On the one-year anniversary of Prince’s untimely death, Paisley Park feels like the Minnesota equivalent of Graceland. Unlike last April, when fans were leaving mementos on the fence around the Chanhassen property while coming to terms with the Purple One’s departure, this is a tightly structured process for paying respects.
In two shifts a day, an international army of fans rides coach buses to the museum and shrine that was once Prince’s studio, venue, and living space. They paid between $550 and $1,000, plus travel expenses – but for a weekend of what, exactly?
The value largely depends upon the level of purple obsession. Somewhere between a landlocked music cruise, a trade convention, and a music festival, Celebration 2017 is undeniably one-of-a-kind due to its location and amenities.
Thursday’s kickoff for the press – including representatives from the Twin Cities, as well as USA Today, Rolling Stone France, and others – had its moments. Here are five of them.
The urn and museum
Prince’s remains are housed in a Paisley Park-shaped urn in a sky-lit corridor featuring rooms of old outfits, instruments, and other memorabilia. (According to the New York Times, there are still thousands of pieces still waiting to be properly catalogued.) Unlike a headstone, you look up to acknowledge the Purple One. The urn is mounted about 15 feet up in a display case, which affords some security along with its unique presence.
The live music experience
Thursday’s music was billed as a surprise. Turns out, it was 75-year-old funk pioneer (and undeniable Prince inspiration) George Clinton – grinning and glimmering – joined by over a dozen bandmates, backing singers, and dancers in Paisley’s enormous soundstage.
They played “Flashlight,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Atomic Dog,” and other funky hits. On tap for the rest of the weekend is Morris Day and the Time, NPG, 3rdEyeGirl, and the Revolution. While the tickets for seeing all of these acts outside of the hallowed Paisley would not add up to weekend’s price, there’s a big exclusivity factor at play.
One of the spiritual guides for the weekend journey is Damaris Lewis, a former dancer for the New Power Generation.
She did her best to both give directions for tour groups (which were sorted by different lanyards) and sprinkle in some “keep it purple” talk about Prince’s legacy. Instead of a moment of silence, she called for a standing ovation from the seated group gathered before her. More of Prince’s extended family are taking part in various capacities on panels, and working the event, so the stories will continue unfolding.
As the weekend carries through, the connections forming between perhaps the greatest concentration of Prince’s most-devoted admirers – many of whom have probably only met previously on Prince.org – is another perk.
It would not be an “ultimate fan experience” without a wealth of exclusive keepsakes. The press got the tote bag and the commemorative book, but all sorts of items are up for sale. Plus, the bottled water features a PP logo, and Thursday’s buffet included a black rice dish that gave off a purple hue.
The tangibility of this part is debatable, depending on the participant’s beliefs in the afterworld (“A world of never-ending happiness,” etc.).
Aside from the urn and the costumes, Celebration helped reconstruct the departed Prince with a screening of some jaw-dropping concert footage in Amsterdam from 2014. The crowd in the room behaved like they were at an actual show. The 45-minute selection showcased his guitar work, his charisma, and a lengthy piano medley running through a handful of his many hits.
During set-closer “Purple Rain,” he referred to his house, Paisley, as a place where everyone could “sing together, dine together, and love together.”
And that’s still true today. As long as they can afford it.