Years ago, when I lived in Dallas, one of the local bands threw a huge party for itself to celebrate its two-year anniversary. Keeping a band together for two years is a rare, extraordinary feat, its singer explained to me at the time.
I remember being amused by his self-importance, his notion that simply surviving as a group for 24 months qualified as a landmark accomplishment in the history of music.
It's still a bit funny to me, but these days I have a better understanding of the fact that neither bands nor clubs tend to last very long. After all, I've lived here five years and, in that time, I've seen such rock venues as Gibson's, The Heat, Arizona Roadhouse and Brewery, Tempe Bowl and Balboa Café bite the dust.
That's why Boston's 11-year run as an East Valley rock mecca is remarkable, but it doesn't begin to explain the impact of the place, which will shut its doors after what should be a raucous farewell weekend, April 26-27. (In addition to headliner Bionic Jive, the Boston's blowout also will include reunion performances by early club staples such as Pelvic Meatloaf, Beats the Hell Out of Me, and Zig Zag Black.)
"I think it's been huge locally, as far as giving bands an opportunity," says Bionic Jive guitarist Larry Elyea, who says he had his first-ever beer at Boston's. "Fred Green started there, they started doing Tuesday nights and they built a huge following from doing that. Dislocated Styles did the same thing. All the way back to the early '90s, all the bigger rock bands played there. Aside from the Mill Avenue jangle-rock thing, I think Boston's had a really big impact on rock music in Phoenix. And I think it would have continued that way."
The reason it's not continuing is that maintaining the club became too much of a strain for owner Al Nichols and his family. In recent years, Nichols' sons -- Corey, Keith and Jeff -- had helped him book bands and run the bar. But Corey moved to North Carolina a year and a half ago, and Keith found himself occupied with his responsibilities as Bionic Jive's road manager -- a job that became more demanding after the band's Interscope debut, Armageddon Through Your Speakers, was released last October.
With only Jeff available to help out, Al decided to buy a Tempe sports bar (Priceless Inn, at the intersection of Price and Baseline) and sell Boston's.
"He kinda wanted to downsize a little bit, and dealing with the bands all the time is the same thing over and over," Keith says. "It's kinda hard for them to be booking the bands and running things without their sons totally there to help them out, so this is something they can run on their own."
While longtime Boston's patrons -- and the Nichols family itself, for that matter -- would have liked to see the club maintain its format, it's expected that the bar's new owners will transform the space into a Latin dance club.
"It's sad to see it go, but it's time," Keith says. "Now I'm doing that thing with Bionic Jive, and it's all through Boston's that it happened. I'm getting so many calls, and it's unbelievable how many people care about that place."
Boston's farewell weekend is scheduled for Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27. Showtimes are 8 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Rock the Votes: The results are in for the seventh annual New Times Music Awards, and the winners are a mix of familiar favorites (Sugar High, Truckers on Speed) and first-time award recipients (W.O.M.B., Phoenix Jazz Workshop). Here's the complete run-down: Best Americana -- Truckers on Speed; Best Eclectic -- W.O.M.B.; Best Hard/Modern Rock -- Haggis; Best World/Heritage -- Hammertoes; Best DJ -- Megadef; Best Jazz -- Phoenix Jazz Workshop; Best Garage/Trash -- Slash City Daggers (the closest race, with a razor-thin four-vote margin over the Hypno-twists); Best Hip-Hop -- Drunken Immortals; Best Pop -- Sugar High. In the Most Likely to Make It Big category, Slash City Daggers recorded an upset to rival Truman over Dewey, outpacing a long list of competitors, including Cutthroat Logic, Haggis, and Honey Child (whose third-place finish was particularly impressive, considering it didn't play in the showcase).
Graffiti Bridge Work: A few years ago, Chris Rock asked Prince (whose name at the time was still an unpronounceable androgyny symbol) if he sometimes felt that he'd been born in the wrong era. Rock's point was that in the late '60s, major artists routinely cranked out new albums every few months to audiences eager to hear their latest musical progression. To go more than a year between records was to risk being passed by your fast-moving competitors. In contrast, Prince has frequently been derided for dumping too much product on the marketplace, for being too prolific, for forcing listeners to separate his wheat from his chaff.
It's ironic that, at one time, mere rumors about Prince's huge catalogue of unreleased material could trigger orgasmic sighs. After all, the man was so overflowing with lavender-liquid inspiration that even his dashed-off trifles ("Manic Monday," "A Love Bizarre") could be career-defining hits for other artists. And if Prince thought nothing of pulling the plug on a record as fierce as 1987's Black Album, writing great songs must have been as challenging for him as ordering a pizza.
These days, it's easy -- too easy -- to dwell on everything but Prince's music: the murky religious epiphanies (most recently a conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses), the name changes, the record label battles, and the obsessively secretive way he lives his life. Because he's spent the last decade as an underground figure, a cult artist, it's easy for people to peg him as a garish relic from the undeniably garish '80s. But Prince's virtuosity is too great, his musical voraciousness too inexhaustible, to ever dismiss. Even if his records are frustrating hit-and-miss affairs, he's still one of the few can't-miss live performers of his generation.
His upcoming performance at the Dodge Theatre -- announced, with Prince's usual stealth, only a week before the show -- will feature guest sax players Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer and promises to spotlight Prince's frequently underrated brilliance as a guitarist and pianist.
Prince is scheduled to perform on Friday, April 26, at the Dodge Theatre. Showtime is 8 p.m.
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