This week’s once-per-decade paint job at Minnesota’s most famous rock club won’t be as thorough as previous ones, but it could still be a makeover for the ages.
First Avenue scaled back the usual overhaul of its star-covered facade in downtown Minneapolis. Its black exterior and all 530 stars won’t be repainted like in 2010, due to budget constraints brought on by COVID-19 and the attendant closure since mid-March.
However, in another sign of the tumult of 2020, the club is adding one noteworthy name to its walls: George Floyd.
The man whose death in Minneapolis police officers’ custody on May 25 set off protests nationwide will be honored with a special red star, the only one on the facade painted a color other than silver or gold.
The club is also harking back to a bygone era by repainting the marquee above the front entrance to feature the old skyline logo, which was there when Prince filmed “Purple Rain” at First Ave in 1983.
“Obviously our revenue situation leaves a lot to be desired at this point, but we wanted to at least update the marquee,” said First Ave general manager Nate Kranz, who believes the skyline logo was last seen there sometime in the 1990s. “We’re stoked.”
Floyd’s star will be prominently displayed at ground level near the side entrance known as “the Conrad door,” named after production manager Conrad Sverkerson.
The venue opted to add one more new star: a gold one near the front doors to commemorate its 50th anniversary this year.
The only other gold star on the building is the one with Prince’s name on it, painted by an unidentified culprit in the days after the rock legend’s death in 2016.
What was supposed to be a celebratory year at the club — even the Foo Fighters had booked a surprise gig — has instead found First Ave fighting for its and other venues’ future. The club’s owner, Dayna Frank, has been serving as the president of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), lobbying Congress for business grants and tax breaks for entertainment venues closed because of the pandemic.
Repainting the rest of the stars will have to wait, but the good news is they’re still shining bright, according to Kory Lidstrom, owner of Indy Painting, who helmed the previous paint job and this one. “They’ve held up pretty well from a decade ago and should continue to last.”
During the 2010 makeover, Lidstrom and the club set off a minor panic among unknowing patrons when the stars disappeared without warning under a coat of primer. That won’t be the case this time, but they still expect to attract attention.
“I’m proud to be doing this one,” Lidstrom said of the Floyd star.