There was a funny conversation between the men’s restroom attendant and a patron last Saturday night at Myth nightclub — an exchange easily overheard by those of us who had to hide in a stall with our prohibited cellphones, typing up a recap of Prince’s concerts for the next day’s newspaper.
“I forgot where the bathrooms are in this place,” the guy told the attendant. “It’s been a while.”
“As long as you didn’t forget where the club is,” the attendant replied.
People may not have realized it was still open, but who could ever forget the location of Myth nightclub? It’s not as if there are a lot of other giant nightclubs built in a Just for Feet store next to a shopping mall in the inner-ring eastern suburb of Maplewood.
With its revamped capacity hovering around 3,500 people, Myth is the only music venue of its size in the metro — which largely explains why it not only survived a tumultuous demise in 2009, but is suddenly flourishing again, two years after reopening.
Saturday’s Prince shows were the unofficial kickoff to what appears to be a royal summer concert season at Myth. Between the Primus 3D Tour coming Saturday and a newly announced Aug. 19 gig by Ke$ha, Myth will welcome everyone from metal bigwigs Marilyn Manson and Godsmack to hip-hop hitmakers Tyga and B.O.B. to Cities 97 staples OneRepublic and O.A.R, plus ZZ Top and a whole lotta ’90s bands, including the Wallflowers/Counting Crows double header and Sublime With Rome.
We can officially call it a comeback.
“I think we’re finally once again getting the schedule we deserve for the venue that we are,” said Ryan Kovaleski, general manager since the club’s 2011 reopening.
Kovaleski, 36, answered questions on behalf of new Myth owner Mike Miranowski. Both guys were involved with Myth before its 2009 closing, Kovaleski as a bartender going back to the venue’s opening in 2005 with a price of around $15 million. Things started going south for the venue in 2008 when its original owner, Mike Ogren, got into a financial dispute with an investor. He eventually faced a six-month sentence for felony theft by swindle and was also charged for illegally obtaining liquor.
“It’s a new era here,” was the closest Kovaleski got to commenting on the club’s past. He said he has been careful to “keep payroll under control,” hired an outside security team, EPG Security Group, and slightly retooled the venue to accommodate large crowds. The ground-floor bar nearest the stage was moved to improve sight lines. As mandated by the city of Maplewood, contracts were also set up with neighboring businesses to guarantee sufficient parking, including Ashley Furniture and Days Inn.
The real improvement has been in the bookings. A new promotions company tied to the club, Purple Productions — no connection to Prince! — has been actively pursuing shows since last year. Mega-corporation AEG Live and Chicago’s Jam Productions also have started booking there again, finding it the next logical step up from playing First Ave or Mill City Nights and a suitable alternative to St. Paul’s musty Roy Wilkins Auditorium.
Prince’s shows Saturday reiterated all the things to like and not like about Myth. On the downside, the pre-concert wining and dining options came down to BW3 vs. TGIF’s, and the beer offerings inside mostly vary among pricey light beers. On the plus side, parking was free (fans had already spent enough on the $99-$259 tickets), the tiered layout made it easier to see the star (especially important when the star is 5 feet 2), and the always-impressive sound and light system suited the video-enhanced production Prince rolled out this time (qualities that should be vital at Primus’ 3-D concert Saturday).
Those bathrooms, by the way, are in the back corners, farthest from the stage.
Local music notes
Israel from the gut
The cover art of a sprawling tree was drawn by Turf Club maven Leah Rule before her death in December, and the elegant last song, “Mile After Mile,” was written for local music hero Slim Dunlap after his stroke last year. Thus, the title of Dan Israel’s new album, “Live On,” isn’t just a throwaway, Matthew McConaughey-esque cool catchphrase — especially considering the health issues Israel himself endured in the past couple years.
“I basically have a very bad gut,” explained Israel, who’s heard more complicated medical terms through multiple visits to the Mayo Clinic. The visibly slimmer local music vet, 42, didn’t want to go into detail, especially since “Live On” is a remarkably upbeat, optimistic collection, with songs played mostly on acoustic guitar and piano straight out of a warm living room sing-along session.
“It was like a rock ’n’ roll summer camp,” he said of the sessions at Rich Mattson’s Sparta Sound in northern Minnesota, noting the “spiritual” power of the musicmaking. “For a long time, I didn’t even want to pick up the guitar, I was feeling so bad. But when I did start writing again, it was completely therapeutic, not because I got to dwell on my illness in an artistic way, but by simply taking my mind off it.”
Saturday’s release party at Icehouse (10:30 p.m., $10) is an Israel twofer, since he is also issuing a new Kickstarter-funded greatest-hits double LP on vinyl, “Danthology,” culled from all nine of his albums. Israel and his band the Cultivators also kick off St. Paul’s Music in Mears series on Thursday with Martin Devaney (6-9 p.m., free).
Also touting a new Rich Mattson-produced album Saturday at Icehouse: North Country singer/songwriter Germaine Gemberling, whose poetic, rustic, rurally rooted songs recall Victoria Williams’ evocative work, but with a voice more like Neko Case. Her debut, “Generator,” is out on Duluth indie Chaperone Records. … Mystical Americana band Taj Raj plays the Turf Club on Saturday touting a new EP, “Fine Hearts Alive.” Singer Ben Burwell shows off a dramatic, husky voice a la Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) throughout the six-song collection, while the band keeps things uptempo and even jubilant. …
Two of Minneapolis’ most popular outdoor bashes, Barbette’s Bastille Day Block Party and the Red Stag Block Party, gave us a peek at their 2013 lineups. The Bastille Day lineup July 15 includes the Suicide Commandos, John Mark Nelson and Lucy Michelle. Confirmed so far for the Red Stag show Aug. 3 are Actual Wolf, Gramma’s Boyfriend, Eleganza! and All Tomorrow’s Petty. …
Desdamona, Maria Isa, Angel Darcourt, Sweetz P and DJ Simone are taking part in the second Ladies First hip-hop showcase Friday at the Kitty Cat Klub (10 p.m., $5). … Bands you’ve never seen before and may never see again will perform Friday in the annual 6 Months to Live concert (8 p.m., Triple Rock, $8-$10). Sort of a bowling-league answer to forming rock bands, it pairs musicians who just met six months ago — maybe the most adventurous rock-show idea this side of a Mark Mallman marathon.