Long before he died April 21, the musician Prince taught his fans to live.
“If [the] elevator tries to bring you down,” he sang in 1984’s “Purple Rain” release, “go crazy.”
And so it continues in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, where his own personal elevator may have crashed with a fatal drug overdose at age 57, but his fans are still going crazy in memorial.
A new tourism trail has organically sprung up, a path to Prince-related sites — from music clubs to murals — beaten by fans who have come to pay their respects. That route expanded Oct. 6, when his suburban home and studio, Paisley Park (www.officialpaisleypark.com), opened for daily tours, in advance of the first official public tribute concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday. Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and Morris Day & the Time are in the long lineup.
“He traveled the world and lived in other places, but he always came back home,” said Bill Deef of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism bureau (minneapolis.org), which publishes an online guide to 19 sites around town associated with Prince.
Everyone has a story
Seemingly everyone in Minneapolis has a story about seeing Prince. On my own recent tribute trip, I met friends who told of attending private parties and after-hours concerts at Paisley Park. My husband, a Minnesota native, and I regularly saw the musician at Glam Slam, Prince’s former downtown music club, and lurked in hope around First Avenue (first-avenue.com), the club where many of the concert scenes in the movie “Purple Rain” were filmed.
Even in his final week, he was spotted at the Dakota Jazz Club (dakotacooks.com) downtown and the record shop Electric Fetus (electricfetus.com), where we first stopped on the unofficial Prince trail.
Adjacent to a highway, several empty blocks from downtown, Electric Fetus is nevertheless the busiest one I’ve browsed since the dawn of MP3 technology. Racks of vinyl take up nearly as much space as CDs. A Prince bin holds all of his recordings on CD and vinyl, and as blatant tourists, we treated ourselves to one of the array of Electric Fetus T-shirts that fill the front of the store.
“Prince was always really chill when he came in,” the clerk said, confirming his late appearance in the shop.
From Electric Fetus, we drove to the nearby Uptown neighborhood to the Sencha Tea Bar at Hennepin Avenue and 26th Street. Its back brick wall is covered in a new Prince portrait spray-painted by local artist Rock “Cyfi” Martinez. Fans have left a few small trinkets in tribute, including a shell necklace and a small plastic penguin (Prince wrote a song for the 2006 film “Happy Feet”).
The tributes are more creative and profuse at Paisley Park, in suburban Chanhassen, about a 30-minute drive from Uptown. Affixed to the chain-link fence that edges the property is a purple profusion of emotion. A purple umbrella hangs with paper raindrops beneath it near a pair of faded purple pumps and a notably nonpurple Austrian flag. Eulogy letters tucked into clear plastic bags are arranged in the shape of a musical note. A handful of fans stalked the perimeter with us, taking pictures.
Nearby, the Chanhassen Cinema (five-star-cinemas.com), which Prince reportedly patronized, showcases another new wall mural, this time by the New Zealand-born street artist Mr. G, aka Graham Hoete, painted over the summer.
Three-hour bus trips
Randy Luedtke launched sporadic three-hour bus trips last spring and has since expanded them to daily events, hitting Electric Fetus, First Avenue, Paisley Park and other sites, while attracting visitors from around the world (princethetour.com).
“Prince was his own businessman, his own artist, his own sound,” said Luedtke. “He was rock and roll, he was R&B, he was soul. And he was sexy.”
A Prince tour of Minneapolis, either organized or DIY, is both an homage and a crucible for catharsis. In September, Brian Bourke of Melbourne, Australia, spent a week in the city, dancing at First Avenue, paying tribute at Paisley Park and even attending a Vikings game. (Prince wrote a song, “Purple and Gold,” about the NFL team.)
“What started out as an opportunity to say a proper goodbye to a man that has been by our side for over 30 years ended up so much more than that,” Bourke wrote in an email. “This was a release of emotion, a chance to share how we feel about losing Prince with others that feel it as deeply as we do.”
And a chance, collectively, to go crazy.