The music scene doesn't happen on its own. What we see on the surface is the result of passionate people behind the scenes, writing, creating, organizing, promoting, and working tirelessly to bring music to the venues, bars, and houses of Metro Phoenix. We will look at 25 here, some familiar, some new . Be sure to check out our 100 Tastemakers and 100 Creatives as well.
When New Times tried to define a so-called "Phoenix Sound" in our 10 Absolutely Essential Arizona Records feature in June, our scribe Jason P. Woodbury wrote this:
"Phoenix music, like Phoenix itself, is diffuse, each sound seemingly removed from the other by vast desert miles, as far as Tempe is from Glendale, or downtown Phoenix from Gilbert. ... And the music made here, at its best or most expressive, reflects this."
Like the greater Phoenix music scene, the Valley's DIY scene operates in pretty much the same way, says Andy Warpigs, who's been a staple organizer and musician in the scene for years.
'The local DIY scene is splintered into little groups of creative types in the various cities and suburbs in the valley," he says. "Not many people or artists actually travel between these groups, but I think even people in the scene would be very surprised how much is actually going on if they were to make a wider variety of friends and venture more out of their comfort zones."
As an example of the scene's inherent eclecticism, which Warpigs describes as having a permanently temporary nature as musicians and fans move in and out between scenes, Warpigs runs Nu Skool, a DIY collective focused on so-called "weird music" that needed a home after Trunk Space closed in May. Get him talking and he'll rattle of lists of DIY collectives around town, his favorite being Pen Cap collective, a group aiming to create "inclusive events and support work by [people of color], femme folk, and queer folk."
Warpigs' niche is the downtown music scene, as he performed at and booked shows for Trunk Space for a significant chunk of time. But he's also a man about town, the Valley's DIY socialite who seems to know and get along with almost everyone organizing, attending, and performing at DIY shows around town. The third generation Arizonan hails from the West Valley and now fully dedicates himself to art, be that as an organizer or a musician. He's a tireless worker as well, noting that DIY scenes require "10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration."
"Rather than assimilating to a corporate structure to meet these needs, DIY seeks to directly put the means in the hands of the young or the poor or the disenfranchised," Warpigs explains. "It allows teenagers to break rules and party while they're still young and can enjoy life. It allows people in their 20s to go to bad ass shows for about a quarter of the price of a traditional venue. And allows up-and-coming musicians the opportunity to play in front of packed rooms of music fans having the time of their lives without having to sell 50 tickets for some venue, pay for a hotel room, or deal with bored normies or violent bigots you might encounter at the average American sports bar."
The flip side of Warpigs' organizational ambitions is his music. Andy Warpigs' music is folk-punk in its bones, tempered by a southwestern sensibility and informed by western imagery and its founder's DIY roots. He hopes to release the follow-up to his last album, Folk Punk Yourself, sometime this year.
We talked to Warpigs about inclusiveness in the DIY scene, his thoughts on what make a scene great, and a few of his favorite things about the Phoenix music community.
How would you describe what you do? Why are you involved in the Phoenix music scene? It's like a postmodern kinda art therapy, I think? I'm grappling for understanding, and music and art is my way of finding that understanding and connecting to people.
What makes a good song? A good song is all about writing and craft to me. I love noise music and avant garde stuff too, but for me nothing beats a good honest pop song.
What is currently inspiring you? Right now it seems like all of the dystopian sci-fi movies and comic books that I liked as a kid could come true any day, with the direction some of our global leadership is taking. That's interesting in a way. I'm very prone to escapism and imagination, as I feel a lot of millennials are.
What's your favorite local band? My favorite local band right now Is Cheap Hotels. They are just really fun and unpretentious people, so we play out with them a lot..
What do you think the music scene needs most? The music scene needs to be more accessible. The DIY scene is the backbone of any art scene, and more of the people that like and enjoy it need to be able to make music/art if it is something they feel they would like to try out.
What's the best concert you've ever seen in Phoenix? The best concert I've been to in Phoenix was Mischief Brew in Margaret T. Hance Park. The city actually wrote the lead singer Erik Peters threatening emails trying to convince him not to play, and he still came through and did the show for free and the hundred plus kids there probably had one of the greatest nights of their lives.
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What's your favorite venue, living or dead, in the Valley?
Old Trunk Space was my favorite venue, hands down. I saw Lightning Bolt and Ty Seagal play there before they were even famous.
How would you define a "DIY scene"? A DIY scene is a community of people centered around art. These are people who are themselves artist, who find art to be an integral part of their lives, or people who just consider themselves to be patrons of art. Rather than assimilating to a corporate structure to meet these needs, DIY seeks to directly put the means in the hands of the young or the poor or the disenfranchised.
What makes a scene thrive? A scene thrives on new fans, who in turn become new artists. If not artists, they may be the next generation of bookers, or managers, or venue owners.