A look inside The Brick

The new Minneapolis venue has deep pockets, but is it worth your time?



WHAT: The Brick

WHERE: 111 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis

The new downtown Minneapolis venue, The Brick, opened its doors for the first time Monday night for a performance from Jane’s Addiction. The show was sold out, as are three more big-name performances on The Brick’s concert calendar. While these good sales and big names bode well for the Brick, they are only part of what will surely be an uphill battle for the new venue. With a capacity of 2,000, management is touting the Brick as a stepping-stone for artists that are growing too big for other local venues but haven’t graduated to the 5,000-seat Roy Wilkins Auditorium or local arenas.

But there’s no way The Brick can avoid competing directly with the similarly sized Epic (located right across the street) or a local institution like First Avenue, which sits just two blocks away and has a capacity of around 1,500.

The Brick is owned by promotions giant AEG Live, one of the largest event corporations in the world, second only to the Ticketmaster-affiliated Live Nation. AEG organized Michael Jackson‘s canceled “This Is It” tour as well as the memorial service held at the Staples Center, which the company co-owns.

AEG has enjoyed success managing the nearby Target Center, and Senior Vice President Joe Litvig said the company has been looking to open a smaller club in Minneapolis for years. AEG got a deal when it bought the now-defunct Christian rock club 3 Degrees, making modest renovations to allow for alcohol sales.

The interior of the historic building is slick, with lots of exposed ductwork and brick walls, a far cry from First Avenue’s grubby charm. There are bars on all three floors with conspicuous sponsorship from big names: Red Bull, Budweiser, Absolut, etc.

Despite early signs that the Brick may be taking big bookings from First Avenue (such as the Shins’ sold-out show in June) there are problems with the Brick that will prevent it from becoming a serious competitor for booking in Minneapolis.

The lighting and sound are solid, but The Brick doesn’t seem like it can deliver to a sold-out crowd. In order to fit the promised 2,000 concertgoers, much of the audience will have to be in the upper level, and the sightlines just aren’t there. There’s a raised area to the side with a good view, but otherwise, anyone who isn’t front and center might have trouble seeing.

Bathrooms could also pose a problem. The only restrooms are located upstairs and in the separate basement bar area. The entire venue only has six toilets for women and a similar number for men, so audience members will likely have to grapple with long lines at sold-out shows.

That said, The Brick is not a wholly bad club, and a new venue means more options and more live music for Twin Cities concertgoers. That’s definitely a good thing. It’s certainly possible that all of the clubs in the crowded downtown market can coexist in a way that doesn’t drive up ticket prices or force anyone to close their doors.

Norm Macdonald, for instance, is slated to play two shows at the Brick in May. The comedian might have difficulty filling a theater, and of the 1,500-3,000 seat venues downtown, The Brick is the best suited for a stand-up show.

For now, Macdonald is an anomaly on The Brick’s concert calendar, which is mostly filled with mainstream rock acts like Daughtry, Incubus, fun. and Slash. With any luck, AEG will use their considerable capital to book acts that compliment the offerings of First Avenue, Epic and the Fine Line.

If not, The Brick is doomed to become the Bing to First Avenue’s Google.