The party volume around Super Bowl mania cranked up to 11 on Thursday night all around the Twin Cities metro area.
Over in St. Paul, Sting performed for NFL team owners. Down in Chanhassen, Justin Timberlake hosted a listening party for American Express cardholders. Out in Prior Lake, Top 40 dance-pop producers the Chainsmokers played a casino gig. And in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, hip-hop stars with names like Cardi B and Gucci Mane took over clubs with names like Privé and Muse.
The biggest gig of the night was at downtown Minneapolis’ newly reborn Armory, where sporty arena-rock band Imagine Dragons headlined a red-carpeted shindig hosted by video game maker EA Sports.
The concert itself packed star-power early on, though. Hip-hop trio Migos — currently gracing the cover of Rolling Stone and headlining the magazine’s Super Bowl party Friday night at International Market Square — crashed Machine Gun Kelly’s set to deliver its megahit “Bad and Boujee.” MGK played to slightly booming but otherwise decent acoustics in the high-ceilinged venue.
As Imagine Dragons were about to hit the stage around 11 p.m., the 83-year-old Armory’s balcony VIP area — with its bottle-serviced booths half-empty — looked out over the large general-admission floor, filled in with about 4,000 excited fans, including local iHeartMedia radio executive Dean Peterson. “It’s a great place for a band like this,” he said. “I’ll be back.”
Other locals showed up, too. Frank Kohler of Eden Prairie was impressed with the Armory’s makeover into an 8,400-person event venue — “I hope I get to see a lot of shows here,” he said — but he chuckled at the sight of EA Sports’ red carpet.
A small line of media figures took part in EA Sports' glitzy photo op in the Armory’s new entryway, where the trumpeted celebrities included Ultimate Fighting Championship butt-kicker Demetrious Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and the concert’s opening act, Machine Gun Kelly.
“I think they better rethink having a red carpet thing in Minnesota in February,” Kohler cracked.
Even some of the Minneapolis restaurants and bars without live music took on more of a VIP, velvet-rope flare to attract the unprecedented boom in nightlife patrons.
The rooftop patio at Crave restaurant on Hennepin Avenue, for instance, was converted into a ticketed venue made over into an ice bar and an “ice-fishing experience.”
Six pop-up ice-fishing huts were spread out on the roof with heaters and poles inside — but no fish, which would’ve run into the same problem the bottles behind the bar encountered, freezing in the single-digit temperatures.
One of the Twin Cities’ original VIP party havens, Paisley Park in Chanhassen, opened up its doors — and landed a first-ever liquor license — to host the Timberlake listening party with Amex. Timberlake did not perform at Prince’s studio-turned-museum, which JT called “hallowed, sacred ground” at his news conference earlier in the day.
However, Timberlake did tap Prince’s “Purple Rain”-era bandmates to play his shindig, following their performance Monday on Nicollet Mall as part of the free Super Bowl Live series. “It’s another bucket-list item,” Timberlake said of the Paisley Park party, ranking it alongside his halftime gig.
Of course, the citywide party is only getting started. Other hot tickets through the weekend include Pink, Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Clarkson at the Armory; Florida Georgia Line and Gwen Stefani at Mystic Lake; Jamie Foxx and G-Eazy at the Lumber Exchange Building; Snoop Dogg at the Playboy party, and Sting again at the Minneapolis Convention Center for Sunday’s NFL Tailgate Party.
“It beats staying inside this time of year,” Melissa Lingeman of Minneapolis said at the Armory.