The Republican elders may be able to scale back their party's convention, but when it comes to the late-night parties, the show definitely is going on -- and the young GOP politicos seem to be loving it.
They didn't schlep all the way to the Twin Cities to leave here without some semblance of a good time, with or without the hurricane pounding far-away New Orleans.
On Sunday night, the eve of what was to have been the convention's festive opening, the most popular event was a concert co-sponsored by the nonpartisan groups Rock the Vote, Digg.com, MySpace and the Impact Film Festival. (The festival is rerunning political documentaries it screened last week for the Dems in Denver. Topics include the effects of Hurricane Katrina and Charles Guggenheim's Academy Award-winning portrait of Bobby Kennedy -- subjects not likely to fill a hall with Republicans.)
The Sunday concert venue was the Fine Line Music Cafe, in a quirkily hip downtown Minneapolis brick building in a gentrifying commercial section of the city, hard under a maze of expressway overpasses.
The Fine Line is basically a bar with a stage and a loft balcony (in this case reserved for VIPs and the press). The concert lineup was a little like the beer -- very local. With names like So It Goes and the Alarmists, they were not quite garage bands but not quite ready for the Nokia Theatre either.
For those who attended the Democrats' festivities in Denver, the lack of A-list musicians and celebrity wattage here is striking. In Denver, every event seemed to feature at least one Grammy winner; here, one band urged the Sunday-night audience to pick up a copy of its CD from the keyboardist after the set.
There were differences between the crowds as well. The Denver audiences were diverse and eclectic. Sunday's overwhelmingly white crowd looked, well, like young Republicans. Most of the men were dressed in khakis, white shirts and blue blazers. The women were in spike heels and miniskirts, and there were enough designer handbags to stock an airport duty-free shop.
It was also a crowd much more interested in one another than in the music or the message. When event organizers took the stage to talk about the importance of supporting storm relief in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, the blazer-clad legions chattered on.
On one wall, a big-screen TV flashed headlines from Digg's website. The stories that got the biggest on-screen treatment were mostly about Sarah Palin. (This was before Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant.) There was a distinctly supermarket tabloid feel to the headlines:
"Palin hit by rumors over fifth child."
"An open letter to God from Michael Moore."
"The truth behind Palin pregnancy rumors."
"Babygate: Explosive details."
By the end of the evening, the website headlines linked Palin to nearly everything but bearing John Edwards' love child.
The remainder of the week will have its share of parties, Gustav notwithstanding. At the moment, Daughtry is set to sing for the One Campaign on Wednesday. He also sang in Denver as a show of nonpartisanship. There he was treated as more of a warmup act. In Minneapolis, he's a headliner. Meanwhile, the Charlie Daniels Band is scheduled take the stage for the Creative Coalition. A sprinkling of other country acts is expected to join the festivities. Although, like the weather, this could change.