Jamie Monistat VII is still in mourning over the recent loss of Hollywood Alley--so much so that the restaurateur and Blanche Davidian vocalist claims that he gets "bummed out at least 15 times an hour" about the closure of the Mesa bar earlier this month, as it was a favorite longtime haunt. And if you've read this week's New Times cover story on its 25-year history, it's clear he's not the only one.
"It's been upsetting to a lot of people because the Alley meant so much," Monistat says. "It was a headquarters for our band and a lot of other bands too."
That said, Monistat doesn't consider the three-day Tribute to Hollywood Alley this weekend at his Scottsdale restaurant and bar Chop and Wok will some morose funeral for the now-defunct venue. More like a rock-fueled blowout in the blithe spirit of a typical Alley gig and featuring a slew of musicians and bands who frequented its stage.
"It really sucks that the Alley's gone, but at least we can get together and celebrate it one last time," Monistat says.
In a fateful twist, the event was originally conceived as the bar's 25th anniversary party. Bands were booked, including some with out-of-state members who'd made non-refundable travel arrangements. Fate, however, intervened in July after Alley co-owners Ross Wincek and Rachel Hrutkay announced the venue would close due to overwhelming debt.
After the shock subsided, Monistat says that organizers (including former Alley employees Will Tynor and Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham, and Father Figures' bassist Tom Reardon) scrambled for a new home for the show to prevent anyone from having to eat the cost of their flights.
"Everyone just decided, 'Fuck it, let's just do it at Chop and Wok,'" Monistat says. After all, the Scottsdale joint, which boats a rock theme, already occasionally hosts musicians.
And according to Mike Hawk, guitarist for Blanche Davidian, there will be plenty of space for all the erstwhile Hollywood Alley regulars expected to attend. That includes the aforementioned members of the Alley diaspora, like Brian Talenti of popular pop-rockers Haggis, who lives in Austin, Texas.
"There are guys coming from all over," Hawk says. "It's gonna be a reunion of sorts."
Longtime Hollywood Alley patrons will get to see many old favorites. And true to the defunct venue's famously diverse musical offerings, the lineup each night will be eclectic and oftentimes loud.
Friday night's schedule, which kicks off at 9 p.m., includes performances by troubadour Ray Gomez, punk trio The Fed-Ups, and hard rock act Dead White and Blue (a.k.a. "The baddest fucking band on the planet"), which features former B. Strange and Undertow axeman Harry McCaleb. Alt-country foursome Truckers on Speed will also appear, which guitarist Dave Wolfmeyer says they're only happy to do.
"Truckers [on Speed] cut our teeth at the Alley. A lot of weeknight shows to a handful of friends to nobody at first before we got bigger crowds," Wolfmeyer says. "We came down, down, got shitfaced, and played rock."
Sounds a bit like what's planned for Saturday. Besides gigs by Haggis and alt-metal outfit Fat Gray Cat, the lineup will feature notorious punkers Father Figures, Pinky Tuscadero's Whiteknuckle Assfuck, and Blanche Davidian. Comedy rocker Page the Village Idiot will emcee and perform between sets and throughout the evening. Like on Friday, the music starts at 9 p.m.
Arguably the highlight of the night will be a gig by Bourbon Witch, a "stoner rock supergroup" starring Alley regulars (natch) like Reardon, guitarist Jay Hofer of Greenhaven and Jay Brown of Schlitzkrieg. Birmingham (who dons green face-paint) and Monistat sing the band's "twisted and sludged up" covers of hard rock hits.
"It's like the Melvins on Quaaludes," Monistat quips.
The tribute wraps up on Sunday with a matinee show by the students of Chandler-based School of Rock that starts at 2 p.m., followed by a performance by its house band. It's followed later that night after 9 p.m. with sessions by the Lawrence Zubia-fronted alternative band The Persuaders, funk-rock threesome Deadfoxx, and blues-rockers The Chocolate Fountain Experience.
Guitarist D.L. Harrison, who performs with Chocolate Fountain, says he wouldn't miss the show for the world.
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"Being at Hollywood Alley was one of those things where I felt like I belonged. It felt like I was part of something bigger than I was," Harrison says. "It will be good to feel that way again."
The Tribute to Hollywood Alley will take place from Friday to Sunday, September 1, at Chop and Wok in Scottsdale. Admission is free.