By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
That Big Playboy in the sky works in mysterious ways. The Lesbian Johnny Knoxville and I had chosen to ride on Minder Binder's ska-punk Thursdays, expecting to find folks bouncing their heads to the sounds of local, Von Dutch-wearin', AFI wanna-bes. But when we arrive at that big, red barn on McClintock, the spot's deader than Spalding Gray in New York's East River.
"We had to cancel it because of the rain," the promoter tells us, out back near the large open-air stage. Rain? I look at the ground, dry as an AA meeting. There had been a thunderstorm and a couple of drops earlier, but . . . This town reminds me a little of my former home in Dixie, where we'd get that one snowstorm a year dropping about an inch of powder. They'd roll up the sidewalks for at least a week.
Just as I'm about to stroke out because my plans for a night of entertainment have been foiled by the weather, Jett spits, "Don't stress, my éclair-eatin' homie. If you stay ready, you ain't got to get ready."
"The Blunt Club, fool! It's every Thursday at the Priceless Inn, Price and Baseline. They've got break-dancers, breakbeats, and big, cheap-ass beers."
Turns out the Blunt Club is a sucka-free Thursday night event brought to you by graf-artist gone legal/urban-renaissance man Adam Dumper, a.k.a. Dumperfoo. He's one of the art rebels behind Wet Paint's "Final Fridays," as well as numerous other happenings in Tempe and beyond.
The Blunt boasts talents like "verbal taxidermist" Emerg McVay of Bionic Jive, and that über-suave sophisticate and PHX Picasso Jules Demetrius, whose robotic, agitprop stylings might give Dick Cheney that final heart attack we've all been waiting for. There's poetry, turntable virtuosity from DJs like Organic, break-dancing from troupes such as the Phunky Phoenicians, and a dressed-down, laid-back crowd that can best be described as "anti-Scottsdale." Seems like everyone's an artist, a poet, or a performer doing their best to blow down doors with their creativity.
There's a $5 cover. Inside, fat beats are pounding the walls as guys in hand-painted hats, worn jeans and tees talk up waifish, longhaired Norah Jones, Nellie McKay look-alikes. To one side's a long, rectangular bar where everyone seems to rock huge glass steins of brew.
This looks out onto a larger space with a stage, arrayed with four turntables and, at the moment, one DJ in a ski cap pulled low over his eyes. There's a smattering of bodies on the dance floor. Everyone else seems to be parked on a couch, or on a barstool, slightly fried. As I get a vodka rocks, and Jett a vodka-tonic, the crowd coming through the door grows denser, and the party spills onto the sidewalk. We gulp our drinks, then head outside for rotation as there's too much bass thumpin' for us to do more than mouth instructions to each other.
Out in front, we run into Gizmo, 27, a booful African-American gal with luscious lips and tricolored dreads held up in a black wrap. Dressed in earth tones save for her jean jacket, Gizmo tells me she's a cosmetologist at a Mesa salon by day and a DJ by night. I ask her 'bout the name.
"It started when Gremlins came out," she smiles warmly. "I was in a drill band when I was 8 years old, and I used to wear a Gremlinssweat shirt to practice all the time. I was the youngest kid, and my hair used to be in all these beads and braids, so I was kind of the showstopper. So everybody just started calling me Gizmo. Even my grandmother calls me Giz."
"Why are you here tonight, Gizmo?"
"To check out Organic. He's the dopest DJ in the whole wide world. I used to DJ here on Sundays. So I come here and bite his style. I pretend like I'm part of the crowd, but I steal his techniques and then I go home and practice."
"Better watch out," says Jett. "Your secret'll be out."
"That's cool," she grins. "I tell Organic that all the time. When it comes to DJ-ing, I think Organic has it all: rap, rock, spoken word. He even DJs cartoons, like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. He mixes a lot of old and new stuff together, so when he DJs, it's like a gumbo. He's got meat, shrimp, everything in there."
Jett nudges me toward one of the hosts, Emerg, who likes to be called Merg for short. Merg is about as large as I am, but blacker than me, fo sure, with a headful of short cornrows.
Merg and his group, Bionic Jive, have toured with Nas and Eminem, and he's kind enough to give me a copy of his eponymously titled solo CD this night, which I have since listened to and can testify is fresher than anything you can buy on a major label. Actually, Bionic Jive was on a major label, but now they're doing it independently at www.flexbeats.com.