As much as First Avenue is celebrated for its unchanged character over the past 41 years, the venue’s operators continue to find ways of improving on it. Their latest remodeling project, which started yesterday, has a construction crew removing the iron staircase that leads from the dancefloor directly up to the balcony between the two bathroom entrances.
Yes, this is the staircase that blocks the view of a good chunk of the crowd standing in the back row over by where the merch tables usually are. I personally got stuck under it for the way-packed Anthrax/Testament show in October and was truly in a madhouse. The only people who will miss those stairs are photographers, who often stood on it for a great vantage point to the stage (everybody else would get shooed away by staff).
"It’s all about improving the sightlines,” general manager Nate Kranz said of the makeover. The new layout -- to be finished about mid-February – won’t actually add to the club’s 1,500 capacity, Kranz said, “but a lot more people are going to see the stage better.”
The timing of the construction was interesting, considering the news we broke yesterday about First Ave getting a new competitor in downtown Minneapolis courtesy of mega-corporation AEG Live. The company sent out a press release on the venue this morning that did not add much to what we already reported (a few more details were added in a story in today's print edition). One interesting bit in the release, though, was that AEG picked a local guy, Jeff Kehr, as the general manager. Kehr had the same job at Myth nightclub during the Maplewood club's nearest thing to a heyday.
AEG also revealed that the venue will feature a lower-level hangout kind of bar, the Basement @ the Brick, which will be open on days there’s not a show upstairs – much like First Ave’s great add-on from last year, the Depot Tavern. Also, the new club’s website went live today, www.theBrickmn.com, though it’s not very lively yet.