One year ago today, on October 24th, 2015...
Judith Hill, the acclaimed backup vocalist featured on TV's "The Voice," the Michael Jackson concert film "This Is It," and the Academy Award-winning documentary "20 Feet from Stardom," had just released her Prince-assisted debut album "Back in Time." Prince was throwing an impromptu album release party at his own Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen, MN. Unlike most of his previous pop-up Paisley parties, Prince took to Twitter ahead of time to confirm that he would be taking the stage as co-headliner. The kicker? Only a $10 cover charge to get in. Coming from the man who sometimes had intimate shows that started at $300 to get in, that was one big kicker. There was no way my friend Peter and I were going to miss this.
Only a legend like Prince could get people from across the globe to drop everything and fly to Minnesota for a last minute show, but that's what they did. Less than 12 hours after Prince's tweet went out, they pulled up in their airport taxis and rental cars, and queued up outside with the rest of us in a sort of degrading, very strict and cold outdoor line across the street from the chainlink gates of the Paisley parking lot. Today, it's safe to assume that not a single one of us, regardless of our country of residence, can possibly regret that spending that $10 to get in.
For all intents and purposes, it was a Prince show. I recall Judith Hill performing a couple of her album tracks, but mostly she was on the side of the stage watching Prince and his band, like the rest of us. It wasn't a continuous two-hour Prince set. Hello, it was a $10 show. The Purple One rightfully milked us for all we were worth energy-wise, constantly teasing us by leaving the stage after playing as little as one song... with hour-long breaks in between.
As Trains Go By - Judith Hill
Cry Cry Cry - Judith Hill cover)
All the Critics Love U in New York (Performed as All The Critics Love U in Minneapolis) - Prince
A Love Bizarre (Sheila E. cover) - Prince
The Glamorous Life (Sheila E. cover) - Prince
Stratus (Billy Cobham cover) - Prince
My People - Judith Hill
Use Me (Bill Withers cover) - Prince
Million $ Show - Prince & Judith Hill duet
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) [Sly & The Family Stone cover] - Prince
Alphabet St. - Prince
Sign “☮” the Times - Prince
777-9311 (The Time cover) - Prince
Hot Thing - Prince
This night was before the general public knew Prince was living full-time inside the Paisley Park compound. What a warm feeling it was when I finally found out that Peter and I had experienced some wonderful nights jamming, merch-shopping and spectating inside of Prince's private residence.
The cherry on top of our final Paisley adventure came when Prince strolled by the bench we were sitting on. Peter, at a loss for words, simply greets the Artist. "Oh hi, Prince," he says.
Prince's reply? "Hi," with that iconic, sexy wink.
Final Thoughts: Unplugged
I have strong memories of all my visits to Paisley Park, not because of snaps or status updates, but because I was in the moment every second I was there. No phones were allowed. Anyone seen with an electronic device would be escorted off the premises and banned forever.
Because of that, the time I spent at Paisley Park was likely the closest I'll ever get to living in the 1980s. I'm not saying Prince lived in the past in recent years - on the contrary, he was actually still the most forward-thinking musician alive - but the no-phones rule ensured we actually met new friends, danced, and most importantly, focused on the music.
Time passed so slowly, but it was actually kind of amazing. Peter and I repeatedly visited the lone clock in the second performance hall, which was high up and shrouded in darkness. There were times where a minute felt like 10 to me. Unplugging feels good. It's all but guaranteed that one day soon we as a culture will seek similarly unplugged experiences like Prince's old parties at Paisley Park.