11 Things We're Thankful For in the Phoenix Music Scene

Under the right circumstances, Phoenix music fans will turn out.EXPAND
Under the right circumstances, Phoenix music fans will turn out.
Melissa Fossum

There's more to Thanksgiving than just stuffing your face with rich food and drunkenly arguing about politics until at least one distant cousin or in-law breaks starts crying. It's also a time to take stock of everything life's handed you and express gratitude for everything you have. With that in mind, we here at New Times thought we'd reflect on what we're thankful for inside the music scene we all frequent.

Octobasse in the Musical Instrument Museum's Orientation Gallery.EXPAND
Octobasse in the Musical Instrument Museum's Orientation Gallery.
Courtesy of MIM, Photograph by Jacqueline Byers

We're Thankful for the Musical Instrument Museum and the Theater Inside
I am obsessed with the theremin. Invented in the 1920s, the electronic instrument is comprised of two antennae and a wood box. It creates eerie noises based on the placement of the user's hands. The Russian invention is responsible for numerous science-fiction soundtracks and songs from The Beach Boys to Portishead. Visitors to the Music Instrument Museum (MIM) can wave their hands and create sinister sounds of their own (or bad ones like I did during my last visit). You can also see Steve Vai's three-necked guitar, smell the wood used to make violins, listen to a self-playing Yamaha piano, catch a show inside  MIM's acoustically perfect concert hall, or watch videos of unique instruments played in different countries. Phoenician music lovers should be thankful for the MIM’s authoritative collection of music history and the many tools used to create it. JASON KEIL

The SupaJoint faithful at Lost Leaf
The SupaJoint faithful at Lost Leaf
Frank C. Photography

We're Thankful for the Free Concerts Every Night at Lost Leaf
There is only one place in Phoenix where I can see a band or musician perform live music 365 days a year. Cover charges or an intimidating and hormonal all-ages section are a hassle, especially after a politically-charged Thanksgiving dinner or a desperate Sunday evening. At Lost Leaf, located on Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield, there is always a good chance that my favorite chair will be open and a beer will be cold. And the music is always free. The diverse lineup at The Leaf might include Nick Villa’s subtle guitar licks, DJentrification spinning soul with world beats, Running with Bears reading sheet music and nodding at the end of jazz solos, Jerusafunk playing a rare acoustic set, or a ska band from New Jersey. The Lost Leaf is a small and mysterious place that could be in a David Lynch movie written by William S. Burroughs if they both found sugar skulls and craft beer more appealing. There is a joke in advertising that the best line is “Free Beer." We're thankful that The Lost Leaf offers the next best thing: "Free music." AARON HOPKINS-JOHNSON

It didn't take long for Valley Bar to become one of the hippest places in downtown Phoenix.EXPAND
It didn't take long for Valley Bar to become one of the hippest places in downtown Phoenix.
Melissa Fossum

We're Thankful for the Ever-Growing Amount of Venues
As both a music fan and musician, the last few years have been great in terms of the amount good venues found in Phoenix and most of its many suburbs. While there still isn’t a great venue on the West Side of town, at least downtown Phoenix is well-represented, what with Crescent Ballroom, Lost Leaf, the arenas, the theaters, and everything else in between. And with a new 1,800-person venue on the way, things are looking even better. Whether you’re looking to see or play a gig, you’ve got more options now than ever before. TOM REARDON

Donald Dondero performs at the new Trunk Space.EXPAND
Donald Dondero performs at the new Trunk Space.
Jim Louvau

We're Thankful That Trunk Space Came Back
When Trunk Space closed down I distinctly remembered people feeling so bummed they cried. Trunk Space’s return to the Grace Lutheran Church on Third Street has brought back a space for all ages shows downtown. Outside of being a great space to showcase unique and weird music and art, Trunk Space creates a safe place for the youth to come spend their time and enjoy music. The younger music crowd is often shut out of 21-plus shows, so Trunk Space is really important. Plus, it gives smaller bands and touring acts a place to play. KAYLA CLANCY

Slayer hit the Arizona State Fair last month. Slayer!EXPAND
Slayer hit the Arizona State Fair last month. Slayer!
Jim Louvau

We're Thankful for the Arizona State Fair Concerts
Some of us are still smiling from seeing great concerts at the Arizona State Fair this year. Slayer, Flaming Lips, Garbage, and Cheap Trick among others gave fairgoers and music fans a real treat in October, but it wasn’t just this year. In fact, the Arizona State Fair consistently delivers a stellar and varied lineup, so there is a little something for almost any music fan during the almost month the fair is in town. On a personal note, my first ever concert was part of the Arizona State Fair concert series in 1979. My dad took me to see The Knack who was my favorite band at the time and had a popular little song called “My Sharona” that you may have heard once or twice. It was awesome. Thanks, dad. TOM REARDON

The Haymarket Squares
The Haymarket Squares
Rachael Smith

We're Thankful for Those Who Are Fighting the Good Fight
There are those who talk about taking action, effecting positive change, righting the wrongs or even fomenting rebellion. And then those are those who actually set out to make it a reality. We wholeheartedly salute those in the latter camp, the people in Phoenix’s music scene who rise to the occasion and fight the good fight, even when the odds are against them. There’s the Haymarket Squares with their agitprop songs of resistance. Or the folks behind the annual Vanishing Show in Tempe who take a stand against the city’s strict noise ordinances and the heavy handed tactics of its police. And every musician who’s ever penned a song in protest of the soon-to-be-ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All your efforts (and moxie) are appreciated. Don't let the bastards get you down. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

We're thankful for The Thriving House Show and DIY Venue Scene
The house and DIY venues come and go sporadically, but there’s always at least one hosting underground shows. From backyard concerts to shows at band’s houses to pop-up gigs at industrial warehouses, Phoenix has everything, provided you know where to look. It might be a bother not to have a plethora of consistent DIY spots, but I have always found it really exciting that you never know what the next place might be. Plus, it allows people to see that anything really is possible in terms of creating a space; you just have to put the time in and do it yourself. KAYLA CLANCY

We're Thankful for Cheap, Affordable Shows
There are a lot of great things that come with living in the Valley of the Sun (Affordable rents! Quality Mexican food!), and one of the greatest is knowing that you can see a staggering variety of great music at very cheap prices. With most house and bar shows priced below $10 and big indie bands playing Crescent Ballroom & Rebel Lounge shows for $20-30 a ticket, seeing great bands in Phoenix won’t cost you an arm or a leg. Sure, our casino shows will still gouge you with their prices, but that’s to be expected: The house always wins. ASHLEY NAFTULE

Local ravers at a desert party earlier this year.EXPAND
Local ravers at a desert party earlier this year.
Benjamin Leatherman

We're Thankful for the Valley’s Thriving Rave Scene
They’re out there every weekend. Out in the odd corners and far-flung reaches of the Valley, gathering together in a mutual celebration of electronic dance music, moving to the beat, embracing the thrills, and reveling in the moment. Phoenix’s rave community is a scrappy tribe of EDM fans who have carried the torch of the underground party scene through many ups and down over the last several years, including surviving the encroachment of law enforcement or the closing of a few popular warehouses and off-the-radar spots. And they carry it out to the wilderness for desert parties where they dance underneath the night sky until sunrise or into the few remaining venues around town that allow them the freedom to be themselves. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

We're Thankful that the Haters Mostly Keep to Themselves
Sure, there are plenty of dickheads in the local music scene. Based on the comments that are often left on many of our New Times stories, it would seem a good handful of said dickheads are part of the music writing team at the newspaper. Over the years, there have been a few folks who really liked to shoot their mouth off and say things to get people riled up, but we’re very thankful that many of the less than friendly types who are part of the scene in Phoenix typically just keep their crap to themselves. TOM REARDON

Jerusafunk, Saturday, November 7, at MIMFest 2015.EXPAND
Jerusafunk, Saturday, November 7, at MIMFest 2015.
Melina Dellamarggio

We're Thankful for the Bizarre, Supportive Indie Scene that Lets You Be You
Certain parts of the Phoenix music scene like a small community. Anytime you go to a local show, you are bound to see some familiar faces. In these realms, the weirder, the better. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something you’re really passionate about. So let your freak flag fly, Phoenix music homies. The only bad move you could make in the Phoenix music scene is to not be yourself. KAYLA CLANCY


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