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Another month, another high ranking in a national poll for First Avenue as one of the most landmark clubs around. In this case, Billboard magazine just named Minneapolis' legendary monolith of black paint one of the “10 Most Influential Clubs in America,” based on input from the booking agents who send their bands all over the country. It also called the venues “The Must Plays.” The list is alphabetized, not ranked:
9:30 Club (Washington, D.C.)
Bowery Ballroom (New York)
Crystal Ballroom (Portland, Ore.)
The Fillmore (San Francisco)
Great American Music Hall (San Francisco)
Lincoln Hall (Chicago)
The Metro (Chicago)
Paradise Rock Club (Boston)
The Troubadour (Los Angeles)
It seems rather suspect that all the clubs except First Ave and the Crystal are in major metropolises. Having been to four of those other venues (the 9:30, Troubadour, Bowery, Metro), I can say without bias that they’ve got nothing on our favorite former bus depot and its adjoining coat room, although the Troubadour’s legacy is remarkable. It’s hard to argue with the Fillmore on the history front, too. But at least we know in First Ave's case, its future looks as bright as its 42-year past. Or at least I doubt the Brick, er, Mill City Nights will replace it on this list anytime soon.
Probably not too worried of a conservative boycott hurting their upcoming Hot Chip, Ani DiFranco or Jesus & Mary Chain concerts, the owner and staff at First Avenue nightclub have raised their voices – and, more specifically, erected a billboard -- denouncing the same-sex marriage ban that Minnesota voters will face this Election Day. The club’s name and logo are featured on a new billboard near Target Field that reads, “Don’t limit the freedom to marry,” and, “First Avenue supports same-sex marriage and equality for all people.” It includes the website for Minnesotans United for All Families, the primary organization urging voters to say no to the proposed amendment.
Although First Ave has large billboard space on top of its own building, this billboard is actually on the other side of the ballpark near Lee’s Liquor Lounge, at 12th St. and Glenwood Av. The club’s owner, Byron Frank, came up with the idea for the billboard and paid for it entirely out-of-pocket, First Ave general manager Nate Kranz said. There will also be ongoing efforts to fight the amendment inside the club, too, including more ads and fundraising efforts, he added.
“It is something that means a lot to everybody at First Avenue, so we figured we would do what we could to help out the cause,” said Kranz, who doesn’t fear any consumer backlash. The response so far from customers and business associates, he said, “has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Minnesotans United for All Families has been heavily targeting concertgoers this summer. Volunteers from the organization petitioned the 10,000 music fans arriving to Rock the Garden two weekends ago outside Walker Arts Center, which is one of several big arts organizations that also openly oppose the amendment (also: the Guthrie and Hennepin Theater Trust). More petitioning is expected outside the July 6-7 Basilica Block Party, which became a focal point of the marriage debate last summer. Gay marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, but the proposed amendment would define marriage as solely between a man and a women.
A phone call about First Ave’s billboard to Minnesotans for Marriage representatives, which is in support of the amendment, was not returned.
Most of the local music buzz over the weekend wasn’t over a new band, but a new venue. The two-story, warehouse-spacious supper club Icehouse opened its doors last week on the southern end of Eat Street, at 2540 Nicollet Av., adding to the area’s great array of dining and watering holes but pretty much instigating a live music scene from scratch in that corner of south Minneapolis.
Icehouse’s chef and co-owner Matthew Bickford previously made a name for himself at the Be’Wiched Deli in downtown Minneapolis. Former Turf Club manager Dave Wiegardt is also part of the Icehouse staff. They’re now open for lunch and serving regular dinner service, and then they’re hosting a wide array of late-night music events.
Adam Levy pulled double-duty Thursday night, the official opening day, when he played a laid-back dinnertime set with his electro-improv jazz-rock band Liminal Phase before putting the sound system and dancefloor to the full test with Hookers & Blow. By all accounts, it passed the test. The funk-blasting horns and singer Katie Gearty’s roof-raising vocals boomed warmly through the venue without bouncing around the old brick walls and soft, dark wood floors. A half-wall nicely separated the bar area from the dance floor, with booths and tables making cozy little viewing areas around the perimiter. Watching from the balcony, I thought the best way of describing the Icehouse is as a grungier, hipper version of the Dakota, but the old warehouse space – it really was used to store ice in the pre-GE days – definitely has a character all its own. The bar’s quirky menu of cocktails was also interesting enough to keep me away from the nice tap-beer selection.
The music offerings hit high gear this week: The Dave King Trucking Company will perform two sets tonight (9:30 and 11:30 p.m., $5), part of a Monday jazz series that J.T. Bates is booking modeled after his and Weigardt’s old Clown Lounge days with Fat Kid Wednesdays. Tuesdays will feature the Lady Heat Hot Soul Party, with Pink Mink’s Christy Hunt DJ-ing alongside her buds Danielle Morris and Sara Jean Hanson (10:30 p.m., $2). Click here for the rest of the month’s music lineup. Look for a bigger profile of Icehouse by Tom Horgen in Friday’s Variety section or in Vita.mn, but in the meantime: Welcome to the scene, Icehouse.
A ringleader at the Fine Line Music Café for 12 years — long enough to be synonymous with the venue in the eyes of many bands and booking agents — Kim King has left her position to become the Cabooze’s new national talent buyer. She said her hiring is just one of several changes afoot at the West Bank’s biggest venue that will “make it more artist- and patron-friendly.” King will be sharing her new duties with Jason Aukes, who has been doubling as a manager and booker at the Cabooze since former talent buyer James "Taco" Martin got sucked up by Austin, Texas, in 2010.
“I feel like it’s a totally under-utilized space for the capacity it has, so I’m excited and up for the challenge,” King said.
Adding to the workload is the fact that King also tour manages for the reigniting Soul Asylum, duties she chalked up to honing “very different skill sets.” She left on good terms at the Fine Line, with last week’s Lil Kim concert being something of a fitting namesake grand finale. Her old venue is even hosting a farewell party for King on Sunday afternoon. “I love and will miss them all, and I expect we will be doing some shows together,” she said.
Holly Henson, a longtime staple on the local comedy circuit, passed away Sunday night after a long battle with breast cancer. Henson, who was married to local talent agent Tom Hansen, split her time between the Twin Cities and her hometown of Danville, Kent., where she served as executive director of Pioneer Playhouse.
According to the theatre's website, she was preparing for a show when she passed away in a trailer next to the Playhouse. She was 51.
In a 1993 review of her act, Star Tribune critic Colin Covert called her "ruthlessly funny."
The Lexington Herald-Leader has a detailed obituary. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/Lbohtv