With the mayor singing a Bob Dylan tune and hints of a permanent visual homage to Prince, representatives from entertainment conglomerate Live Nation previewed the new Fillmore Minneapolis concert hall Thursday by promising it will stand out from the many other venues in their international chain — and local competitors, too.
“It’s not just a black box with people in it,” said Ron Bension, president of Live Nation’s clubs and theaters division, which will go head-to-head with independent local institution First Avenue once the new music facility opens next to Target Field Station in the North Loop district.
The Los Angeles-based promotions company announced a mid-February opening date and a 1,850-person capacity for the new Fillmore, which will be the ninth Live Nation-owned venue in the country to bear the name of the legendary San Francisco concert hall where Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and many other greats performed a half-century ago.
While all three of those late rock legends obviously won’t be available to play the Minneapolis Fillmore, their photos and music were featured in a multimedia presentation during Thursday’s “hard-hat preview,” along with tunes by Minnesota talent including the Replacements, Semisonic, Lifter Puller and Prince.
None of the venue’s permanent features were in place yet, such as the 5-foot-high stage, VIP boxes or large chandeliers (a trademark at other Fillmores). However, the tour showed off the two-story layout with a large wraparound mezzanine, an upstairs VIP lounge and a burger bar at ground level.
The Fillmore is part of a sprawl of development near Target Field helmed by United Properties, a company run by the Pohlad family, which also owns the Minnesota Twins. A 160-room Element by Westin hotel is also under construction as part of the same structure as the 36,000-square-foot concert venue, which will also welcome comedy and other live events as well as private parties.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called the music venue “a big missing link” in the North Loop as he spoke briefly in the VIP lounge area.
“It will add an extraordinary vibrancy in a neighborhood that’s already rocking,” said Frey, who started his speech by belting out a few lines of “Like a Rolling Stone” after it was used as his walk-on music.
The lounge will be called B.G.’s after Bill Graham, the original Fillmore’s influential ringleader, while the burger bar — with openable garage doors — will be named Trax, after the nearby light rail as well as the rock ’n’ roll kind of tracks.
The Fillmore’s first round of performers won’t be announced until October, but acts are currently being lined up. At least one local band, Warped Tour veteran Motion City Soundtrack, is expected to play there as part of its early 2020 reunion tour dates.
Artists currently booked at other Fillmore venues — Miami, Denver, New Orleans and Philadelphia among them — include Lizzo, Kacey Musgraves, Umphrey’s McGee and even Santana and Madonna, the latter two among the “legacy artists” that Bension said he hopes to feature in the new Minneapolis hall.
“This size and type of venue is great for the bands that are just breaking big,” he said, “but also for long-established artists that want to play somewhere more intimate where they can literally see the face of everybody in the audience.”
Concert bookings will be co-helmed by Live Nation’s regional and national teams as well as recently hired Twin Cities talent bookers Tamsen Preston and Zack Chazin, who previously worked with Sue McLean & Associates and the Snowta festival, respectively. Preston was also involved in the 2019 Basilica Block Party, which Live Nation took over this year.
Live Nation owns Ticketmaster and generates around $10 billion in revenue per year. The company runs about 75 concert venues around the nation, including the House of Blues chain and numerous other midsize theaters and clubs.
In Minnesota, Live Nation already books many arena and theater concerts, plus it oversees programming at the Armory and Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Earlier this week, Live Nation purchased the sagging We Fest country music festival in Detroit Lakes for around $10 million.