Puppets, Blossoms, a rock 'n' roll troubadour, and a rotating stage. What could be better?
On August 17, the Arizona Music Hall of Fame will induct The Meat Puppets, Gin Blossoms, Nils Lofgren, and Celebrity Theatre with a concert at the celebrated central Phoenix venue. It is the first time the two stellar Valley bands and one of rock 'n' roll's all-time great sidemen have shared a stage together — let alone the stage at Celebrity.
For The Meat Puppets, the journey has been long and strange, indeed. Originally a trio featuring Cris and Curt Kirkwood on bass and guitar, respectively, with Derek Bostrom on drums, the "Puppets," as they are affectionately known by some of the most die-hard fans, have carved out an enviable identity as one of the most eclectic and hard-to-define bands around. The Meat Puppets were lumped in with punk rock, at first, when they debuted in 1980, but their joyfully meandering sound bobbed and swayed away from the hardcore sound of their Phoenix peers. As their legend grew, the highly regarded band became college-rock darlings and their influence was evident in everyone from Beck to Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana.
The Gin Blossoms appeared on the Tempe scene seven years after their fellow inductees The Meat Puppets began, and mainstream commercial success came roughly five years into their career when New Miserable Experience hit the charts in early 1993. “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” are not only classic Arizona songs, but classic songs anywhere, written by the late Doug Hopkins, whose suicide in 1993 put a dark cloud over the band's early success. Robin Wilson (vocals), Jesse Valenzuala (guitar), Bill Leen (bass), and Phil Rhodes (drums) joined Hopkins in what is still considered the classic Gin Blossoms lineup.
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Nils Lofgren, who hails from Chicago but now resides in Scottsdale, is not only the quintessential rock 'n' roll sideman, having played with luminaries like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Ringo Starr, but he’s also a prolific and talented songwriter in his own right. Lofgren has released over 20 solo recordings since 1975. A member of Springsteen’s famed E Street Band since 1984, Lofgren joined the band for their famous “Born In The USA” tour and has been part of The Boss’ team off and on ever since. Most recently, Lofgren played on High Hopes with Springsteen in 2014 and his own Face The Music Tour album in 2015. Lofgren’s rootsy and rockin’ sound has made him a favorite of not only his fellow musicians, but fans around the world.
The final inductee is not a performer, but a place to perform. Celebrity Theatre has been a Valley mainstay since 1964, and the rotating stage has seen a diverse group of musicians, comedians, and stage productions. Everyone from the legendary Washington, D.C., post punk band Fugazi to George Carlin to David Bowie to The Shins has performed at Celebrity Theatre, and that’s just the start. The 2,650-person-capacity venue has a feeling of intimacy unmatched by any other venue of its size in Phoenix. A favorite of local promoter Danny Zelisko, Celebrity Theatre is now well into its sixth decade of existence with no signs of slowing down.
The 2017 Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame is Thursday, August 17. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30. Tickets are $10 to $40, and they go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 19, through the Celebrity Theatre website and the box office.