Axis Powers

A look at what makes Tucsonans gush over one of Scottsdale's cheesiest dance clubs

Shudder to think that here in Phoenix, more than 12,000 people show up to see rock relics like Poison and Ratt while AOR radio stations look forward to the upcoming performances of Journey and Foreigner.

But wait, there's more. Missing Persons, The Outfield, Peter Frampton, Billy Squier, and Sammy Hagar are all scheduled to appear, and if that's not enough crap, Barenaked Ladies are coming around, too. But hey, if the promoters are putting this stuff on sale, somebody's buying tickets.

They say that rock 'n' roll will never die, but at this point it surely stinks to high heaven of formaldehyde. Still, many Phoenicians hold on. Classic-rock listeners will never forget what everyone else already has. Hell, even Scott Evil had to remind his father, Dr. Evil, that the Alan Parsons Project was a progressive rock band. KSLX and KDKB are still spinning Yes and Kansas, and at times, that seems to be the most "progressive" thing about Phoenix.

If the city were sliced up like a demographic pie, there's no doubt that rock and country would represent the majority. The smaller pieces would include everything else. No wonder our nightlife seems so behind the times; the nightspots that are more up-to-date cater to a very small part of our population. This is why L.A. seems so much more exciting. They have more than enough people to make up a huge pie packed full of flavors--no matter how you slice it.

So, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that the turnover-size Tucson considers Phoenix the place to be. Downtown on Congress Street, a small hipjoint called Heartfive was recently full of patrons that could not stop raving about ultra-cool Phoenix nightlife.

"Phoenix is way different," says Rory Mendoza as he relaxes on the amoeba-shaped couches in the lounge area. "The scene is good, the style is good and there's more of a variety of stuff to do. There's a lot of classy, good-looking people and way good-looking girls. I like Scottsdale. I like Axis. I'm moving there."

Interestingly enough, Mendoza was far from alone in his assessment. A significant number of people at Heartfive made glowing comments about Axis. Ironically, Heartfive--the club they were hanging out in--has much more character than Axis will ever approach.

Apparently, Mendoza and the gang have not traveled to Axis very recently because none of them mentioned Radius, the newer, bright and shiny erection that stands connected to Axis. I suspect that it would look like NY's Palladium to these club-starved hipsters in Tucson. Nonetheless, their comments have inspired an In the City investigation.

So, what's the big deal? Well, Axis/Radius is "world famous." At least that's what a DJ announced at the end of a crowded Thursday ladies night. Perhaps it's best to let Axis/Radius' patrons tell it like it is. What's most interesting is that they simultaneously praised and pummeled the popular spot. Some of the opinions reflected the frustrations these people feel about the entire AZ club scene, which they blame Radius for contributing to. Typically, those who supposedly "hate" the club did not leave until 1 a.m. But hey, Phoenicians are known to be quite finicky.

On Radius' side, literally, is Tammy Pearce, who offers, "It's a really good club. It's the best music mix. I went to dinner with one of the DJs and he brought along a magazine that explained the best things to play in a club. They obviously do their homework."

Andrea Garcia begs to differ, to put it lightly. "My friend is visiting from Miami and I'm so embarrassed," she exclaims. "I mean, the music in AZ is like, What?! Why are they [Radius] playing 'Funky Cold Medina'? It figures, though. This place got cheesy really fast. At first they had a strict dress code, and then a month later, anybody could get in. At first, they were more progressive, but they sold out and conformed to the masses. Every time I come here, they play 'Last Dance' at the end of the night," Garcia says with a laugh.

Echoing her dissatisfaction is London Andrews, a clubgoer who has experienced much of what Europe has to offer. He thinks, "It used to be dressier and classier, but now people are in shorts and tee shirts. The guys can't dress at all and the girls are totally fake." At that very moment, the DJ throws on some Beastie Boys, and the Ibiza-loving Andrews continues. "What is this? Beastie Boys? Give me a break. That's fine if you're at Club Rio. The music is even worse on the other side."

That side he refers to is Axis, and over there Melissa Huff shows no sympathy. "Too crowded. It sucks. The music is too fake, just popular crap [on the Axis side]. Too much of a variety of people--from white trash to wanna-be valet parking pieces of shit."

While Huff gripes, Julie Hampton gushes, "It's the best! What other club even comes close? You've got two sides to choose from. Axis plays great dance music and you can watch the video on a big screen at the same time. Everybody looks great and the atmosphere is cool with the wood and staircases and everything.

"It's so exciting to come here when it's busy. From the street you can see shiny expensive cars and Radius' incredible light show. Nothing matches the energy that Radius has."

Looking around--Radius, that is--there is indeed energy on this Thursday evening, and everybody is having a blast. Like little numbered balls in a lottery machine, heads bounce around most unpredictably to the strong synthesized cadence of melodic trance. Up the lighted stainless-steel staircase, people watchers look down upon the action, occasionally pointing at whoever looks interesting. Female bartenders--dressed in vinyl attire that Barbarella would die for--struggle to serve a throng of thirsty customers. Evidently, those who complained are taking what they can get as if to say, "Oh, well, there's nowhere else to go--might as well party."

Actually, Andrews and Garcia, who were so disgruntled with the musical selections, brought up Meqca as a palace of the progressive--albeit a bit too small.

"Phoenix is in need of a good club," Andrews says. "Maybe like Meqca, but way larger. In Europe there's house and techno on the radio all the time, but not many places here play a solid mix of it consistently. I have never ever heard Top 40 dance type stuff there [Meqca]. Plus, the girls are better--more class."

Garcia offers, "Phoenix is like a delayed reaction or something. We're so behind in music. I like that place Meqca 'cause it has good music and good people."

Suddenly, a blond girl at the bar turns her head and retorts, "Meqca's way too pretentious. It's so hard to talk to people there and it seems like the girls are just looking you up and down. The music is so monotonous. It doesn't make me wanna dance." After spilling her drink, she reveals she enjoys karaoke nights at Pattie's. With Corona in hand, she slurs, "Go check out Maloney's or Dos Gringos if you want to meet good people."

Getting back to the more progressive theme at hand, it should be mentioned that promoter Steve Kushnir is bringing Jesse Saunders to Meqca to headline a special event titled "Innocence." Also on the bill is Robert Oleysyck, resident of the legendary Las Vegas superclub Utopia, San Diego percussionist Antonio Sacca, Phoenix's own Z-Trip, and Meqca resident Kevin Brown.

As a pioneer of house music, Saunders has been turning the tables for more than 20 years, and his 1984 single "On & On" has been called the first house single. Saunders himself sums up his skills by saying, "I feel that because I was a DJ when a DJ was just a DJ, and we had to mix records together that were not produced with drum machines and the tempo varied, I can handle any situation at any time, and play for any crowd in the world. I can take the same 18 records and play a two-hour set anywhere. People are always amazed at how I rock the crowd without having crates of records like most other DJs."

Jesse Saunders is scheduled to perform on Thursday, June 24, at Pompeii in Tempe, with Uberzone (midnight to 3 a.m.); and Friday, June 25, at Meqca, with Robert Oleysyck.

Contact Mr. P-body at his online address: mrpbodyscott@hotmail.com

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