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Icehouse soft opening introduces Nicollet space to local music fans

by Andrea Swensson

June 05, 2012

I've never seen so many Twin Cities drummers in one place. Last night, new Nicollet Avenue restaurant and venue Icehouse opened its doors and offered the community a first glimpse inside the space, and by the late hours the place was swarming with musicians eager to check things out.

The biggest takeaway from last night is that the two rooms and kitchen that make up Icehouse are designed beautifully. The brand new, sparkling kitchen is set back into a rear dining room that is otherwise lined with dark wood tables and booths, and the front room is open and airy, with a bar running along one side and a stage extended out into its center. There is dark wood, dark leather, dark brick everywhere, making the space feel both rustic and chic.

The kitchen was up and running last night but I didn't sample any of the food. I'm not a food critic, anyway, so I'll just stick to what I know -- music and cocktails, both of which were consumed decadently in the elegant space. The drinks were all designed by famed mixologist Johnny Michaels of La Belle Vie, who was on hand last night to make sure they were crafted perfectly. And the drinks were quite affordable, with smaller $5 pours providing an excellent way to sample a few different concoctions in addition the variety of beers on tap.

A thick red curtain had just been hung behind the stage and the new PA was just installed and tested out for the first time this week, and from where I was sitting the sound seemed to travel well to even the far corners of the room. New Monday-night-jazz curator JT Bates was at the helm and drummed with bassist Adam Linz and sax player Dave Karr a few times throughout the night, and even when the crowd was at its most chatty it was possible to get lost in their solos and pay the band full attention.

As previously reported, Bates is bringing his long-running Clown Lounge series into the new space, and Icehouse certainly has a different vibe than that dank, dingy basement space. But even on its first (mostly unannounced) night, the sense of camaraderie amongst the crowd and players was palpable, its community finally reunited for the first time since the Turf Club canceled JT's night back in 2010.

"I’m excited," Bates told me recently in an interview for the Local Show. "It’s a brand new room. I really feel like musical energy and art energy can real shape a feeling and a place, so I think I’m excited about that because it’s just an open slate for us to just go in there and kind of see what happens."

The official grand opening for Icehouse is coming up this Thursday, June 7 with performances by Liminal Phase and Hookers & Blow, and JT Bates has already planned out a few weeks of his new Monday night series: Monday, June 11 will feature Dave King Trucking Company, June 18 will feature Red Planet, and June 25 will feature Bates' group with Linz and Michael Lewis, Fat Kid Wednesdays. Icehouse is located at 2528 Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

For more on JT Bates: 
The Twin Cities jazz-rock overlap fuels a hypercollaborative community

For more on Icehouse:
Slideshow: The Pines play last-minute show tour kickoff show at Icehouse

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.