Purple reign: A Prince tribute tour in Minneapolis
Long before he died April 21, the musician Prince taught his fans to live.
“If (the) elevator tries to bring you down,” he sang in 1984’s “Purple Rain” release, “go crazy.”
And so it continues in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, where his own personal elevator may have crashed with a fatal drug overdose at age 57, but his fans are still going crazy in memorial.
Since then, a new tourism trail has organically sprung up, a path to Prince-related sites — from music clubs to murals — beaten by fans who have come from near and far to pay their respects. That route will only lengthen, starting Oct. 6, when his suburban home and studio, Paisley Park (www.officialpaisleypark.com), will open for daily tours, just before the first official public tribute concert Oct. 13.
(The Associated Press published this update Oct. 4: This week’s public opening of Prince’s suburban Minneapolis estate and studio complex likely will be delayed because the city council indefinitely postponed voting on a rezoning request for the complex to be operated as a museum.)
Initial plans called for holding the concert at U.S. Bank Stadium, but The Associated Press reported Thursday that the show has been moved to the smaller Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and Morris Day & The Time are in the long lineup. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday via Ticketmaster.
“He traveled the world and lived in other places, but he always came back home,” said Bill Deef, vice president of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism bureau (www.minneapolis.org), which publishes an online guide to 19 sites around town associated with Prince. “People gave him his privacy here.”
We are officially in the Post-Prince Era, but seemingly everyone in Minneapolis has a story about seeing Prince. Making my own recent tribute trip, I met friends who told of attending private parties and after-hours concerts at Paisley Park. My husband, a Minnesota native, and I regularly saw the musician at Glam Slam, Prince’s former downtown music club, and lurked in hope around First Avenue, the club where many of the concert scenes in the movie “Purple Rain” were filmed.
“It was not uncommon at all on a Friday night to find yourself dancing next to Prince,” said Dayna Frank, owner of First Avenue (www.first-avenue.com). “Maybe before he was a mega celebrity.”
But even in his final week, he was frequently spotted around town, including at the Dakota Jazz Club (www.dakotacooks.com) downtown and the record shop Electric Fetus (www.electricfetus.com), where we first stopped on the unofficial Prince trail.
Adjacent to a highway, several empty blocks from downtown, Electric Fetus does not come by its popularity through location. But as record shops go, this is the busiest one I’ve browsed since the dawn of MP3 technology. Racks of vinyl take up nearly as much space as CDs. Throwback rock posters featuring David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust are for sale. And an unimaginably diverse stream of devotees files through the glass doors, from neo-punks with asymmetrical haircuts and sleeve tattoos to music nerds in “Save Ferris” T-shirts and middle-aged preppies straight off the golf course. A Prince bin holds all of his recordings on CD and vinyl, and as blatant tourists, we treated ourselves to one of the array of Electric Fetus T-shirts that fill the front of the store.
“Prince was always really chill when he came in,” the clerk said, confirming his late appearance in the shop. “He was just low-key, like regular folks.”
That’s not quite what you conjure when you think of The Purple One. But Minnesotans point out that Prince — born Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958 — not only stayed in the city of his birth, but regularly attended Timberwolves, Lynx and Vikings games, and even wrote a song, “Purple and Gold,” about the NFL team.
Since his death, the attractions related to Prince have only grown. From Electric Fetus, we drove to the nearby Uptown neighborhood to the Sencha Tea Bar at Hennepin Avenue and 26th Street. Its back brick wall is covered in a new Prince portrait spray-painted by local artist Rock “Cyfi” Martinez. Fans have left a few small trinkets in tribute, including a shell necklace and a small plastic penguin (perhaps from “Happy Feet”?).
The tributes are more creative and profuse at Paisley Park, in suburban Chanhassen, about a 30-minute drive from Uptown. Woven into, twist-tied onto or otherwise affixed to the chain-link fence that edges the property — inside is a white boxy building that wouldn’t look out of place in an office park — is a purple profusion of emotion. A purple umbrella hangs with paper raindrops beneath it near a pair of faded purple pumps and a notably nonpurple Austrian flag. Eulogy letters tucked into clear plastic bags are arranged in the shape of a musical note. A handful of fans stalked the perimeter with us, taking pictures. We contributed the only purple thing we had in tow, a can cozy, now perched atop a Paisley Park fence post.
Nearby, the Chanhassen Cinema (www.five-star-cinemas.com), which Prince reportedly patronized, showcases another new wall mural, this time by the New Zealand-born street artist Mr. G, aka Graham Hoete, painted over the summer.
“There’s always something fresh and new happening in the Prince legacy in Minneapolis,” said Randy Luedtke, owner of Prince The Tour (www.princethetour.com). He launched sporadic three-hour bus trips last spring and has since expanded them to daily events, hitting Electric Fetus, First Avenue, Paisley Park and other sites, while attracting visitors from around the world.
“Prince was his own businessman, his own artist, his own sound,” said Luedtke, describing the musician’s global allure. “He was rock ‘n’ roll, he was R&B, he was soul. And he was sexy.”
A Prince tour of Minneapolis, either organized or DIY, is both an homage and a crucible for catharsis. In September, Brian Bourke of Melbourne, Australia, spent a week in the city, dancing at First Avenue, paying tribute at Paisley Park and even attending a Vikings game.
“What started out as an opportunity to say a proper goodbye to a man that has been by our side for over 30 years ended up so much more than that,” Bourke wrote in an email. “This was a release of emotion, a chance to share how we feel about losing Prince with others that feel it as deeply as we do.”
And a chance, collectively, to go crazy.
Elaine Glusac is a freelance writer.
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