Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Long Live First Avenue!

Remember November 2nd, 2004? Optimism suffered some very heavy blows. On the national level, we realized that we must endure another four years of a very dangerous administration. November 2nd was a grim day for Minnesota as well. First Avenue, which has been the cultural epicenter of the Twin Cities for the past couple decades, was forced to close its doors.

Somewhere along the line, it became acceptable for giant international corporations (read, Clear Channel) - who have nothing invested in our artistic community, and who care nothing about the history, present, or future of our local culture – to invade our music scene and attempt to set up a monopoly on our venues (not to mention media). For people who still cherished our culture, and for people who still believed that true culture can only come from the local, grassroots level (created by the people who celebrate it, not by distant businessmen who want to package it up and sell it), it was very reassuring to still have an independent powerhouse such as First Avenue. Unfortunately, people and culture are always the underdogs when pitted against money and corporations. Yes, the pressure was even too much for First Avenue to handle.

I have so many fond memories of First Avenue. I’ve been going there ever since I was old enough to go downtown without my parents. I’ve seen some of the most incredible shows of my life there. It’s very likely that, without First Avenue, bands such as Prince, The Replacements, and Hüsker Dü would have never existed (Clear Channel would have never felt the need to nurture those bands). Just try to imagine what American music would be like without the influence of those musicians.

After November 2nd, it was evident that nobody took First Avenue for granted. There was a huge outcry from the community. Nobody wanted to believe that it was over. Twin Citizens, in their state of mourning, were very eager to offer solutions - whether or not they could actually help. Even RT Rybak, the mayor of Minneapolis, promised to do a stage dive if First Avenue reopened.

After two long weeks of grief and concentrated pessimism, a beam of optimism appeared. It was learned that the former managers of First Avenue had acquired the business from the bankruptcy court. First Avenue was going to reopen, and it was in good hands! The Twin Cities breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief. (Rybak went back on his promise to do a stage dive on opening night when he learned that GWAR was playing. However, he did do a stage dive at a later show while The Frogs were playing. Yeah, I’m confused too. The only band that could be more damaging to a respectable reputation than GWAR would surely be The Frogs.)

Why am I writing about this? Because last night, I was reminded once again just how important First Avenue is to me. I’ll write about that experience in my next post. And please, never take your culture and the community that supports it for granted.


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