Say it ain’t true First Avenue

Minneapolis must work to save the club by itself or encourage others to step forward.

Last week, the incomparable First Avenue club in downtown Minneapolis closed its doors. Owner Allen Fingerhut filed bankruptcy after owing approximately $200,000 in back rent and real-estate taxes to former managers Steve McClellan and Jack Meyers. The closing might or might not be permanent. Either way, Minneapolis must try to do whatever it can within its means to save First Avenue.

Just looking at the names in the stars that have been painted on the side of First Avenue should serve notice to its importance.

Minneapolis cannot afford to lose First Avenue’s history as well as its current function as an independent outlet and purveyor of the local music scene.

Downtown Minneapolis is already beginning to look like a cookie-cutter city. Corporate movie theaters crowd Block E; a hideous Hard Rock Cafe shrouds First Avenue in its ugly shadow; the Quest Club, a Clear Channel venue, competes with First Avenue just a few blocks away.

No other club has meant more to the music scene of Minnesota than First Avenue. Anybody that is anybody played First Avenue first – from REM, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and Metallica to Ray Charles, Joe Cocker and James Brown, First Avenue has been the must-play venue or starting point for innumerable important national acts.

But more tragically, the downfall of First Avenue would sever a crucial connection local artists have to the public. Through the Developing Arts and Music Foundation, First Avenue has helped develop the careers of local artists and given them exposure.

The local scene’s history at First Avenue alone should be enough to solidify its importance to the Minneapolis community. In the past, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, The Replacements and Prince have been brought forth from the club.

First Avenue has proven crucial in nurturing the current crop of Minnesota artists. Something must be done to preserve First Avenue’s past and ensure its future. Minneapolis must make an effort to save the club by itself or encourage others to step forward and do so.