Posts Tagged ‘First Avenue’

Twenty Years.

Frogs bring good luck.

Frogs bring good luck.

That’s a long time–not as long as my parents (55 years) or my in-laws (52 years), but impressive, I think, when 50% of marriages end for a reason besides old age. With multiple kids playing multiple sports, I understand how this anniversary can slip by, under-celebrated.

I looked for bargain airfares. Sailboats, beaches, and Margaritas beckoned but ultimately, we decided that rearranging childcare and transport for 6 games was too much work for too much money. Don’t call me a curmudgeon just yet. The romantic lives on.

Tonight, we celebrated the last day of school at a favorite restaurant, Glockenspiel in St. Paul (Jen, our favorite bartender always works on Tuesday nights). The banter was familiar, the Hefeweizen cold even though it’d been almost a year since our last visit (yes, we grew up Catholic). Tonight got us reminiscing about where we used to hang out — before kids, with flight benefits, and even now.

We’ve lasted longer than many of our employers or favorite haunts. All Saints Brands was a pre-internet importer and distributor of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, Gaja Barolo, and funky, tasty beer that was difficult to sell (Rogue Ales, Bells Brewery, and Geary’s). Northwest Airlines was gutted, sold off, and moved south. I still miss the flight benefits, though (the Replacements European tour seemed irresistible until i priced out the airfare).

But enough with the work stories: what about the beer? the tapas? the amuse-bouches?

Who’s left? Who’s gone? Who’s changed?


Pracna on Main, Minneapolis:  best gin and tonics (and where I met my husband)

Ciatti’s on Grand, St. Paul:  best cheap, late-night happy hour

Grandpa Tony’s on Randolph, St. Paul:  thank goodness there are other pizza joints

The 510 on Groveland, Minneapolis:  (sigh) truly missed:  impeccable service, linen tablecloths, and fantastic wine list

Around, but different:

Italian Pie Shoppe, St. Paul:  moved down the street to Macalester

La Cucaracha, Minneapolis:  gone, but still on Dale in St. Paul

Half Time Rec, St. Paul:  they serve food now!

Still clucking:

Frog et Rosbif, Paris:  English-style ales since 1993

First Avenue, Minneapolis:  many derivations and bleeding ears since 1970

Micky’s Diner, St.. Paul:  greasy eggs for over 70 years

Paradiso, Amsterdam:  a former church that became a creative center in 1968

W.A. Frost, St. Paul:  best patio, smallest keg room


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Once upon a time I used to fly to Amsterdam just to listen to a band. (No, I wasn’t rich, I just had great flight benefits with Northwest Airlines). Now I travel occasionally to academic conferences and for the rare vacation.

I’ve been home for about 18 hours after traveling in a circle from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago to New Orleans to Houston to Denver and back. After my NWA years I considered myself an expert traveler.


I made four errors:

  • Three bad pairs of shoes for walking. Not horrible (no stilettos), but not good for the miles I put on in the Garden District and the Colorado foothills.
  • Assuming WiFi is plentiful and the bandwidth large. Kudos to the Metropolitan Airports Commission or whomever stocked the MSP Humphrey Terminal with outlets, mini desks, and oceans of WiFi bandwidth. Let’s just say all the other airports I visited could learn something from MSP.
  • Not upgrading my AT&T iPhone plan. Seriously, one month of “hotspot” service wouldn’t have broken the bank.
  • Failing to download student work to grade offline. See above.

Of course I learned a lot, too.

  • I’m most creative after learning something and then literally walking around with it. The hours I strolled through New Orleans (see WiFi above) caused a plethora of research ideas to bubble up  (and a lot of blisters, too).
  • Stories from Tee-Eva’s snowball shop will stick with me forever.
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul have wonderful sidewalks.
  • No one really cared if I live tweeted from Riot Fest Denver. No one.
  • I love taking random photos with my phone.
  • Let other people shoot videos.
  • You can buy band aids just about anywhere.
  • Only in Minnesota (I think) are earplugs freely distributed and easy to buy (thank you Pine County Fair Demolition Derby and First Avenue). I was lucky to find them at Riot Fest.
  • Minnesotans like to find each other and revel in our collective wisdom of being, well Minnesotans. And we love our accents.
  • New Orleanians are the best storytellers.

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Video courtesy of Chris Pollard

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People Just Need a Reason to Go Out, to Buy, to Visit, to Shop:  That’s my theory of local retail and dining.

Here’s where it’s worked for me (and Minneapolis/St. Paul businesses) in 2010.

Groveland Tap’s “Save the Nook Saturday” – Backstory:  the venerable Nook burger shop on Hamline  Avenue was gutted by fire on December 14th, closing the restaurant for the next few months. Commiserating with the quickly-out-of-work Nook staff, Groveland Tap hosted a fundraiser on Saturday, December 18th. For every pint of Summit beer purchased, the ‘Tap donated $1.50 to a Nook Employee fund. Why it worked? I waited 45 minutes with my husband and 2 kids for a table in mid afternoon. One of the servers told me it was busier than their Fish Fridays during Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, or  their Facebook Voting Day Special. Twenty kegs of Summit later, they raised $6,700. We had no plans to go out for dinner that night, but let’s just say we did our best to help the Nook employees.

The Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) shopping spree along Grand Avenue in St. Paul:  The Grand Meander. Did we need to make glittery popsicle stars at Creative Kidstuff? No, but it sure helped me spy on what my kids wanted from Santa.

Shopping parties with Chocolate at Elinor Artful Adornments in St. Paul. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, what business doesn’t have longer hours? Exactly, so how do you get people to come to your place? Make it a party! Make it fun! Bring a friend and save some money! That made Elinor stand out this holiday season.


First Avenue’s Benefit for Brad Kern in October. I had no clue who Brad Kern was, I was just excited to see Semisonic–a band I once flew to Amsterdam just to see–live again. People attend benefits or buy at silent auctions to help the stated cause, but also because they receive something valuable in return. Imagine my surprise in hearing Toolmaster of Brainerd while reading First Ave’s Twitter feed. So what did I receive? A rare chance to hear a mostly reunited Trip Shakespeare and discover a new fave:  Jeremy Messersmith.

The Current’s top 89 of 2010, which is why I’m writing this blog on New Year’s Day listening to the rebroadcast at www.thecurrent.org, marking songs, and bands that I liked, but whose names I never caught over the year.

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Last night, I went to First Avenue for the Tribute to the Replacements show celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tim. The ‘mats, disbanded in 1991. I saw them a few times growing up and collected all their LPs like most avid Twin City fans. Last night’s show (an annual event) was a lot like the shows I remember – loud, disorderly, and pretty undecipherable.

Actually, the lyrics were pretty clear — no drink induced slurring — and passionate. I just wish I knew who the bands were. They all announced themselves when the took the stage, but the only band I could understand was the Honey Dogs. And I had already recognized Adam Levy, anyway.

The crowd looked a lot like me — people who had been to a lot of shows and now wisely wore ear plugs. Ear plugs are great to protect your ears from pounding base beats emanating 3 feet in front of you, but they make mumbles all the harder to understand.

Being totally out of touch with current bands — I seem to hit a lot of old favorites (the Jayhawks, Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare etc) now that I’m back in town– I thought I was hearing Babes in Toyland, only to discover this morning it was Pink Mink I enjoyed so much.

So what to do? First Ave already does a great job of marketing themselves virtually (Twitter, Facebook, and a super-robust website) and in the club with multiple screens publishing related Twitter feeds (sorry, I keep forgetting to take a photo of that). But the bands? Many have great websites, but that doesn’t help in the Main Room.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the City Pages review if you want to read about how awesome the music was and see the set list!

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Photo by Steve Cohen

It was hard enough to see an old haunt…remodeled (nice new bar upstairs), but then they painted over the stars. I have to admit, I much prefer it without the smoke of  my youth. I used to love going to concerts.

Used to…can’t miss the past tense of that verb. I’m a whole new demographic now — married with young children at home.

I love live music, so I’ve made it a goal to experience more now that I’m back in the music city. A goal! a goal? When did having fun become a goal? So how am I doing? One show in June, an old favorite the Jayhawks played 3 sold out nights at First Avenue. I’m not sure it was ‘transcendental,’ but it was close. One this week, again an old favorite that I once flew to Amsterdam just to see. I’m not being too adventurous here.

I’m in a rut. What’s on my iPod? The 90s and anything I played on college radio back in the day….plus a few new artists, like Adele. I listen to the Current and adore the “on now” feature that is front and center on their home page. I need it. Someone at MPR was thinking about what information their listeners (and contributors) would want. Just look down from there and boom! A button to contribute. MPR knows what they’re doing.

Sunday, I was driving down the road at 3:17 pm and this cool song came on the Current. I noted the time and checked the web (later, not while driving) to learn it was a new-to-me band Mumford & Sons who would play First Ave in October. Sold out (of course), but I will never miss a show again, First Ave has an (Apple) iCal link. I used to learn about shows via concert ads stapled on telephone poles all around Minneapolis (before it was illegal) or phone calls from friends who had heard from friends…about who was playing tonight. And now I’m part of their online community, though I’m not sure what that entails.

Poking around the Current’s website, I found their concert calendar. Bob Mould at the Dakota later this month. The Dakota! A lovely place, but really, isn’t he a First Ave kind of guy?

In case you missed the Jayhawks reunion, here’s a snippet:  

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