Summer Clubbin'

Ten nightspots that manage to keep patrons and bands cool

When I migrated here from New York, I hadn't counted on how near impossible it would be to put a band together and keep it focused during the hot summer months. Even the lamest justifications for missing rehearsals, from the persistent "Uhh, I spaced it, man" to the truly wretched "Party of Five season finale" defense, seem almost reasonable when three-digit brain baking is taken into account. Though I eventually lucked out with Serene Dominic & the Semi-Detached and Vic Masters & the Torchbearers, I have also crafted one-man shows because it means my summers are free from complaints like, "Dude, my car won't run if it's over 78 degrees." Or, "Dude, there's, like, stairs at that place."

One of my first shows here was an outdoor gig in Hayden Square in June. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I decided to face heat exhaustion -- head on! And hat on! And overcoat on! Three songs into the set, I tumbled limply over the stage monitor, resuscitated not by "show must go on" hubris or jeers of "Why don't they ever get someone good to play these things?" but rather by the wisp of air conditioning that traveled across the thin air when someone opened the door of Gibson's some 50 feet away from the stage. Yes, it was hot. Wanna make something of it, Hemingway?

Summer means brutal fun for AZ working bands, even at night and indoors where just loading gear into a club can give you a stroke. So unless you make like the late, great Juicebox Heroes, who strictly played pool parties one summer and took the Nestea plunge every other number, here are some viable venues to keep active in during three-digit season.

Dark equals cool.
Dark equals cool.
It's just sandal-ous.
It's just sandal-ous.

1. Hollywood Alley, 2610 West Baseline Road, Mesa, 480-820-7117
This Valley stalwart has two large, comfy rooms all year 'round; in summer all you need to know is there are 10 dedicated vents and the A/C is cranked to 11. Plus, as a boon to bands, the load-in area is conveniently located near the stage and away from people, which saves you countless minutes to console your hot head with icy beer.

2. Boston's (formerly Priceless Inn), 5014 South Price Road, Tempe, 480-897-1466
Tom Reardon of Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings and Pinky Tuscadero has fond, sweaty memories of the old Boston's on McClintock Drive. "The lights inside would just melt your skull, even in the winter, so summers were twice as bad." The new incarnation is several shades cooler, with a "roundabout" bar that provides plenty of ideal vantage points to watch bands, and comfortable couches in dimly lighted areas providing additional chill. Best of all, a great PA that doesn't overheat like a Ford Pinto.

3. Jugheads, 5110 East McDowell Road, Phoenix, 602-225-0307
Although it goes against conventional wisdom to book six bands seven nights a week in the summer when things are slower, don't tell that to Sid Copeland, beloved owner of this establishment, which is twice as busy in August as any other club. "People don't go out in summer; you've got to give them a reason." And since Copeland and wife Tanya are always there, bands get taken care of, even if it means pulling money out of his own pocket to pay a touring band that didn't draw. "Bands are your business. Some of these bands are gonna be on the road for two months. If they show up early, buy 'em a pizza. Chances are they're tired, hungry, got treated like shit at the last venue. You introduce them to Phoenix. Let 'em know Phoenix has a great scene." As for coolest, darkest spot, try the back pool table area. Just don't misplace your drink.

4. Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, 602-462-5516
Electronica, emo, punk and hardcore without any danger of hot flashing MGD neon signs. All-ages shows mean your coolant's always gonna be soda pop, and an able swamp cooler is no match for 50 to 150 sweaty emos jumping up and downbeat. But 100 percent DIY fans will gladly extend to fanning themselves with a club calendar, and talent booker Leslie Barton has no heat horror stories to speak of. "I choose to live here. I love the heat," she says. For least hot spots to stand on just such a packed night, Barton suggests "right in front of the stage or by the soundboard. Certainly not in my office!!"

5. The Rogue, 423 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-947-3580
A fine punk rock club nestled on the Scottsdale/Tempe border (a Rogue West has recently opened at 35th Avenue and Northern [602-841-6411] and will have bands virtually every night in the summer). How's this is for climate control -- the jukebox never disappoints, the beers are cheap, and the women are . . . spiky haired some of the time. Coolest spot? Why, the bags under Johnny Thunders' eye in the punk rock wall mural, thanks for asking.

6. The Clubhouse Music Venue, 1320 East Broadway Road, Tempe, 480-232-5314
Since its conversion from Billy Gordon's, this venue has enjoyed more renovations than Joan Rivers' front grille. Back then you had to traverse an adjacent dog-track betting parlor and sports bar just to land restroom privileges. Now the Clubhouse has its own water closets and is the only local venue with two stages -- the new one, added this past October, is the largest in the Valley save for the Marquee Theatre, and the old stage doubles as a VIP section for big shows like Presidents of the United States of America. The place has a capacity of 700 to 800, and talent booker Eugenia notes that, A/C-wise, "sitting right around the bar is the coolest area. When the air's cranking, people pull on sweaters." Sweaters? People wear sweaters here?

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