Local Current Blog

Pre-Revolution, the Prince Army congregates outside First Avenue

L-r: Sam, Peggy, and Kirk before the Revolution (Cecilia Johnson/MPR)

Tonight, First Avenue is on another level. You can feel it in the air; you can sense it on social media; you can read it on the event poster, which heralds “An Evening With The Revolution: Wendy, Lisa, BrownMark, Dr. Fink & Bobby Z.” Today is the first of three reunion dates for the Revolution, Prince’s official band from 1979 to 1986. As many people have anticipated since April 26 — the day the Revolution announced reunion shows — the air outside First Avenue is electric. But what I didn’t expect was a transcendent experience on the sidewalk.

I’d hoped to chat with a few Prince fans before doors opened tonight, meeting people and swapping stories, but I ended up sticking with one group of people for almost an hour. I walked up to them because I loved their outfits: a white shirt bearing the message “[eye symbol] love [Prince symbol]” (on the back: “[Prince symbol] loves me”); a proud, purple shirt with an NPG reference on the back; and lots of love symbol jewelry. I stayed because of the wearers’ open hearts.

Peggy, from Detroit, Mich., has seen dozens of Prince shows. She’s part of the global fan network devoted to Minneapolis’s brightest. And she has countless stories, from being invited onstage by Larry Graham to seeing Minority Report with Prince, to healing from her husband’s death at a Prince show.

Kirk, from Texas, first heard Prince in 1977, and he’s been a fan since then. As an AMC projectionist, he helped run a movie for Prince; the star rented out the theater, and Kirk helped run Scrooged, the 1988 Christmas Carol adaptation, for Prince and the band. “My parents did not like [Prince],” he said, a wry look on his face. “And then when my sister got older and asked about masturbating, they really did not like it.” All of us laughed; thanks, “Darling Nikki.”

Sam, of Iowa, got a Prince-inspired tattoo, even when his son told him not to. When he showed me, several others in line grinned and lifted up their sleeves or pant legs, revealing the lyrics and purple art on their bodies. They’ll walk with Prince’s memory forever.

I stayed on the sidewalk for almost an hour, increasingly amazed by these fans’ dedication and pure love. I commented on the Purple Army’s sense of community, feeling stunned. “That, I think, is the single best thing about being a Prince fan,” said Peggy. “The people I’ve met.”

When I left, I felt like I’d joined a new family.

Prince’s fans are certainly still hurting from his death, knowing that things can never go back to the way they were. Peggy from Detroit says she misses her friends, and everyone misses new music. But there’s hope in the new connections, and there’s solace in the old ones, and there’s love running through it all. I believe Prince would be proud.