Thursday, November 10, 2016

Touring Paisley Park

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you know this year has been kind of a big deal in the realm of the Minneapolis music scene ... specifically related to Prince.  Yes, sadly, he did pass away earlier this year. 
But, the silver lining to his passing is that his legacy is living on in an interesting (and surprising, to me at least) way.  Which means that over the past weekend, this happened:

Ok, if you're not a Prince aficionado, that picture might not mean a WHOLE lot to you.  So maybe this will help put it into perspective.

If you're still not getting what's happening here, then today's post may not be the blog for you, because any Prince fan would know that the above is an aerial view of Paisley Park - also known as Prince's abode, located in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
OK - now that the above is out of the way ... if you ARE a true Prince fan, calm down! 
Yes, it's true!  Prince's estate has officially opened to the public for touring ... at least on a limited basis (meaning, you have to book tickets in advance and you only get to see select areas of the building).  Originally, the city of Chanhassen had only allowed a provisional license for Paisley Park to do limited tours, I think simply because there wasn't time to approve a full blown license.  I make that guess because within the last month, final sign off took place to allow for full time museum operation ... and everyone who is a true Prince fan collectively wet their pants. 
Now, I mentioned above that I was surprised about how Prince's legacy is living on.  I want to clarify that statement before I go any further in this recap. 
Since Prince was always a very private, and almost secretive person, the fact that this estate is now open to the public just blows me away.  I still kind of wonder if he would have approved of this but ... according to all the news I've followed and what staff said on the tour, Prince had been planning long term to make his estate into a museum (and had even tried to open Paisley as a museum back in early 2000 but got shut down?!  Really?!).  So ... I guess ... ?!
Whatever.  I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds me.  I hope that Prince is truly OK with his home being treated this way.  And in all due respect to him, I write this post today in celebration of all he did for music, for Minnesota, for charity, and for the legacy he has left behind.
With all the above being said - the below is a recap of the tour.  Yes, it includes spoilers.  Duh.  That's the point of a recap.  If you want to take the tour and NOT know what's coming, stop reading here.
Also, one last thing.  Out of respect to Prince, I want to make it very clear that I would NEVER take photos in areas of his estate where that is not allowed.  In fact, phones and cameras are NOT even allowed to be used on the tour.  If you show up to Paisley Park with a cell phone, it will be secured so you cannot access it during your visit.  (I personally didn't even want to deal with the question, so I left my cell phone locked in my car during my tour.) 
Therefore, the below photos are all courtesy of Google and various media brands.  As you will see in some of the pictures, there is reference to local and national media personalities, etc.  Since these media chains all publicly posted the photos on their websites, I assume they had media permissions to do so.  I feel confident in this assumption because security in Paisley Park is crazy good, and "ain't nobody takin' no photos in there without gettin' busted" (my words).  Heh.
Alright!  The above has been said.  Let's see what Paisley Park has to offer!
To put the tour into perspective, I'm going to start by posting this map.
As you can see, the tour I took covered the main floor of Paisley Park.  It was the standard/general admission tour ($40 plus service fee), and did not include any VIP upgrades or special services.  We also did not get to see any of Prince's private living quarters.
The areas we visited included:
(1) Main entrance, lobby/reception area
(2) "Little Kitchen", offices converted into costume displays, Prince's office
(3) Hallway to studio A and Studio A itself
(4) Hallway mural and Purple Rain display
(5) Displays for Graffiti Bridge and Under the Cherry Moon
(6) Hallway display and "concert" area
(7) Lounge/VIP "concert" area
(8) Fence display and Super Bowl video exhibit
(9) Gift shop and exit
I'm starting my tour recap with the main entrance and lobby/reception area which is (1) on the map above.  Including the reception area in my recap may seem strange, since who really cares about reception, right?  But, I'm including the entrance because ... well ... this:

I mean, that ceiling and wall paint!  That desk!  That celestial carpeting!  If I didn't already know this was Prince's' estate, I would ask someone if he designed it.  LOL!
Getting back on topic - I'm sure it goes without saying that when you arrive to Paisley Park, and finish parking your car, you go inside to the reception desk to present your ticket.  After doing so, you are told to stand at the desk to await your tour.  Then, eventually your group is migrated over to the record wall to wait longer to admire the various awards there, as well as the reverse view looking out the front door (and the murals painted there).

True to Prince style, although my tour slot was for 10:30am, it seemed like we stood by the record wall for quite some time ... and of course ... we started late.  My suspicion for the late start: I think we were combined with the next tour slotted behind us (11:10am).  I say this because there was no other group behind us touring, and when my tour ended close to maybe 12:15, my car was one of the last ones left in the lot. 
To be fair, I'm not surprised by this tactic at all.  I mean, I can't imagine with tours being offered twice every hour (at the :10 and the :30 mark) that all the tours are filling to capacity right now anyway.  Hello - it's almost winter in Minnesota, and who the heck wants to come here when we could be hit with 12-24" of snow at the drop of a hat?!  So I totally understand the logic behind the delay, and quite honestly was totally fine with it.  Extra time inside Paisley Park to gawk?  Well, ok!
Once our tour guide finally made it up to the front to retrieve us, we were walked into an atrium of sorts, see (2) on the above map.  Here is an approximate photo of what our first "inside" stop looked like, but note that the furniture and wall hangings have changed or moved around some since this photo was taken. 

Here, the tour guide started with a brief intro about Prince and spoke a bit about how this atrium was Prince's favorite spot to hang out in Paisley Park.  I could totally see why, as the pyramid glass ceiling windows let in a tremendous amount of light and really just made for such a peaceful feeling. 
As we were being introduced to Prince's legacy, the tour guide gave a brief overview of what we'd be seeing on the tour, and then he paused his narration and asked us to look at a miniature model of paisley Park that was placed in the middle of the room (not shown in the above photo, but it was basically at the V of the Prince symbol above).  When we all turned to look at the model, the tour guide explained that once Prince was cremated, his remains were placed in an urn ... that was inside the model we were looking at.
I'm not kidding when I say this hit me like a ton of bricks.  It took everything in my power to not let out an audible "oh shit".  I had no idea his remains were on site.  Knowing his ashes were right there ... it was powerful.
The tour guide was tremendously respectful about the way he spoke to Prince's remains, and even gave us all a moment to sit in stunned silence to process the information he just gave us.  Then, he did something that I thought was terrific.  I'm paraphrasing, but essentially what he said is "I know there's a lot of emotion to be had in Prince's death.  It's ok to feel that and process it today.  But remember, we are here because we want to celebrate Prince's life.  While you're taking this tour, remember his contributions.  Celebrate his legacy.  Rejoice in his life rather than find sadness in his death.  That's what he would have wanted anyway."
And with that, we were redirected to the tour at hand, and given some time to check out various costume displays as well as Prince's office, which has remained completely untouched since his death (as is all things at Paisley Park at this time, aside from a few minor modifications for standard museum control - i.e. stanchion ropes, glass display cases, or gates ... things of that nature that protect displays and keep people out of private areas).
Here's an example of the costumes that were on display, though not all of these were at stop (2).

After finishing up at stop (2) on the map above, we walked down a hallway towards Studio A.  During the tour, each hallway we passed through had some sort of information to absorb, and this one was no exception.  Appropriately, the hangings in this hallway told the story of some of the musicians who had recorded in Studio A and the resulting album sales records that were achieved.  I was particularly tickled to see an REM record on the wall.  Something about Michael Stipe and Prince together ... seems like a funny and odd mix.

Studio A, marked with a (3) on the map above, was a little over my head.  While it was cool to see where "the magic happened", I am by no means a sound technician.  So the technical aspects to this room and the significance of all the equipment present was beyond me.

What I can say is that the room looked somewhat like this (no piano in the center, it was just totally empty), and that the sound system in the recording booth looked like the second picture that follows.

One thing of interest to me was the different surfaces that the studio utilized for sound purposes.  Refer to the drawing below.  The section marked Studio A was all triangle/pyramid shaped wood on the walls and ceiling, while the rooms on the left side of the drawing were fully covered in flat granite tiles.  I don't fully understand the acoustical reasoning for this, but it was fascinating that sound recording was optimized in each room for various instruments simply based on the materials used on the ceilings and walls.
Studio A also lead to some discussion about how Prince really was a musical genius, as he mixed all his own music, prepared vocals ... all of it.  And from scratch, too, meaning with real instruments and NOT digital simulators.  In the era of computers, he was still a true artist.
After Studio A, we took another hallway and started heading to (4) on the map above.  In the hallway was a mural of Prince.  On his right side - photos of many of the musicians who influenced him (like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Sly & the Family Stone).  On his left side - photos of the musicians who were influenced after him (like Shelia E, The Revolution and Sheena Easton).


The mural wall lead into the epic room ... Purple Rain.  There are no words.
Next we entered room (5) on the map above, and saw props from the other Prince movies - Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge.

Understandably so, I was in a little haze at this point in the tour having just seen all the Purple Rain stuff, so I can't remember exactly where this hallway was.  I THINK it was after room (5) above.  Basically this was another hallway of Prince photos in order by year, and a collection of his various awards (MTV moon men, Soul Train Awards, Grammys, etc.) 
Next stop on the tour was room (6).  Try as I might, I haven't been able to find pictures on Google of this room.  So instead - imagine a giant black room, no windows, that is 12,500 square feet.  Yes, I said 12,500 square feet. 
My house is something like 3,000 square feet, or maybe even slightly less.  It could fit inside room (6) over 3 times.
This room is where Prince did all his Paisley Park rock concerts.  Now, the room is set with various props and costumes from his tours, including this little purple piano and the red costume you saw in the costume picture above, as well as other items.
Stop (6) fed directly into (7), which was set up to be a VIP lounge and concert area of sorts.  Apparently this is where Madonna and her crew hung out after her Minneapolis concert tour stop last year. 
Not that I'm jealous of that or anything.  *ahem*
I particularly liked the random car grill and headlights on the stairwell, so I'm glad I was able to find a picture of that online.

By now, the tour was starting to wind down, and appropriately this is where the curators added a nod to the overwhelming fan homage that was paid to Prince after his passing in April.  You likely remember seeing photos like this in the news:

Well, it turns out what was able to be preserved off those fences was actually taken into storage by Prince's Estate.  Room (8) has a small fence segment where they will rotate out the preserved pieces and display them as part of the museum.

Just opposite of the fence display was one last Prince video clip, this time highlighting his Super Bowl performance ... in the rain, no less.  It was every bit as amazing as I remember it being.

And with that, we were directed to room (9) - the souvenir shop.

Because what's a tourist experience without a take home shirt?!  (Also for sale?  Prince logo ping pong balls, guitar picks, and necklaces ... I kind of regret not getting the necklace.  You can also see in the picture above they were selling real tambourines with his symbol on it, which was super tempting until I saw the $80 price tag.  PS: Prince's chef created a menu that is available for purchase/consumption in the gift shop as well, in case you need some eats before you go.)

Excuse my tired mom eye bags.  Good thing I opted to also purchase the coffee cup, no?

And that was it.  Almost two hours and endless starry-eyed looks later, our tour was complete.  Just before we left, the security staff very kindly offered to take our photos out in front of the building, and then it was time to go.


So in the end, what did I think? 

Well, first off, I highly recommend this tour.  For a $40-50 general admission ticket, you get close to two full hours of entertainment, which includes admission to one of the most protected/secretive locations that exists in Minnesota.  Plus, that money is well invested in the staff (many of whom seemed to be employed by Prince prior to his passing, which is nice to know they have an income after his death).  Additionally, I think some of that admission money will benefit charities Prince supported during his life - I do know for a fact that some of it will go to children's music education programs, since the tour guide said they're working on establishing that program long term in the Paisley Park studios. 

Second, the tour right now is already pretty amazing and the museum has only been operating for a few weeks.  So when you consider that they are going to continue to polish the presentation and (probably) offer more things to see in the future ... it's going to be one heck of an experience in the next 1-2 years.

Now, for any of you Debbie Downers who will say - well you just put all the info and pics of the tour up there, so why would I pay $40-50 to see it all over again?  Well, to that I say: you are dumb.  And then I say - I intentionally left out a lot of the stories and details of the tour above so that you also learn something new when you go ... which you really should.  Because - duh - Prince!

So what are you waiting for?!  Go sign up for your tour today!


In closing, I leave you with a few of my favorite Prince video clips:

Kevin Smith's Prince Documentary:

Dave Chappelle's Prince & Pancakes:

Prince's response to Chappelle's skit:

Jimmy Fallon plays Ping-Pong with Prince:

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