Rising from the Ashes
Jen and I sweated out a few years in Phoenix and witnessed the birth of what is now a booming downtown music scene. When we were there, the Roosevelt Arts District was just a kicking, screaming newborn gasping for air. Light rail was still a manic obstacle course of orange cones and angry letters to the editors of the AZ Republic, and the music scene was lagging behind them both. Sure, there was a grip of bands taking turns at downtown hotspots on First Fridays, and playing the now defunct Emerald Lounge on off-weekends, but it wasn’t the fast-rolling snowball it is now. It does our hearts good to see the music scene in the Valley has grown some legs and is walking upright.
Back then, one of the biggest problems was geography: The metro area was so decentralized in the pre-light-rail era that there was nothing to connect the moneyed reaches of the collegiate, phone-holstering East Valley to the edgier central Phoenix neighborhoods. Since everything was still a perilous half-hour drive away, the East Valley micro-scene and the downtown Phoenix scene led separate lives and never the twain would meet. To some extent that’s still true, but despite its many detractors, light rail somewhat changed that. Now party-people from both sides of the Main Line meet in the middle to take in the wonders of Downtown without the looming threat of a DUI at the end of the night, and that’s been good medicine for CenPho arts and music, hipster-ish gentrification notwithstanding.
Rocky Horror at the Firehouse
Following in the tradition of downtown stalwarts like Modified Arts and TrunkSpace, the Firehouse plays host to emerging talents. This past weekend, in a rare convergence of the theatre and downtown music scene fixtures, co-directors Ting Ting and Sheri Amourr brought a multi-media adaptation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to the Firehouse featuring live and recorded music performed by Valley musicians. The production enjoyed a sold-out two night run and featured downtown’s own punk-rocker Andy Warpigs in the Dr. Frank role and legendary Phoenix music scenester Serene Dominic filling Meatloaf’s shoes as Eddie. Behind the scenes, Firehouse gallery owner Michael 23 played host while up-and-coming Phoenix tastemaker/provocateur Jeff Moses of Mazel Toast Presents beat the pavement incessantly to ensure it was a standing-room-only event.
Speaking of Mazel Toast Presents, Jeff Moses has put together another showcase of bands for this coming weekend, this time at Rip’s Ales and Cocktails. Rip’s has steadily grown in popularity among the downtown arts set in recent years and this Saturday’s lineup is sure to bring the crowds with oddball danceable acts like soi-disant “satanic pop” act, B4Skin from Tucson, the surreal Boss Frog – who ripped it up at the Firehouse’s Rocky Horror after-party– and, yes, yours truly Dutch Holly. DJ Scapegoat is on deck to keep the room thumping between sets. All these bands and DJ Scapegoat are veterans of another Mazel Toast-promoted event: the 6th Annual Miami Loco Arts Festival, which was about as wild a party as you can hope for in a place where more than half the commercial buildings are boarded up. It’s no coincidence or secret that Michael 23 of the Firehouse and Jeff Moses colluded to make the Miami fest what it was this year with Miami Art Works Gallery , another of Michael 23’s properties, serving as the epicenter.
Dutch Holly, DJ Scapegoat, Boss Frog and B4Skin play at Rip’s Ales and Cocktails Saturday June 6. $5 doors open at 8PM.