It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the plane for Minneapolis. In 25 years of loving Prince, it has not been unusual for me for me to hop on a plane to see him perform – from Australia to Switzerland, from Canada to France, from Belgium to the UK, and several shorter trips throughout Australia and Europe in between. But I’d never made the trip to see him in his native Minnesota. I guess I always imagined that one day I’d get there. I just never thought that he would no longer be with us when I did.
Within hours of learning that Prince was gone, without even thinking about it, I’d booked a flight to Minneapolis. It wasn’t until I was in the air that I started to question the purpose of this journey. I couldn’t articulate why I was going. I just felt I had to be there. I didn’t know him, let alone well enough to feel this way about his loss. Others somehow knew that I would – should – make this journey. This helped reassure me that my decision to come was perhaps not so senseless after all.
As I had decided to base myself downtown, it seemed natural that my first stop should be First Avenue, perhaps most famous as the venue of some historic Prince performances, and the setting of Purple Rain. I didn’t spend much time at the makeshift memorial by the Prince star at the entrance. Instead I sat inside the First Avenue tavern, right by the framed photo of Prince on the wall. I met staff member Otis who snuck me inside the Main Room performance space to see the Purple Rain star. I was able to sneak a quick glimpse of the stage which had been graced by Prince too.
At 10:07 on Thursday morning, exactly one week after Prince’s passing, I was standing in front of Paisley Park. The fence was covered in purple tributes. It was pouring with rain.
There were signs of him being quietly honoured in the greater Chanhassen community too. The vacancy sign at the Chanhassen Inn, frequented by Paisley Park musicians and occasionally used as the location for music videos, read “When Doves Cry”. The Chanhassen movie theatre was screening Purple Rain. The Lunds and Byerlys grocery store where Prince could sometimes be found cycling in the car park, and the Cub Foods branch where Prince could be seen every so often shopping in the early hours of the morning, were selling purple flowers.
I’d make the 30 minute drive to Chanhassen again on my last day in Minneapolis, to make another visit to Paisley Park as my final stop before flying home.
Prince could often be found browsing the selection at this independent record store. His last visit was on World Record Store Day, just five days before he left us. A handwritten sign behind the counter read “God Bless You, Prince”.
By now the store had already sold out of most of their Prince titles. I was told they were expecting copies of his latest album to arrive any day. When I returned to pick up my copy on release day, the staff behind the counter needed no prompting to share stories about the man they considered a friend. I learned that Prince was a great supporter of the store, often taking out full page advertisements in the local paper on their behalf, something they could never do themselves due to the cost. As my “Hit N Run Phase 2” CD was bagged, I was told that Prince had delivered the advance copies to the store himself, and that during his last visit less than 2 weeks ago, he was already talking about his plans for a follow-up album.
Schmitt Music Mural
This music mural in downtown Minneapolis, named after the Schmitt Music store which was located in the building once upon a time, was used as a backdrop for some now iconic Prince photographs taken very early in his career by photographer Robert Whitman.
Just around the corner is the building that houses Sound 80, the recording studio used to record demos for Prince’s debut album.
Purple Rain Sites
The window from my hotel looked right on to the Orpheum Theatre, which was used to film some of the backstage scenes in Purple Rain. I sought out some of the other downtown Minneapolis filming locations, including the Crystal Court in the IDS Centre, which was the setting for the scene where The Kid sets his sights on a white cloud guitar in a store window. I also ventured to the alleyways at 4th and 5th Streets between 1st and 2nd Avenue, which was apparently where The Kid takes out Morris Day with his motorcycle in the film. The Cowboy Jacks on the corner was also formerly the site of Prince’s Glam Slam night club in the early nineties.
The venue of Prince’s first concert, back in January 1979, honoured him with a screening of Purple Rain. Craig Rice, a production assistant on the film, was there and shared some of his memories from filming: Prince wearing a full scuba suit under his costume for warmth in the Lake Minnatonka scene, and having to wrangle Prince and other cast members for early morning shoots – apparently they could often be found at the local White Castle restaurant in the early hours.
The intimate screening on the stage where his career began brought out the full range of emotions in the theatre – cheers and applause during the performance scenes, hysterical laughter at the comedic moments, and quiet tears at the first strum of Purple Rain.
7 Hours & 13 Days
Experiencing Minneapolis through tear-filled eyes, my heart felt heavy and empty, all at once. Back home in Brussels, 7 hours and 13 days after Prince’s passing, my heart is still heavy. And the tears are yet to stop falling.