“His music was raw, progressive, it hit you right in the face.”
If a purple rain had drizzled over the Twin Cities during the day, by nightfall, the sky had cleared and Prince’s music broke through the famed walls of First Avenue and onto the surrounding streets.
First Avenue was a fitting venue to host an impromptu celebration of the hometown hero, who died Thursday (April 21) at the age of 57. “Purple Rain” was filmed at the club and Prince performed there many times.
Speakers on a soundstage erected on 7th Street blared the sounds of “Little Red Corvette,” “Kiss,” “Delirious,” “Let’s Go Crazy”– songs that many in the throng of thousands had been singing for decades. “How about we make this the loudest block party ever?” said a woman into the mic between songs.
And so it was: part tribute, part jam, all Minnesota Nice as the Heavy Metal boys with long beards and leather coats stood shoulder-to-shoulder with girls in purple bell bottoms, men with purple feathers in their hair, a kid with a sign that read “Free Hugs,” young moms swaying with their children in their arms, middle-aged couples holding hands and reminiscing about the time they waited 5, no 7, no 14 hours in line for a last-minute concert at Prince’s nearby recording studio, Paisley Park.
Seven-year-old Emmett Erling yawned. “He really wanted to come,” said his mom, Monica. So did Minneapolis rapper Slug, of Atmosphere, who stood on his own near the sound-stage, quietly listening. “I just came here to see the people that came out for this,” he said. Like everyone, he wanted to pay tribute, to be part of a moment in music history. And though the fans will surely remember where they were when they first heard that Prince had died, outside First Avenue last night, they were talking about where they were when they first heard “Purple Rain.”