First Avenue: The Heart of Minneapolis Music

Updated: May 13, 2020

Anyone can feel the nostalgia that emanates within First Avenue & 7th St. Entry from miles away. After decades spent as the Northland Greyhound Bus Depot, First Avenue originally opened up as “The Depot” in 1970. The Depot became a prime destination for those to go out and dance during in the disco era in the late seventies and eighties. For generations, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry has been a designated danceteria for downtown Minneapolis. To the nation, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry is a renowned rock and roll venue and one of the most prosperous, longest running, independently owned concert venues in the country. To Minnesota, First Avenue plays an even bigger role, as the provider of priceless memories that are held close to many.

How did First Avenue & 7th St. Entry get it’s prominent reputation you may ask? For those who don’t know, First Avenue gained global recognition when 80’s pop sensation and MN native, Prince, filmed parts of his film, Purple Rain at the venue in 1983. Known as a local, house band at First Avenue & 7th St. Entry before becoming the famous pop star Prince was at the time, you’ll see scenes in the film of Prince and his band, The Revolution performing on the now, famously known stage it is today. First Avenue has provided a stage to a multitude of up and coming artists from Minneapolis before becoming a household name including hardcore and punk bands, Babes in Toyland, Husker Dü, The Replacements, and Soul Asylum.

Since then, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry is a major platform for many rising stars in the music industry to perform at. Hundreds of artists have passed through the hallowed halls of First Avenue including Eminem, Lauryn Hill, The Ramones, and Wu-Tang Clan before going on to sell out arenas later on in their careers. Painted across the building you’ll see a mural of silver stars with the names of these of artists to perform at First Avenue & 7th St. Entry over the years. Facing the entrance of First Avenue, to the right, you’ll find Prince’s star painted gold among the many silver stars that populate the walls of this piece of rock and roll history.

Having evolved into the venerable venue and historical landmark it is today, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry features two stages in under one ancient roof. A roof so ancient, part of the ceiling actually collapsed during Theory of a Deadman’s show back in 2015. Although this unpreventable incident made national news, no one was terribly hurt. The Mainroom is a mid-size space, consisting of a 1,550 persons capacity. The Entry is a separate room next door to the Mainroom with a capacity of 250 people, possessing a smaller, more intimate setting. Going on their 50th anniversary next year, the spotlight was on First Avenue & 7th St. Entry when it was recently named one of the Top Ten Concert Venues by Rolling Stone, once again.

Over the years, First Avenue Productions has been busy expanding with no limits. With a growing estate of concert venues, the ownership group behind First Avenue & 7th St. Entry occupies Fine Line Music Cafe, the Fitzgerald Theatre, the Palace Theatre, the Turf Club, as well as The Depot Tavern Bar & Grill, a restaurant connected to the historic rock and roll venue, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry.

The growth of the First Avenue family of venues continues to flourish as plans of beginning the construction of an amphitheater alongside the Mississippi river in Minneapolis by 2021 and reports about opening up another restaurant attached to the Palace Theatre in St. Paul come in to play. This is just one of the many reasons First Avenue has and continues to prove it’s pivotal role in the cultivation of the thriving music scene in the Midwest.

Coincidently, I was hired on as a cocktail server at First Avenue on Prince’s birthday, June 7th, after spending a couple months scanning tickets at the Palace Theatre. While filling out paperwork during orientation at First Avenue, I pondered over the presence of all the music legends to take the stage in the Mainroom that still lingers throughout the club. After years of applying, I was amped that my persistence had actually paid off. I finally received the opportunity to work at the very venue that is home to many memories of shows I’ve attended throughout my life that I hold close to my heart.

The nerves I felt as I walked into my first cocktail serving shift at First Avenue were shaken off quickly before I was trained in to serve in the Mainroom. Eventually, the pressure to learn how to run around a nightclub, balancing a tray of drinks on one hand, while working at such a prestigious venue had disintegrated.

By the end of the night, maneuvering myself through a dark, crowded room of people while carrying a tray of drinks over their heads had become natural. I just had to spill a few trays of drinks before I found my groove. It’s one thing to work at nationally accredited music venue, but the way it’s so efficiently operated speaks more volume than the reputation Prince gave First Avenue. It’s a breath of fresh air every time I come in to work my shift. It’s even more reassuring to know you are backed up by co-workers brought together by the same adoration and appreciation we share for the music.

Conducted by a team of admirable managers who are more than just our authority figures, but are an inspiration to look up to. Ending every shift with an encore, It’s truly privilege working for such a well orchestrated business like First Avenue Productions. At First Avenue, we understand that each show might be someone’s most memorable night out or a parent’s once-a-month date that they want to enjoy to the fullest. We work hard to make that happen with a well structured system set in place intended to keep both the performers and patrons safe so everyone attending the show has the enjoyable experience they came to have, only to wake up and do it all over again. From the booking and marketing, to the production and sound, the authentic passion and professionalism that goes into putting on a show is made valuably, apparent. First Avenue Productions demonstrates how a nightclub should be ran, setting a respected standard for other concert venues alike.

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