Why AZ Does Not Suck Episode 1

Episode 1: Prescott (Part 1)

When a friend asked me to write a weekly column about the Prescott AZ “local music scene” a few years ago in an arts-rag that has since sailed over the print-media horizon, I grumbled to myself “what music scene?” Sure, there were all the usual suspects playing at all the usual watering holes on the usual nights of the week, but that hardly constitutes a “scene.” I still did it, mind you, because I had never done it before, was pretty sure I wasn’t even qualified, and usually, that guarantees I will make a sprawling and grandiose attempt. Thankfully, no one has ever asked me to perform brain surgery or fly a plane.

Looking back on that, it occurs to me that I have always had a lump of coal where my heart should be when it comes to Arizona’s cultural tableau. Maybe it’s my ill-founded mid-Atlantic snootiness, or maybe the fact that I lived in Phoenix for a hot minute and suffered through the darkness before the dawn of its now thriving downtown arts/music renaissance.  Whatever the reason, I have never before uttered the phrase: “Here’s why Arizona doesn’t suck,” nor do I feel remotely qualified to complete the sentence.

So here goes:

The Hive Collective

10959777_10206042411009224_1047890626831217458_nHigh atop my list is this idyllic island of idealism nestled in a nondescript downtown Prescott neighborhood. A house plus a casita on either side of a fenced yard, the Hive Collective is a backyard laboratory for fresh ideas, music, art, and community-mindedness. Though started and almost exclusively run by Prescott College students, the goal is to break down the cultural barriers that too-often separate them from The Townies. Hive Collective events are free and open to all: Mead-making workshops, community yard-sales, dry-events for the underage and rehab crowd, and yes, gloriously, musical performances on the home-built stage. Here, you won’t find me grumbling about the banality of tourist-friendly bar bands: They’ll be on Whiskey Row hacking through some insipid rendition of Brown Eyed Girl miles from where anyone can hear them.

By contrast, the Hive’s taste is fresh and their vision for the space sparkles with clarity. On a given night, you’re likely to hear, see, or taste something you couldn’t pay to experience in Prescott. I almost chafe at writing this because I don’t want this nearly secret oasis overrun with riff-raff, but alas, the Hive’s vision is all about inclusion, and anyway, the riff-raff probably stopped reading this after I referred to “Arizona’s cultural tableau.” As spring sets in and summer approaches, this outdoor delight is well worth your investigation.

Lone Pine Quails

This past fall, when I near-accidentally visited the Hive Collective for the first time, I fell upon a group of musicians around a fire playing old-timey tunes fit for the soundtrack of a lost Cohen brothers screenplay. At their epicenter, the singularly talented Parker Smith hammered on a banjo and channeled singers from the era of wax records whose names and faces are lost to history. His raspy tenor cut and glided over century-old tunes taking us back to a time we could scarcely imagine were it not for the magic of film.

Flanking Parker was the lovely Sasha Timpson who punctuated the rollicking rags with her mandolin and lilted occasional harmonies. Girding up the low end, Zac Mendenhall laid down an insistent, pitch-perfect thrum with his standup bass. Together, the Lone Pine Quails harken to a time before the internet or even TV, when music was streamed on a summer breeze and mastery of instruments and voice was preferred over the mastering of audio files. Recently, I had the rarified delight of catching their set at the 6th annual Miami Loco Arts and Music festival in the modern-day ghost town of Miami, AZ. The crowd was rapt and appropriately awed, as anyone with ears to hear would be. I encourage everyone who is even remotely able to make an effort to hear these fine troubadours.

Lone Pine Quails will perform at 8PM at the Hive Collective with Prescott townies Dutch Holly this Saturday April 4.