The Parties Weren’t Built to Last: Highlights from Two Long, Exciting Days at Prince’s Celebration 2022 in Paisley Park

Parties weren’t built to last, Prince told us in “1999.” But the memories of this weekend’s Celebration 2022 will last a long time.

About 800 Purple faithful traveled to Paisley Park in Chanhassen for the fourth posthumous celebration of all things Prince, presented in conjunction with his estate.

The lineup at Paisley Park was packed from 9:30 am to 2 am on Friday and Saturday, with an off-campus dinner break. There were panel discussions with insiders throwing purple nuggets, recording sessions with members of the band Prince, self-guided explorations of the museum including a stunning new photo exhibit, lawn ping pong, peach sunsets and, of course, live music.

After too little sleep and never too much Prince, here are some thoughts and pick quotes from Celebration 2022 – and some suggestions.

reflections

  • The mood. The 2017 celebration, which took place a year after his death, felt like communal mourning. People were still in a bit of disbelief or denial at Celebration 2019. But after two years of a pandemic lull, the mood this year was undeniably joyful. Coming from across the United States and from places as far away as New Zealand and Iceland, the Purple families were excited to be together and eager to have some fun after being stranded over COVID concerns. And they noticed that the Paisley Park staff — no longer under the umbrella of Graceland Holdings that oversaw the first three celebrations — was friendlier.
  • Prince in concert. For the third time, Celebration offered a concert with Prince on film accompanied by a live band. This time was different, though, because it was one of those surprise performances Prince decided to do at the last minute — January 11, 1992 at Glam Slam, his club in the Minneapolis warehouse district — and celebration-goers were witnessing it in private. Paisley Park’s fantastic soundstage, compared to previous similar performances at the much larger Armory and Target Center. With few hits and songs from “Purple Rain”, this was still irresistible fun. On screen and live on stage, the Game Boys danced, the Steeles harmonized like only brothers can, and Mayte Garcia pirouetted for the first time at a Prince concert. At Paisley, Levi Seacer Jr. used the exact same guitar, and keyboardist Tommy Barbarella wore an outfit that mirrored the screen with a giant flower in the lapel. Big props to Kirk Johnson for putting together this emotional performance.
  • Creative process. This year’s activities focused on Prince’s creative process, with separate interviews with recording engineers Chris James, Tom Garneau and Joshua Welton and photographer Randee St. Nicholas. Most intriguing, though, were the actual recording demos. Fest-goers with VIP tickets were treated to recording sessions at Studio A with NPG or 3rdEyeGirl. With NPG, the 50 fans heard Prince (on tape) lead his musicians through a jam called “Son of Sexy MF” and then the fans recorded their claps in another take. With 3rdEyeGirl, 50 people witnessed guitarist Donna Grantis and drummer Hannah Welton (with Prince and Ida Nielsen on tape) deconstruct a cover of Nichole Nordeman’s “What If”. There were brief Q&A during each session, and some fans signed autographs.
  • Rare songs. Whether it be interviews with the engineers or with singer/actress Jill Jones and dancer/singer Mayte Garcia, music clips – including previously unreleased rarities – were played, adding considerable excitement to the discussion. One of the highlights was listening to the soundcheck of Prince and the Revolution’s 1985 Syracuse concert, released on vinyl and CD on Friday. Never have people been so mesmerized for a full five minutes by someone saying “check one, two” over and over again. Because it was the prince.
  • Photo exhibition. Unlike the Paisley Park guided tours, participants were given free rein in various sections of the museum. What a golden opportunity to spend more than 20 minutes at the magnificent “The Beautiful Ones: Prince’s Custom Shoes”, the finest exhibition Paisley has ever put together, featuring nearly 300 pairs of shoes in cases reminiscent of a grand piano and a tall wall. -guitar speakers. An upcoming runner-up is the new showing of Randee St. Nicholas, who photographed Prince for 25 years. About a dozen of his large photos — all posed except for one at a concert — are creatively assembled amid vast amounts of plastic pearls (collected at eight stores), plush sofas and purple stage lights (shout out to the ingenious Paisley production and design specialist Duff Eisenschenk). The room is topped by a chandelier made by Eisenschenk from Kirk Johnson’s drums. The most memorable photo is a blurry special exposure that looks like Prince has angel wings.
  • VIP Rules. VIP vs General Admission? $900 versus $400. There was a huge discrepancy in price, but more so in experience. Not only did VIPs have access to a lounge at the NPG Music Club (with goodies for breakfast, snacks, drinks and lunch), but they also enjoyed recording sessions, extra panels and a Sunday brunch at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. , where the Steeles performed a prince-themed ensemble performance. According to social media reports, they offered songs by Mavis Staples and an ecclesiastical “Purple Rain” with Seacer on guitar.
  • Rare souvenir. All the Celebration 2022 attendees received a beautiful parting gift – a 7 inch vinyl single of “Diamonds and Pearls”/”Nothing Compares 2 U” from that 1992 Glam Slam show. Very cool.
  • Women rule. My unofficial demographic survey suggests that 80% of Feast-goers were women. And the vast majority of purple people came from out of town, not Minnesota.
  • Encounters. Celebration 2022 allowed Purple families, who are often connected on social media, to meet in person. It has been a pleasure for me to spend time with, among others, academics (including De Angela Duff, Elliott Powell, and Zaheer Ali) and the younger generation (including Casey Rain of England and the indefatigable KaNisa Williams of Atlanta, who took notes copious and tweeted reports, with archival footage, whenever she could get out of Paisley and get access to the phone).

Quoted quotes

“No band could sound that funky. We’ve had 24 versions (tracks) of it.”

Chris James, engineer in Prince as a one-man band

“Prince, for me, it’s the last bar. There will never be a higher bar.”

– Guitar player Levi Seacer, Jr.

“The setting was the problem. We weren’t getting along. It wasn’t the original script. The album was much prettier than we could have created visually. It was too low. Playing the film. It was a little forced.”

Jill Jones in the 1990 film “Graffiti Bridge”

“Silence is the best compliment sometimes.”

Tom Garneau, engineer of Prince’s reaction to his work

“The brother could hear the grass growing.”

Joshua Weltonengineer, about Prince’s listening skills

“Very few people said ‘No’ to him. If you did, he’d say ‘Why?’ ”

Joshua Welton, engineer

“Definitely not in my vocabulary.”

Mayte Garcia, reacting to the lyrics “I could be your wife” in the unreleased song “Latino Barbie Doll” that Prince wrote for Sheila E and Garcia later recorded – and married him

“He wasn’t the crying type. I think I saw him cry once.”

Mayte Garcia, Prince’s ex-wife

“He was a beautiful, small person on the outside. A gigantic presence on the inside. There’s always a story in his eyes.”

Randee Saint Nicholas, photographer

“No matter his actual height, he’s a giant.”

Duff Eisenschenk, production and design specialist

suggestions

  • Artists. Celebration time to step up your game with live entertainment. When Prince himself introduced “Celebrations” in the early 2000s, he looked to the likes of Norah Jones and Erykah Badu to perform. Friday’s show by the amusing BrownMark and the Bad Boys of Paisley Park sounded like a glorified bar band covering Prince and Mazarati. How about seeking out some celebrities with Purple connections like Mavis Staples, Stokley, Janelle Monae, Lenny Kravitz, Sounds of Blackness, Alicia Keys solo or Questlove as a DJ? Or Dave Chappelle?
  • Panelists. Could Celebration be more imaginative and ambitious in recruiting speakers? Over the years, partygoers have listened to many engineers, photographers, musicians, dancers and fashion designers. If not constrained by confidentiality agreements, consider managers, promoters, security personnel, chefs, personal assistants, publicists, archivists, and film (or video) directors. Maybe Prince’s brothers, if they could get along. Ask participants for a wish list.
  • Overcrowded. A panel should probably be limited to two or three speakers. This year’s discussion of the shoe show with five speakers was at least two people too many. Not used to being on stage, everyone except one panelist was either too shy or too unstable. Not every creative person can speak in front of a large group.
  • Questions and answers. Why not let audience members ask the speakers a few questions, perhaps sending in questions that can be examined?
  • More locations. Could other nearby venues – Lake Ann Park, Arboretum or Chanhassen Dinner Theaters – be incorporated in some way?
  • More days. Compressing everything (except the Steeles’ brunch and a party for the unveiling of the Prince mural in downtown Minneapolis) into two days of marathon was pretty exhausting. Previous Celebrations, which had a significantly larger number of participants (4,000 versus 800 this year), spread the events over four days. Are three shorter days preferable? Time to do a formal survey of the Feast participants.

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