it a two-day event.
“We had plenty of bands that are interested, but they just weren’t available that exact day this year,” Kranz explained. “We can’t offer them another date like we can at the club.”
On the upside, all those calls looking for acts did lead to some of the other big outdoor shows First Ave is promoting elsewhere this summer. That includes the already sold-out Alabama Shakes concert at Cabooze Plaza a week later, July 28, and the cool, only-in-Minnesota gig announced yesterday with Trampled by Turtles and Atmosphere at Bayfront Festival Park on June 29.
There’s one more silver lining, too: The postponement frees up fans to attend the Grumpy’s Bash 13, also booked July 20 (by pure coincidence) in the parking lot party behind the downtown bar and featuring old-school First Ave regulars Mudhoney, the Melvins, Die Kreuzen and Negative Approach.
“Mudhoney is one of my favorite bands,” Kranz said, “so I know where I’m going to be that day instead of our fest.”
Local musicians and club staffers are mourning the loss of Jason Aukes, manager and booker at the Cabooze and other venues in the After Midnight Group family. Only 36, he was found dead on Thursday at his home in Minneapolis. The cause of death has not been made public.
A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church (8211 Red Oak Dr., St. Paul), with visitation at 1 p.m.
“Jason had one of the bigger, more vibrant personalities of the Twin Cities music scene, and nobody in town is going to give you a squarer deal than he did,” said Kevin Kniebel, singer/banjoist in Pert Near Sandstone, who credited Aukes for being one of his band’s key supporters. “His impact on us and the entire West Bank music scene was huge.”
Nate Kranz, general manager at First Avenue, was a friend and sometimes competitor of Aukes who worked with him on many of the Cabooze Plaza outdoor gigs in recent years. He said Aukes “did everything from booking the shows to production stuff to coordinating security. The Cabooze is really going to miss him, and not just because he was such a great guy.”
A statement from the After Midnight Group reads, “With his infectious humor and contagious smile he had an overwhelming ability to make everyone feel welcome, including bands, staff, and customers. His presence as a manager, a talent buyer, a friend and overall great person will be missed by many.”
Click here for the family's obituary on Jason, who grew up in Spring Lake Park.
Ward Rubrecht got the highest score at the second Moth storytelling contest last night at the Amsterdam in St. Paul.
Love hurts, but storytelling is the best revenge. Several skilled raconteurs proved it Wednesday at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul, where the second of the Moth's Minnesota storySLAMs drew a crowd of 200.
The Moth, a New York-based organization devoted to the craft of storytelling, first became prominent by taping celebrities telling stories. It's now gone national, producing storySLAMS in several cities. The slams here are hosted the last Wednesday of each month by MPR, which airs the Peabody Award-winning "The Moth Story Hour" at 10 p.m. Sundays.
Last month's theme was "secrets," last night's "love hurts." Part of the event's charm is its mix of randomness and rules; storytellers toss their names into a bag and ten are drawn. Three sets of judges are also picked from the audience. Each performer's story must not go longer than five minutes, a long whistle is blown softly to warn them when time is running out.
Host MIke Fotis, who won last month's premiere event with a story about something terrible he did on a plane, gave encouraging feedback to most of the performers. "I could feel the lightning shaking off your hips," he told Hope Koon, after she recounted her resentful retaliation toward a "candy boyfriend" who two-timed her.
Ward Rubrecht nailed the highest score with a biting account of bullying. Matt Burgess's creative take on the theme involved stalking a mysterious codger who might have been J.D. Salinger, or not. Leif Walvin from Minot (with the accent to prove it) had us on the edge of our seats when he told of hitching a ride with a creep to reach his lady love.
Though the contestants are chosen by luck of the draw, the deck seemed a bit stacked with a clique of professional or at least very experienced tellers who know each other, like first-up Nancy Donoval, a former national champ whose excellent story about playing the "what-if game" about a lost love during "a dry spell I like to call my 30s" ran the gamut from hilarious to poignant. A few more gutsy amateurs would have made for a better mix, and maybe more will dare to share at the next event on March 27, when the theme will be "detours."
Xavier Rucker, Michael Ingram and Marvin Humphries (left to right) all competed in the ball.
Photo by Jeff Wheeler.