Sports and entertainment powerhouse AEG has been fairly tight-lipped about their new downtown Minneapolis venue, the Brick, in the months leading up to their first concert. But with their inaugural concert by Jane’s Addiction coming up on Monday night, the company hosted a media party as well as a few one-on-one walk-throughs with journalists in town to give people their first glimpse inside the new club.
MPR Photo / Nate Ryan
Located off 5th St. and 1st Ave., around the corner from bar and restaurant the Loon, the Brick shares walls with an office building and takes on a similar vibe as many of the buildings in the North Loop; with exposed brick walls (hence the name) and loft-like high ceilings and open spaces, the venue aesthetically resembles a mix between the Fine Line Music Cafe and Epic. There is something symbolic about the fact that the new club sits opposite 5th St. from Epic, which was formerly the home of Quest; the space struggled in the hands of corporate conglomerate Clear Channel as Quest and eventually went under. That irony is not lost on senior vice president Joe Litvig, who gave me a tour of the space.
“I’m very familiar with the history of what was the Quest across the street, and at the time it was Clear Channel Entertainment,” he says. “I was actually with that company at that time — I wasn’t doing Minneapolis, I was doing St. Louis and Kansas City — but I remember when it was all going down.” Litvig says he’s had the advantage of watching Clear Channel (which has since become Live Nation) make mistakes first-hand, and since moving to AEG nine years ago he’s tried to take a different approach to corporate-managed music business. “We’re part of a big company in terms of size and scope, but I guess we’re more of the kinder, gentler corporation,” he laughs. “We don’t try and come in and steamroll. We try and create partnerships. I’ve already had several conversations with some of the independent promoters in the marketplace, about having them come into the venue regularly and do shows. We want to have a collaborative relationship. I want to have a collaborative relationship with First Avenue,” he says.
MPR Photo / Nate Ryan
With a 2,000-capacity room, the Brick will be in direct competition with the 1,500-capacity First Avenue Mainroom, but Litvig says he hopes that the fact they have a slightly larger space means the two spaces can act as stepping stones for artists rather than either-or options. “I mean when I was in high school and college I went to shows at First Avenue. I respect the legacy that is First Avenue. And I certainly don’t want to hurt their business, that’s not my intent. So it was really important when we created this place that I tried to sort of figure out what exactly I wanted to accomplish. And the more I thought about it, and after doing the research that I did, what I really felt was missing was the next step after First Avenue. I mean there’s great seated venues in town, you know the historical theaters, which I’ve been doing shows at for almost 20 years, but for a rock show? There’s no next step. And that’s what, really, I envision this place being.”
“Are we going to compete over some things? Absolutely,” he continues. “I’m not going to say that we won’t. But I hope that they get to know us and we’ll get to know them and it’s friendly competition.”
And Litvig is serious about the commitment — he says they’ve signed on to a 10-year lease of the space, which was formerly the home of Christian rock club and ministry 3 Degrees. The company has made several renovations to the space, most notably reworking the entryway to help traffic flow for sold-out shows and expanding and refinishing the bars to offer easy alcohol sales on all three levels.
Upstairs, a balcony stretches the length of the space and looks like it could hold a sizeable portion of the crowd, and televisions have been installed to offer those at the back bar a glimpse of the stage; those same televisions will also pipe video and audio into the basement bar where Litvig hopes to offer concertgoers a respite from crowded shows. That downstairs space, called the Basement @ The Brick, will also be open before and after shows and occasionally on other nights of the week. There’s also a full working kitchen in the basement, and Litvig says the plan is to eventually offer a limited selection of bar food.
Since they haven’t held any events yet, there will undeniably be a few kinks to work out, but a few red flags were raised when I toured the space. Handicap access to the venue seems tricky, since the entryway is a split-level with two immediate staircases, though there is a special entrance on the side for those patrons — but once inside, the only bathrooms are in the balcony and the basement, both accessible to the public via stairs. Speaking of the bathrooms, there are only six stalls total for females (three upstairs and three down) and a similar number of facilities for men, leading me to wonder if impossibly long bathroom lines will become a norm at sold-out shows when 2,000 people are in attendance. And a potential snag for artists is that there is a noise restriction until 6 p.m. on weeknights because the venue is attached to an office building, so sound checks can’t happen during the daytime.
MPR Photo / Nate Ryan
Litvig seems confident that they’ll be able to negotiate with the building for special circumstances and that they’ll be able to work with artists ahead of time to make sure things go smoothly and work out other issues as they arise.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and have been a music fan for a long longer than that,” he says confidently. “It was really important when we created this place that I tried to sort of figure out what exactly I wanted to accomplish. We wanted to try and carve our own path, and I think we will. For me, and working for AEG, the ultimate goal is to develop talent to get to the level where it’s playing Target Center [which is also managed by AEG]. That’s the big win. And if we can play a part in doing that with the Brick, then I think that’s a great thing.”
You can take a virtual tour of the space below.
Requires the Silverlight plugin. (MPR Photos / Nate Ryan)