A few hiccups were to be expected, of course, as the club opened its doors to the public for the first time, but The Brick’s opening night faced an overwhelmingly negative response from Jane’s Addiction fans who vented their discontent on Twitter and Facebook, loudly complained about their experience in the crowd, and demanded refunds from the ticket counter as they gave up entirely and left the show.
You know it’s bad when even the band starts bantering about the quality of the concert experience from stage.
“You’re going to have a f***ing riot on your hands,” Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell scoffed just three songs into his band’s 90-minute set at The Brick’s inaugural show. Farrell was distracted by a team of security that had been positioned on the balcony directly above stage left who were flickering flashlights and aggressively trying to usher concertgoers through a bottleneck in front of one of the venue’s only bathrooms, and continued commenting on the dissatisfaction of the crowd several times throughout the night.
Issues started arising as soon as people arrived. A line snaked down 5th St. and around the corner onto 2nd Ave., at times stretching all the way to the Target Center as the venue funneled people one by one into the building. But the line moved fairly quickly, and personnel worked efficiently to check IDs, distribute wristbands, and do a security pat-down before fans had even gotten to the entrance of the building; most of the grumbling outside was due to the fact that the rain made the experience seem extra miserable.
Once inside, more problems were immediately obvious. Those who were on the main floor directly in front of the stage or in the first row of any of the balconies or behind any of the railings could see the stage, but everyone else was out of luck. The crowd was so thick that it was nearly impossible to navigate between the levels or get to one of the few places with a sightline. And despite the fact that there were beer stands every 20 feet and barely any lines at the back bars, it was so hard to move around the room that the concept of getting a good spot, grabbing a drink, and successfully making a trip to the bathroom and back seemed downright impossible.
The building technically stayed within its capacity throughout the show — a fact ensured by the police officers and fire inspector sent to keep tabs on the proceedings — but simple math points to a few obvious dilemmas for this night and future events at the club.
According to the City of Minneapolis, the capacity of The Brick is officially 2,001 people. The venue is three levels, and the breakdown of the rooms’ capacities are as follows: 825 on the main floor, 776 in the balcony, and 400 in the basement. Now I’m no mathmatician, but my estimation is that about 60-70% of the main floor had a decent sightline last night, while only about 10% of the upper level could see the stage and the basement had small televisions and no audio; I’d wager that less than half of the customers who paid $65 to help sell out the Jane’s Addiction show caught a glimpse of Perry Farrell as he stalked the stage. No wonder most people I wiggled past in the crowd seemed disgruntled.
“The owners are fully aware of this situation,” said Tom Deegan, who works with fire inspectors for the City of Minneapolis. Deegan told me earlier in the day that his offices had been notified of the potential overcrowding at The Brick and had already stationed an inspector on the scene to monitor the capacity. “We can’t control how many tickets they sell; we can only control whether they comply with the capacity,” he said.
He went on to stress that “it is incumbent on the owners to control the crowd,” which The Brick was obviously attempting to do last night as security personnel eagerly ushered people up and down the club’s only public staircase and tried to control the long lines outside the balcony and basement bathrooms. But Deegan says that, “our objective is to have the venue remain compliant and safe, and the inspector has full authority to do whatever is needed to make sure the venue is compliant,” meaning that the venue may not always get away with pushing its rooms so uncomfortably over their capacities.
The silver lining for The Brick? The room has an incredible sound system and a decent ambiance. Honestly, if they had sold about 750 fewer tickets it could have been a really enjoyable experience, and once Farrell overcame his frustration the band put on an engaging show. But with the way the room is laid out and the way the club is pushing its space limitations, it made for an all-around unpleasant and unmanageable crowd experience.
“We know we need to make some changes,” said AEG senior vice president Joe Litvag, who sat somberly in the basement bar for the later part of the night. He squinted at a tiny television monitor that displayed Jane’s Addiction as they bounded around on stage, the sound barely audible from upstairs. “We definitely need to change some things after tonight. What do you think, are Minneapolis music fans a forgiving bunch?”
Want to take a closer look with fewer people? Visit our Interactive walk-through of The Brick