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The First Ave

About First Avenue Night Club:

The First Avenue Nightclub is located at 701 First Avenue North First Avenue Night Clubin Minneapolis.The fantastic sound system and sight lines make First Ave the ideal spot to see live entertainment. The club is notorious for offering up and coming artists as well as those that are already big stars.

First Avenue was officially opened in 1970, but the history of the distinctively curved black building on the corner of First Avenue and Seventh Street began much earlier. In 1937, the building was opened as the Greyhound Bus Depot. The depot was widely acclaimed for its streamlined art deco style and modern luxuries. Called one of the most "modernistic" and beautiful travel centers in America, the depot décor included “huge chromium trimmed chandeliers" and a checkered terrazzo floor. The unique roots of the building have followed it into its current day activities.

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First Avenue Night ClubIn 1968, Greyhound relocated the bus stop and the next year a 25-year old Minneapolis native named Allan Fingerhut, an heir to the Fingerhut catalog fortune, decided to build a club. Mr. Fingerhut found a partner with a liquor license, invested $150,000 and opened the only venue in downtown Minneapolis with both rock music and alcohol. When First Ave opened, it was appropriately named The Depot. On April 3, 1970, local papers raved about the new hot spot stating, “they have done some remarkable things with the interior of the old depot.

The curved wall which used to embrace the gates to departing busses is now the backdrop for a large, purple plush-covered stage." Joe Cocker played two sets opening night, to local fans described by one reporter as "beautiful people…with resplendent sun tans and $250 hippie outfits." Performers in the '70s included national and local acts: Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, Ike & Tina Turner, Iggy & the Stooges, Chubby Checker, The Kinks, The Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Rod Stewart, The Small Faces, John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Dwight Twilley Band, Chris Osgood of the Suicide Commandos, Peter Jesperson, Pat Benetar, The Ramones and U2.

In 1980, the partnership that would carry the club into the next century was formed. Steve McClellan and Jack Meyers, former classmates and roommates, took the helm of Sam’s, as it was then called, and began booking cutting edge national acts. McClellan worked closely with a handful of local musicians, record label entrepreneurs and other industry folk, and out of this collaboration grew Minneapolis’s first rock music community. On New Year’s Eve, 1981, Sam’s became First Avenue. In the ‘80s First Avenue became the hot spot to see local artist Prince. He made the club his regular venue and both the set and the setting of his movie, Purple Rain.

In 1990, First Avenue turned 20. The club was barely out of its adolescence and already famous. Fond mentions in national magazines like Rolling Stone and Time began to pile up, but First Avenue kept its ego in check and its innovative spirit intact. On any given week, you could see a hard core punk show back-to-back with world beat, hip hop, and a singer songwriter type.
The 21st century has brought mixed blessings for First Avenue. In 2000, First Avenue's longtime financial advisor Byron Frank helped the club take "control of its own destiny," as McClellan puts it, by negotiating the purchase of the historic Greyhound bus depot that had been its home for 30 years. The club is clearly committed to keeping the place open, independent and diverse.

As the longest continual entertainment and music venue in the Twin Cities, First Avenue’s roots in the community are deep and far-reaching. As a cornerstone of the Midwest music scene, the nightclub has been the jumping point for virtually every single band to come out of the Twin Cities. The historic club will continue to be a hot spot in downtown Minneapolis for years to come.


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