“We like to regionalize our locations,” said Jeff Nolan as he walked through the new Hard Rock Cafe at the Mall of America. “It’s a heck of a lot easier here than in a lot of places,” he continued, noting Minnesota’s “singular” music history.
That history of course includes Prince—whose outfits, including one emblazoned MINNEAPOLIS and worn on the Sign o’ the Times tour, are on display—and the Replacements, who are represented by a signed guitar. It also includes Soul Asylum, whose signed guitar hangs next to a chain curtain depicting the face of Kurt Cobain, and Bob Dylan—who gets a chain curtain of his own, facing the Elvis curtain.
It gets even weirder: you can sit in the Soul Asylum booth and look through Kurt Cobain’s face into Nickelodeon Universe. It’s ironic, and it’s also “Ironic”: climb a short set of stairs, and you can see the orange sweater Alanis Morissette wore in that video.
Bloomington is a brave new world for the 43-year-old chain, which closed its previous Minnesota location—in Block E—in September 2011 and is scheduled to open its new Mall of America restaurant sometime around Labor Day. As I toured the new venue with other reporters this morning, workers were bustling around cleaning, painting, and readying piles of souvenir pins.
Our tour was led by Nolan, who has a pretty cool job: music and memorabilia historian for Hard Rock International, which now operates 143 cafes, 21 hotels, and ten casinos in 58 countries around the world. Nolan estimates the entire chain owns 80,000 pieces of music history, making it (according to a press release) “the world’s greatest collection of music memorabilia.”
The new Hard Rock isn’t where you’d expect it to be, in the nightclub area on the fourth floor by Cantina #1 and the in-progress 400 Bar reboot. Rather, it sits right on the edge of Nickelodeon Universe, across from Blue’s Skidoo; there will be entrances on that level and on the second level.
Inside, a stage on the main level features a monitor playing music videos and will also play host to live performances by national and local artists (details TBA). There are also stage views from tables on a second level and a third-level bar area. The venue’s total area is 15,000 square feet, with capacity for 1,200 guests; for comparison, that’s the same capacity as Mill City Nights. (See our infographic comparing local venues’ capacities.)
Whether or not this is the continuation of a rock renaissance at the Megamall, we can now proudly say that we live in the state that’s the semi-permanent home of one of Rihanna’s crystal bodysuits, a guitar played by George Harrison on the White Album, and the waitress outfit that Britney Spears wore in the “Crazy” video.
Below: Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” sweater
Below: Guitar signed by the Replacements