A concert announcement by Dinosaur Jr. is nothing out of the ordinary at First Avenue, but on Thursday it generated an extraordinary amount of excitement.
The Sept. 14 date with J. Mascis and his crew was the Minneapolis live music hub's first new booking to be announced in 2021. As in: It's not a postponement from 2020. It won't be a limited-capacity show with reserved tables. It's an honest-to-goodness, brand new tour date booked with the idea that fans will be able to stand elbow-to-elbow, just like they did back when COVID-19 probably would've been mistaken for an industrial band that played the Entry back in 1988.
And there's plenty more where that came from. First Ave followed the Dino J announcement by unveiling a Nov. 1 show by Canadian electronic stars the Purity Ring at big-sister venue the Palace Theatre (on sale now).
"We're working on a lot of new dates," general manager Nate Kranz confirmed with a discernible amount of giddiness Thursday.
"I always thought it would take just one or two acts to get things started again, and that's what happened."
Speaking specifically of Dinosaur Jr., who've been frequenting the club since the late-'80s and often compete with Motörhead to see how loud the sound system can go, Kranz added, "What a cool band to start it off." The trio's tour announcement, for a new album coming in September, also drew attention from national music blogs.
A virtual freak scene erupted locally on Twitter after the announcement. Tickets go on sale March 19 for a regular pre-pandemic price of $30 via the venue's new ticketing partner, AXS.com (where pre-sale options are already under way).
"@FirstAvenue show announcements... O, how I missed thee," tweeted @GoldiKloecks.
Zach Kindt @Zkindt wrote, "Perfect start for seeing shows, go from zero to ears bleeding in one night."
Dinosaur Jr. won't necessarily be the first full-capacity gig to take place at the venue, though. First Ave still has a lot of concerts on the calendar for the second half of 2021 that were postponements from 2020, including an Aug. 14 main-room date with Umphrey's McGee, which could be the canary in the mine. The Chicago jammers have several outdoor gigs booked that month, too.
The First Ave team also has a pair of outdoor concerts booked in August at Surly Brewing Festival Field, with the Decemberists on Aug. 9 and Ween on Aug. 21. Those shows are still being planned for, pending the expected reopening of Surly's brewery to on-site consumption.
First Ave's main room won't be left entirely to the old bus depot ghosts in the meantime. Following the successful January experiment with Charlie Parr, the venue has announced a couple more livestream concerts by local acts with very limited in-person seating, including the Cactus Blossoms on March 27 and the 4onthefloor on April 4 (aka 4/4). Tables are still available to the latter gig.
Of course, all of these upcoming performances are still contingent on the continuing success of the vaccines, declining virus rates, variant strains and all the other mitigating factors that have kept the concert business shut down for exactly one year as of this week. Like just about everyone else in just about every industry dependent on those factors, Kranz sounded optimistic albeit still uncertain.
"Everything will still be based on what the guidelines from the CDC and Gov. Walz are come fall, and on the overall safety of our patrons and staff," he said. "Right now, we're operating with the belief that we will be operating in a post-pandemic environment."
Cue the Bon Jovi anthem.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658