Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Cultural Staycation in Minneapolis

Minneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle CabaretePrince fans often wonder why he chose to live in his natal city as opposed to somewhere more glamorous and warm. This titan of a man, whose very essence is creativity and flair, seemed to be too flamboyant to remain in a place that- from an outsider’s point of view- was a colorless urban sprawl that suffered from forever winters. This, I deducted from watching ‘Fargo’ and a ‘Sky Arts’ documentary over a decade ago, and which prevented me from making the pilgrimage to Minneapolis sooner. Having now visited, I’m ashamed of my myopic view.

Most of us have musical idols that impact on us at an impressionable age. The majority grow out of hero-worshipping, but for some, this may become a lasting passion. I found Prince at a time I had no one to share my loneliness with. In my awkward pre-teens I didn’t fit in to my new life in London after being transplanted there from my native Colombia. My Latin warmth was frozen in the northern hemisphere. I gravitated to his genius, and took comfort in being different and odd because being ridiculed didn’t matter- I was in great company. Prince’s lyrics educated me on love and social issues, and made me question the world and it’s injustices. Protests, wars and politics became a subconscious part of my musical journey, and my planet became larger and more cultured through his reflections. I grew courage through his empowering of women, as he selflessly placed them centre stage at every incarnation of his creative persona and performances.

Minneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle CabareteMinneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle CabareteMinneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle Cabarete

He made me truly appreciate musical genius, not just through his own virtuoso talent, but by opening up my ears to his own idols including Joni Mitchell, Sly and the Family Stone and many others whose music I wouldn’t have discovered at such a young age. His lyrics made me understand the difference between raw sexual fantasies and what real love is…I dare you to listen to early numbers such as ‘Head’ and ‘Dirty Mind’, then compare them to the pleading heartbreak of “It’s Gona be Lonely’ and ‘The Beautiful Ones.’ Prince gave me carte blanche to love and lust without shame, because, well, he said it was all ok.

On the 21stJanuary 2016 I finally paid homage to Minneapolis and Paisley Park at the launch of Prince’s “Piano and Microphone” Tour. And in addition to being catapulted into another musical stratosphere through several incomparable performances, I also discovered something so unexpected I hadn’t given it a second consideration ahead of my trip. Your city rocks.

Minneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle CabareteMinneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle Cabarete

Our happy trio of ‘Britisher PurpleHeads’ bought last minute flights on whimsical whisperings about a special show. I gave my Amex some serious CPR as he had been left bleeding from the heavy pounding he took over Christmas and new year, but it was totally worth it. I will do it gain in a heartbeat. Driving from the airport to downtown, we caught sight of urban Americana laced with cosmopolitan twists. Naturally, our initial stop was ‘First Avenue.’ We had resigned ourselves to the fact it would have suffered the fate of every 80’s club and become another dejected ‘has-been.’ How wrong we were. The venue still retains its musical heritage, supporting emerging and established artists. This is rare, and something to value at a time live music spots are dying globally, leaving musicians struggling for places to profile their talents.

Exploring, we presumed that the streets were empty because of the cold, but eventually realised you have a magic warren of aerial corridors that hide a multitude of great retailers and restaurants- a floating mall in the sky. Princess Fiona, Radioneer Gavin and I shopped whilst looking down wide avenues, admiring the art deco architecture of movie theatres, now showcasing bands and other entertainment. We indulged in inventive brunches at ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and divine treats from ‘Angel Food,’ feeling like we were actually on holiday instead of just having come to witness the holy grail of Prince spectacles.

Minneapolis First Avenue Prince The Artist Lifestyle CabareteMinneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle Cabarete

Digging deeper, we discovered hidden gems you may not even know about. Most striking was the warm and welcoming folk we met everywhere, who couldn’t do enough to help us, or answer our over-excited questions. We were given your fascinating history, founded of Sioux and Dakota Native Americans who lived peacefully amongst your stunning city of lakes. No wonder Prince paid homage to his hometown in his epic film Purple Rain. How could we not have paid closer attention? 

Minneapolis has the second largest theatre productions after NYC, and 13% of the Metropolitans’ charitable donations are invested in the arts. This fuels a veritable artistic culture, from classic to contemporary, and myriad festivals and events to celebrate the diversity. We sneaked inside the glorious State Theatre and marveled at its original features. Next time we’ll make sure to catch a show there. We envy your special playhouse.

We were surprised at how few people we encountered had attended any shows at Paisley Park, or seen Prince live. It's akin to knowing that you have treasure buried in your back yard but leaving it there! Having walked through the hallowed gates, we can guarantee that you’ll leave inspired and fulfilled. I would describe the experience in detail, however I would prefer that you seek this out yourselves. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The friendliness and open hearts of the staff, the attention to decorative detail, and impressive and surprising performances will leave you wishing you’d visited sooner.

Also Read: Why prince Is the King

Post show at the fun Perkins diner, we witnessed the polar opposite of this cultural oversight. A number of Paisley Park’s crew had gathered at the end of their shift after the Graham Central Station gig, still buzzing after a magical night. Their palpable happiness was truly infectious, and they burst into applause when Prince tweeted a thanks for the party we'd all just attended. Their genuine love for their boss was endearing to witness. We felt as if we’d unwittingly intruded on an intimate moment of joy. 

During our collective love-in, the legendary rock writer Jon Bream made some suggestions as to how our inquisitive trio should spend the next day. Let me put this into context. This scribe is an icon amongst worldwide music lovers. His encyclopedic knowledge of music, not to mention having interviewed and written about most of the greatest musicians of the last 40 years, makes him a leading industry voice. And he was talking to us, in a diner, at silly o’clock! After two consecutive late nights I was secretly hoping to spend most of Saturday in bed, but ‘Madame Jetlag’ had other plans and we found ourselves engrossed in world-class art at the Walker Art Centre, another unexpected bonus. We walked along Lowry Hill, taking photos of the ‘spoon and cherry,’ nestled in crisp white snow and set against a dramatic background of gothic churches and a modern metropolis skyline. 

Minneapolis Skyline Prince The Artist Lifestyle Cabarete

We browsed interesting vintage stores, and reminisced our teenage years sifting through retro vinyl and classic CDs at Electric Fetus. The ‘wrekka stow’ was busy, and as it's name suggests, made an electrifying setting with customers eagerly purchasing old favorites and new artists. We made more friends and left with unexpected purchases. Because you can never own too much music or enough unicorn knickers.

We got lost driving in your posh suburban neighbourhoods, screaming each time we had to traverse a rail crossing. Those things are scary! Passengers in other vehicles screeched when I drove the wrong way up one-way streets and on the wrong side of the road. (SORRY!) Our amazing hotel -the Loews- housed two enticing restaurants with delightful fare, before we took dessert at Paisley Park. Heavenly lavender pancakes. The ‘Purple Army,’ coming from Europe, Asia and other foreign nations, were staying at the W and rewarded by the staff with Prince shaped cupcakes. Naughty and cute!

Beyond our quest to fulfill a dream, we fell in love with your city. And so should you. Prince has stayed loyal to Minneapolis and we now understand why. On the last show of his unrivalled 21 nights in London’s O2 Arena in 2007, Prince was joined by Amy Winehouse. His words as she exited after singing ‘Love is a Losing Game’ were, “London- look after her, she’s special.”

And these are similar words I will impart on you. Prince is your native son. Cherish him and enjoy his magnificent shows because you will never see the same one twice. Only once in a rare (purple) moon does the world get to witness such outstanding, exceptional talent, and you are fortunate enough to have him on your doorstep. So don’t take him and your city for granted!
They are both beautiful gifts you are beyond fortunate to have been given.

Photos: Private/Paisley Park

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