The Brick -- the high-profile new music and comedy club in Minneapolis' Warehouse District -- is caught between a rock institution (First Avenue) and a hard place to like (the sightline-impaired Epic Events Center).
With a capacity of 2,000, it's a challenge to compete with the internationally revered First Avenue (capacity 1,500) and the erratic but entrenched Epic (capacity 2,400). But the Brick is buoyed by the megabucks of AEG Live, the world's second biggest concert promoter, and for Monday's sold-out opening it ponied up for a big name, Jane's Addiction.
The evening was both a boom -- Jane's was invigorating 1990s nostalgia -- and a bust.
Logistics at the club were a nightmare, starting at the door. The line stretched all the way around the corner and people had to wait in the rain to be pat-searched by security guards.
"This is horrible," said a soaked Dustin Ellis, 35, of St. Paul, as he stood for a half-hour in the rain. "I wouldn't expect this an hour after the doors opened."
Many clubgoers entered in a foul mood and then discovered that the entryway is small and the box office tiny.
Small is an operative word to describe the three-level Brick, which previously was an alcohol-free Christian music place known as Club 3 Degrees. The stage was too small to accommodate all of Jane's Addiction's equipment. The merchandise table was too small and too hard to find (in a corner in the basement, cash only). The restroom facilities were too few -- five urinals and two stalls total for men.
But the biggest issues were congestion -- or call it crowd flow -- and sightlines.
"This place is a fricking zoo," Eric Adams, 36, of Chaska, said. "It's packed. I tried to get to the bathroom but I had to turn back."
Sightlines drew the most vociferous complaints from concertgoers. If you weren't in front of the stage on the main floor or leaning over the rail in the balcony, forget about it. Only about 30 percent of the clubgoers could see the stage.
"I'm 6 foot 3, and I can't see the stage," said Craig Teiken, 42, of Minneapolis. "This place is not First Avenue. You can walk everywhere there and see the stage."
After Jane's 90-minute performance, several clubgoers offered their overall assessment of the Brick and gave the newcomer a letter grade.
Michael Simonds, 39, Inver Grove Heights: "It's like a smaller Epic. They failed at security. Anything good I can say is the light rail drops you off across the street." Grade: B
Jennifer Neitzke, 38, Coon Rapids: "The sound was great. I hope they can figure out how to tier it better and make the stage taller." Grade: C-plus
Troy Johnson, 42, Minneapolis: "They were ill-prepared for this kind of crowd. They're going to have to up the ante to compete with First Avenue." Grade: D-plus
Heidi Kapacinskas, 43, Edina: "We tried four different sightlines with absolutely no success. This was incredibly frustrating. It was very claustrophobic, and I think somewhat dangerous. If things stay the same, I would not return." Grade: C-minus
The man in charge of the Brick, AEG Live senior vice president Joe Litvag, was just as critical of his new venue. After the concert, he met with staff to identify problems and propose solutions.
"We want to get people in faster," he said. "We have some sightline issues. We had upset fans and that doesn't make us feel good. We want constructive feedback. We learned a lot. We're making a long-term investment and we'll consider any changes. We're gonna make it right."
Letter grade? "I'd give us a C," said Litvag, whose staff gave out two refunds. "We have to strive for an A. I'm a perfectionist."
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