In February 2020, Minneapolis will expand its portfolio of live music venues with the opening of the Fillmore Minneapolis in the North Loop, just northwest of Target Field.
The Fillmore is named for the iconic music hall in San Francisco, a 1912 venue that became known for unforgettable rock shows when legendary promoter Bill Graham started booking it in the mid-1960s; it became the heart of the Bay Area’s renowned psychedelic scene and the counterculture more broadly. By decade’s end, Graham took the Fillmore name to new venues in San Francisco and New York.
The original Fillmore closed and reopened multiple times over the years; Graham died in a 1991 helicopter crash. In 2007, promoter Live Nation took over the venue and the name, which the company has since been expanding to new clubs across the country. The Fillmore Minneapolis, part of a newly constructed building that also includes a Westin hotel, will join the ranks of eight other Fillmores located in cities from Miami to Detroit.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey energized the room at a media preview event Thursday morning with his rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone,” which he continued speak-singing the lyrics to after he took the stage in the venue’s VIP room and the Bob Dylan classic faded out.
In the North Loop, said Frey, “you’ve got everything from residential to business to retail, restaurants, breweries, Deja Vu,” he said, garnering laughter with his mention of the adult nightclub. “Of course the big missing link is an exceptional music venue, and we know that the Fillmore provides exactly that because they’ve got a reputation for doing so in many other cities.”
The Fillmore is expected to host around 175 shows per year — the first show announcements will come in October — and has a capacity of 1,850. For comparison, First Avenue’s Mainroom is at 1,600, while St. Paul’s Palace Theatre (run by First Ave) has room for 2,500 and the Armory (a Live Nation venue) accommodates 8,400.
At 36,000 square feet, the venue will also feature a restaurant called Trax Burgers and Bar. The mezzanine-level VIP space, called BG’s Lounge in honor of Graham, is intended to double as a snugger space for the occasional DJ, low-key performance, or private event. The main music hall will also be available for rent.
“We think of this as a one-stop shop,” said Ron Bension, president of Live Nation’s Clubs & Theaters division. “We want you to come to the Fillmore early and relax so you’re not hassling with traffic, and stay late and enjoy yourself after the concert.”
The main music hall, above, has a wrap-around balcony that will hold 600 combined general admission and reserved box spots. Renderings of the end design (below) include four crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes, and a wooden dance floor. A media release promises “psychedelic concert art,” harking back to the original Fillmore’s mystique.
“All of the Fillmores are a family, they’re by no means a brand,” said Bension, who took the VIP room stage (below) to Prince’s “Kiss” but said he wouldn’t attempt to sing. So how will the Fillmore Minneapolis differentiate itself from its siblings? Bension promised a visual homage to Prince and “several other local artists,” as well as “classic Minneapolis signage” around the building.
Live Nation is no stranger to Minneapolis, and has produced shows at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Xcel, Target Center, and other venues of comparable size. The company booked the Basilica Block Party for the first time this summer, and doubled its Minneapolis show count within the last two years.
While the Fillmore’s capacity is comparable to that of First Avenue, about ten blocks away, it remains to be seen what kind of bands get booked by Tamsen Preston, who worked on the Basilica Block Party and other shows with Sue McLean and Associates before leaving for Live Nation. In a statement, Benison promised the entertainment would be “world-class” and the Trax burgers would be the Twin Cities’ best.
He also noted the venue would be “not just a black box with people in it,” a statement quoted in a Star Tribune headline about the Fillmore; whether that was intended to be a swipe at First Ave, the latter club referenced it in a tweet citing its own independent ownership.
In addition to the music, the burgers, and the beer, Fillmore patrons can also likely count on baskets of apples, a Fillmore tradition going back to Graham.