After three nominations for best nightclub talent buyer, Sonia Grover was starting to look like the Susan Lucci of the concert industry’s biggest awards event, the Pollstar Awards. But the 18-year veteran at Minneapolis’ legendary nightclub finally took the top honor at the 28th annual ceremony in Los Angeles on Thursday, a win that reflects reverence for First Ave throughout the industry -- but in particular reiterates Grover’s widespread respect and influence in a job that is still somewhat dominated by men.
“I think maybe they just figured, ‘She’s been nominated enough. We’d better give it to her this year,’” Grover said by phone Friday morning from Los Angeles, insisting that her win was a surprise. “I actually bet against myself in the betting pool we all do.”
When pressed, she theorized that “Prince’s death might have raised more awareness about the history of First Ave” to Pollstar voters nationwide, who are essentially Grover’s peers in the industry. But she also said it reflects the club’s continued popularity and well-respected staff. She beat out reps from New York’s Terminal 5, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza, Chicago’s Joe’s Bar and Milwaukee’s the Rave.
An industry trade magazine that runs the awards, Pollstar tweeted out a snippet of Grover’s speech at the podium, where she colorfully expressed her disbelief she wound up in her job.
Nightclub buyer of the year Sonia Grover thanked her team and said she sometimes wakes up and can't believe she gets paid "to do this shit"— Pollstar Live! (@pollstarlive) February 3, 2017
She also got a nice shout-out from one of the musicians she has served well.
cheers to our dear friend @MplsDice on winning the pollstar award for best person ever!!!— Tommy Stinson (@tommy_stinson) February 3, 2017
Grover started at First Ave in 1998 just a few months after her longtime cohort there, Nate Kranz. The two friends each started booking bands under the club’s longtime ringleader, Steve McClellan, and took over as primary bookers not long after the ownership battle that closed the club and landed it in bankruptcy court in November 2004. Grover became the lead talent buyer in 2009, when Kranz was named general manager. She also oversees booking at the Turf Club (which First Ave owns) and the newly renovated Palace Theatre (which First Ave will manage).
First Avenue itself was also nominated as nightclub of the year at the Pollstar Awards but lost to New York’s Webster Hall. We'd say that's akin to “Pulp Fiction's” loss to “Forrest Gump” at the 1995 Oscars, but there's always next year.