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Best Of :: People & Places

Hero Worship
Bob Hoag

See: a video interview with Bob Hoag.

I remember the first time I recorded with Bob Hoag. I was 23 and had been playing in bands for quite some time — long enough to know the score, anyway. Back then, Bob's studio was in a dingy industrial park next to what was probably a chop shop and the creepiest Circle K in the East Valley. The only other company in the studio besides Bob were the three stray cats he had taken in. They all had funny names like "The Fuzz Jr." and the "Shy One," and Bob always made sure to leave food for them before he left. The first time I saw all this, I remember thinking, "There is no way great records are made here."

Bob proved me wrong.

My band The Loveblisters spent two weeks at Mesa's Flying Blanket recording what would be our first EP. We didn't have a drummer back then, so Bob filled in. It didn't take long for us to realize that we weren't the great band that we thought we were.

At least not yet.

Anytime one of us missed a note or slipped off the beat — even the slightest — Bob would start us over, and if one of us wasn't cutting it while recording a track, Bob would put them on mute and turn to those of us in the room and say, "If he doesn't get it in the next three takes, I'm going to go in there and do it. I mean, you're paying me by the hour."

Bob wasn't just recording us, and what he was doing went well beyond "producing" us. He was whipping us into shape. We took Bob's mentorship, along with the masters, away from that session and found ourselves tighter and more polished than we ever thought possible. And the EP sounded stellar. So good, in fact, that New Times called it the best local pop record of the year.

Thanks, Bob.

Bob has done what he did with my band countless times with countless other bands. His résumé reads like a who's who of heavies from the Phoenix music scene over the past 10 years. From The Format and Dear and the Headlights to local favorites like What Laura and Black Carl, Bob has consistently taken scrappy, young, ambitious bands and polished them up while making huge-sounding records. In fact, many of the artists Bob has recorded have transcended local popularity and become prominent regional and national acts, bringing long overdue attention to the creative community that calls Phoenix home. — Lou Kummerer

New Times contributor and longtime Valley musician Lou Kummerer knows a thing or two about talent. He interviewed Bob Hoag on August 16 at Flying Blanket studio in Mesa.

I live in Phoenix because I absolutely detest the rain.

When I was a kid, I wanted to make movies. That was the only thing I wanted to do, and it's actually crazy that my whole life has ended up revolving around music.

While I'm driving, I tend to like to get to the speed limit as fast as humanly possible, and I like to try to take advantage of any open space on the road.

My favorite word is "piffy."

My least favorite word is "fetid."

My favorite sound is my wife's laugh. My kids' laughter is creeping up on that, but for now, it's still my wife.

The sound that I hate is motorcycles.

My favorite swear word is wookiefucker. (But I would like to be able to show this to my parents, so maybe skip that.)

My hero is my grandpa — my dad's dad. He's had a really awesome life and it seems like he's done everything really well. He has a pretty big family and he's been married to the same woman his whole life. He hung out with Joe DiMaggio in bars in Atlantic City and bought Frank Sinatra a drink once at the 500 Club in Atlantic City — so, of course he's my hero because of that. He's a man of integrity and honesty, but in a really simple and humble way. He's just everything I could ever want to be as a person. He's a solid dude.

Right before I go to bed, I almost always eat a bowl of ice cream and try to watch a half-hour to an hour of television.

Best Art in a Cigarette Machine
The Art-o-mat Machine, at Vision Gallery

Want an original piece of art but can't afford the hefty price tag? Enter the Art-o-mat, a restored vintage cigarette machine that poops out handcrafted art pieces as if they were gumball-machine trinkets. The project began in 1997, when North Carolina artist Clark Whittington displayed his black-and-white photos like old-school ciggies. People loved them so much that the display became a permanent fixture and the idea blossomed into a national network of machines (though this is the only one in Arizona). Pop your cash in the slot, pull the old-timey plastic knob and out comes a work of art from the project's huge roster. Most are pretty amusing. Recent sightings at the slick chrome machine include Bearded Bunnies by William Hessian, Victorian vignettes, and Julie Graces' "Peep Show" secret spy mini-telescopes. You're obviously not going to get a Van Gogh-quality oil painting here, but for $5, any piece of art better than a line drawing is a steal.

10 E. Chicago St., Chandler, 85225
MAP
480-782-2695
Best Way to Get Around Old Town Scottsdale

Those Christian Louboutin kicks looked damn cute when you saw them on sale at Barney's — and even cuter when you wore 'em — but honestly, that's hardly practical footwear for an evening of walking around Old Town. Easy on the eyes, murder on the feet. Since your pocketbook's emptier than Lady Gaga's head, following your latest shoe-gasm, we've got a suggestion that's equally chic and cheap: Hop aboard one of the four Bunny Rides street-legal golf carts puttering from club to club. Operated by entrepreneur Aaron Lipson, these eight-passenger rides provide complimentary jaunts (although tips are appreciated) from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday night. Decorated in electric pink livery and pumping out Top 40 tracks via built-in stereos, Bunny Rides are hard to miss, even after dark. Lipson's crew cruises a service area encompassing Old Town (which stretches south from Chaparral to Thomas roads, and east between 68th Street and Hayden Road), which means schlepping slews of drunken divas and dudes to danceterias, as well as back to nearby hotels. "People get loud and crazy, girls show their boobs, you name it," Lipson says. "It's like a party on wheels." Some caveats: They won't take you home, and those appearing to be overintoxicated aren't permitted to ride. "We don't wanna get sued if people fall out," he says. Besides, why risk the chance of scuffing up your $500 babies? Reach Bunny Rides at 602-405-2106.

Best Humbling Fact
Phoenix is short.

We've long thought Phoenix's skyline was pretty — if a little odd. Why do there appear to be two downtowns, and why does one lone skyscraper — the building formerly known as the Dial Tower — rise up from the earth between them? Then we learned something about our skyline that got us asking another question. Why are we so short? Here's a telling fact: At 483 feet, Chase Tower is Arizona's tallest building. Okay, maybe that number doesn't mean anything to you, so let's put it in perspective. Arkansas has a building that's 546 feet high. We're talking about Arkansas, the land of Walmart and rampant shoelessness. Actually, such less-urbanized and less-populous states as Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Nebraska all have buildings taller than the biggest and best of Arizona. Chase Tower wouldn't be one of the 20 tallest buildings in Texas, and that state isn't exactly known for passionate urban planning. Actually, of the country's 10 largest cities, only San Jose, California, has a tallest building shorter than Chase Tower, and, let's be honest: No one knows how or why San Jose is one of the country's 10 largest cities.

201 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 85004
MAP
602-221-4724
Best Phoenix History Lesson
Phoenix Retro Spectacular at Phoenix Metro Retro

As a former New Yorker who's lived in the Valley for a decade, Marshall Shore may know a lot more about Phoenix history than most natives. Like the fact that Mr. Lucky's was intended to be Arizona's first casino or that Wayne Newton was a regular performer at Bill Johnson's Big Apple. Shore, who calls himself an information curator, deals hour-long doses of local lore each month at the Phoenix Retro Spectacular. For a fiver, listeners and fellow tale-tellers can sip wine and lounge on vintage furniture at Phoenix Metro Retro while Shore, through stories and images, shares his understanding of Phoenix antiquity and the importance of saving it.

708 W. Hazelwood St., Phoenix, 85013
MAP
602-279-0702
Best Photo Opportunity

Photo booths are always cool, like black T-shirts and motorcycles. They practically invite rebellion, so we give ourselves permission to act up. We contort our bodies with those of our friends and family as we try to get everyone in the frame. In short, we ham it up. So what could be better than a traveling photo booth? Enter Mr. Fun Booth, where you can take as many digital pictures as you like with a nifty remote control inside the 2-by-2-by-6-foot box. Renting Mr. Fun Booth comes with delivery within 50 miles of Central Phoenix, setup and teardown of the booth, three hours of shooting time, and a webpage for viewing and/or purchasing prints. Call 480-588-2778, and have fun.

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Hero Worship: Bob Hoag

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