First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota's Mainroom

Contact: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

Your all-access pass to the stars, the shows, and the stories of a legendary club that put Minnesota music on the map. First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota's Mainroom on view May 4, 2019-May 3, 2020.

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Lead Release

Get an All-Access Pass with New ‘First Avenue’ Exhibit

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 8, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

Get an All-Access Pass with New ‘First Avenue’ Exhibit

Hear from musicians, staff and fans about the legendary music venue at ‘First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom’ opening May 4 at the Minnesota History Center.

Since 1970, First Avenue & 7th Street Entry have been at the heart of the Minnesota music scene. Celebrate the musicians, the employees and the regulars who called First Avenue their rock ‘n’ roll home with the new exhibit “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota's Mainroom,” opening May 4, 2019, at the Minnesota History Center.

Through music, interviews, images, artifacts, and hands-on interactive elements visitors can relive the club’s nearly 50-year history. Throughout the exhibit, visitors will encounter stories from the people who were there. “It was just like you see it in the movie [Purple Rain]. It was like one big party every time we played,” recalled Jellybean Johnson, member of The Time. “Everything about this place is legendary,” said Sophia Eris, solo artist and international touring DJ. “It's a part of history. It's a part of my history. It’s a part of my development and the reason why I’m an artist in a lot of ways.”


The exhibit opens May 4, 2019, with DJ music, art activities, photo ops and book signings. This summer the History Center’s annual outdoor concert series, Bands on the Boulevard, takes on First Avenue as its theme. Plus, starting in June visitors can drop in for “First Avenue First Tuesdays” for special programming such as DJ nights, panel discussions, dance parties and more.

The exhibit draws from the MNHS Press book, “First Avenue: Minnesota’s Mainroom,” by Chris Riemenschneider, local music critic and reporter. Join Riemenschneider for a look back at the place where Prince and Minnesota made rock ’n’ roll history, at one of rock’s most storied clubs and the thousands of musicians who took the stage there.

For more, visit www.mnhs.org/firstavenue.

Exhibit and Program Support
“First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom” is made possible in part by Presenting Sponsor, Baird. Media support is provided by The Current and the Star Tribune. Additional support is provided by the Legacy Amendment through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

Location and Hours
The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 3 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

Admission
Admission to “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom” is included with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students, $6 ages 5 to 17; free age 4 and under and MNHS members. Buy tickets online.

About the Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center houses the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society and is home to the History Center museum with innovative exhibits, Gale Family Library, café and museum store. The History Center is located at 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul. For more information, visit www.minnesotahistorycenter.org.

About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history. Visit us at mnhs.org.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by Premier Partner Explore Minnesota Tourism.

First Avenue: Exhibit Experience

First Avenue: Exhibit Experience

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 8, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

First Avenue: Exhibit Experience

Discover how First Avenue, its staff, and the Minneapolis music scene has changed over five decades. Visitors enter the exhibit much like they enter the venue, by going through the First Avenue front doors where a montage of performance videos from local, national and international acts welcomes them. Around each corner, a new band, singer or DJ is featured with video, photographs, artifacts and ephemera like posters, ticket stubs and booking calendars.

Highlights include:

  • The 1970s: Video clips from the first show ever, performed by Joe Cocker, and a disco dancefloor complete with lighted dance squares brings the 1970s to life.
  • Staff stories: Enter the recreated office of long-time manager Steve McClellan to hear interviews about the transformation of the club into a live music venue. Staff photographer Dan Corrigan shares insider stories from backstage, on stage, the green room and the owner’s box where Prince would reign.
  • 7th St. Entry & the Mainroom: Peer inside the 7th St. Entry for performance footage of big-name bands in their earliest days. Then enter a stage inspired by the Mainroom floor for an object theatre with personal reflections from staff, performers and fans on what First Avenue means to them.
  • The artists: Throughout the exhibit explore First Avenue’s musical past including three graphic towers and display cases that showcase punk and indie, grunge and current artists including musicians such as Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland, Jayhawks, Lizzo, Dessa, DJ Keezy, Maria Isa and Sophia Eris.
  • Prince: A section is devoted to Prince and the movie “Purple Rain,” complete with his purple suit and other artifacts, as well as a section devoted to his passing with memorial letters and items left at First Avenue in April 2016.
  • Posters: Get an up-close view of a wall of concert posters from 2000-today on loan from a local collector.
  • On the road: Visit Doomtree’s actual touring van to hear stories from Dessa, Lazerbeak and P.O.S. about life on the road. At a “Plinko”-style game, drop a coaster to get to the gig and hope that you can avoid the many touring hazards, like road closures and flat tires.
  • Fan experience: Fans can add their favorite band to a chalkboard wall and write their favorite experience on an index card to add to a wall of concert t-shirts and fan photos.

A photo op at the exit comes into view, with two blank stars on the star wall where exhibit-goers can use a dry erase marker to add their name, so they too can be part of the legend of First Avenue.

First Avenue: Timeline

First Avenue: Timeline

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 8, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

First Avenue: Timeline

The storied history of First Avenue began in 1937 with Minnesota-based transportation company, Greyhound Bus Lines.

  • Feb. 26, 1937  The Greyhound Bus Depot opens in Minneapolis at 701 First Avenue North.
  • April 3, 1970  A club set up in the old Greyhound space opens as The Depot with a performance by Joe Cocker.
  • June 12, 1971  The Depot closes due to financial troubles.
  • July 1, 1972  The club reopens as Uncle Sam’s under the national franchise American Events Company. Uncle Sam’s focuses on DJs playing disco music.
  • Nov. 28 and 29, 1979  The Ramones and Pat Benatar play successful back-to-back shows, signaling the club’s return to live music as a focus.
  • March 21, 1980  The 7th Street Entry opens with a performance by local punk rocker Curtiss A and the band Wilma and the Wilburs.
  • Jan. 28, 1980  American Events Company pulls out of the club, which is then renamed Sam’s.
  • March 9, 1981  Prince plays his first show at the club.
  • Dec. 31, 1981  The club changes its name, one last time, to First Avenue & 7th Street Entry.
  • Aug. 3, 1983  Prince records a live concert at First Avenue, a benefit show for the Minnesota Dance Theatre. An edit of the eleven-minute performance of “Purple Rain” from this show becomes the album version of the song.
  • July 1, 2000  Allan Fingerhut, along with Byron Frank, acquires the property of First Avenue & 7th Street Entry after having leased it from Ted Mann for thirty years.
  • Nov. 2, 2004  Fingerhut closes the club and files for bankruptcy.
  • Nov. 16, 2004  The club reopens, with Byron Frank as its owner.
  • 2013  First Avenue buys the Turf Club in St. Paul.
  • April 21, 2016  Crowds spontaneously descend on First Avenue and the streets outside the club to celebrate and mourn Prince, underscoring the intimate association between the venue and the star.

Timeline excerpted from “First Avenue & 7th Street Entry,” by Ehsan Alam, MNopedia, Nov 21, 2017.

First Avenue: MNHS Press Resources

First Avenue: MNHS Press resources

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 8, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

First Avenue: MNHS Press resources

The Minnesota Historical Society has produced a number of resources related to First Avenue and the history of artists who played there.

MNHS Press books:

​MNopedia articles:

Minnesota History articles:

For more information about MNHS Press titles please contact Alison Aten, alison.aten@mnhs.org, 651-259-3203.

First Avenue: Images

First Avenue: Images

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 8, 2019
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org 
Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org

First Avenue: Images

These images may be used for editorial purposes in magazines, newspapers and online to promote “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom,” opening May 4, 2019, at the Minnesota History Center. Credit information is listed.

 

Greyhound Bus Depot around 1935 MNHS collections

Greyhound Bus Depot, located at First Avenue North and Seventh Street, Minneapolis, about 1935.

Photograph by Charles W. Howson Company, MNHS collections

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First Avenue in 1990 photo by Daniel Corrigan

First Avenue & 7th St. Entry in 1990.

Photo/Daniel Corrigan

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Disco dancers at Uncle Sam’s about 1977 photo by Seven Laboe

Disco dancers at Uncle Sam’s, about 1977.

Photograph by Steven Laboe

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Grant Hart bass drum MNHS collections

Bass drum used by Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü with handwritten lyrics to the song “Diane” from the album Metal Circus, released in 1983.

MNHS collections

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Prince Purple Rain suit MNHS collections

Clothing worn by Prince in the movie “Purple Rain,” 1984.

MNHS collections, gift of PRN production

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concert calendar July 1986 MNHS collections

First Avenue calendar from July 1986.

 

MNHS collections

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Run Westy Run photo by Jay Smiley

Run Westy Run. 7th Street Entry, late ‘90s.

 

Photograph by Jay Smiley

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Doomtree van photo by Dessa

Doomtree purchased this van in 2011 to go on tour. They donated it to the exhibit and it has been transformed into a multimedia piece about “getting to the gig.”

 

 

Photograph by Dessa

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