Anyone shocked by the rampant intrusiveness and utter lack of accountability of Ken Starr and his posse probably has never had a run-in with Arizona's liquor board.
For years now, this group of self-styled morality czars has indiscriminately dropped its wrecking ball of disfavor on any club that chose to cross it. Often the evidence has been flimsy, the reasoning illogical, and at all times the process has defied anyone's concept of due process. Worst of all, the board's pattern of behavior suggests that it governs based on ill-informed phobias about certain genres of music.
Last year's demise of the Electric Ballroom was only the latest demonstration that local clubs that flirt with hip-hop and/or punk do so at the risk of their own liquor licenses. For if Ken Starr's lengthy investigation has proven anything--beyond Bill Clinton's unconventional definition of a humidor--it's that if you decide that you really want to nail someone, you'll eventually dig up something.
In recent weeks, the rumor mill has spread the word that the latest target of the board is The Heat. The Tempe club, which replaced the popular Nita's Hideaway when that club was sold three months ago, has become a prominent locale for national punk-rock shows. Corey Adams of CAP Concerts has made it his primary booking venue since its opening in late July.
Adams' old venue, the Nile Theater, has reopened after a long hiatus, but it's being used primarily as a site for raves. In a way, The Heat has emerged as a smaller, more welcoming Nile, drawing an underground punk crowd that scattered when the Nile closed. Owners Tammi and Lori Biddlecome have also shown a willingness to dabble in other musical idioms, with a surprising number of rockabilly shows and a weekly hip-hop night on Thursdays.
But one show apparently caught the attention of the liquor board. Tammi Biddlecome says a board member attended the August 15 show by notorious S&M fetish rockers Genitorturers. Certainly, the Genitorturers penchant for stage erotica and scabrous industrial sound raises a few hackles wherever they go, but their performance at The Heat was trouble free. Although no incidents occurred at the show--and the club received no citations--Biddlecome says the board passed down the word that it did not approve of the band, and did not want to see the Genitorturers booked at The Heat ever again.
Biddlecome says the Genitorturers show has been The Heat's only unfortunate brush with the board, which will decide in December whether or not to grant the club--currently using a temporary liquor license--a permanent license. Biddlecome expresses optimism that her club will get that license.
However, the recent actions of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors suggest that The Heat's problems run deeper than any controversy over the Genitorturers show. The Board of Supervisors, based on a deputy sheriff's report that a couple of minor disputes had occurred at the club and that the site was a topless bar nearly 30 years ago, recommended to the liquor board that The Heat's liquor license request be denied. More often than not, when such a recommendation has been made to the liquor board, the bar's application has been turned down.
The Biddlecomes' lawyer, Tom McVay, is handling the application process for The Heat. He declined to comment on the situation, saying only that he's "between a rock and a hard place," and doesn't want to "say anything that could jeopardize or be of no assistance to my clients."
His decision is probably a wise one, because history has shown that starting a grudge match with the liquor board is a masochistic act. But for the next several weeks, The Heat will be stuck in that special limbo that has become too familiar to club owners in recent years: liquor board hell.
Refreshing Our Memory: Three months after the decision was made, the Refreshments made it official by announcing their breakup on Wednesday, September 30. Band leader Roger Clyne and drummer P.H. Naffah cited the band's release from its contract with Mercury Records, the June resignation of bassist Buddy Edwards (to resume his studies) and the subsequent firing of guitarist Brian Blush--due to "troubles with addiction"--as the crucial steps in their decision to put the Refreshments to bed.
Clyne and Naffah have continued gigging together, and have begun playing with members of the similarly defunct Low/Watts. At New Times' Best of Phoenix party on September 26 at the Arizona Science Center, this fledgling group played several Refreshments songs, as well as covers like Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You."
Jennys Take a Ride: Tempe power-pop heroes The Jennys make their presence felt on the forthcoming Del-Fi CD compilation International Pop Overthrow. The CD, named after the weeklong August pop festival in Los Angeles (which, in turn, is named after an album by Material Issue) delivers 20 doses of bright, shiny, tuneful guitar music, and The Jennys' "Remarkable Similarity" is one of the undeniable highlights. International Pop Overthrow will be in stores November 3.
Night Owls: The Haggis Militia is claiming responsibility for the theft two weeks ago of an owl from the roof of Tempe restaurant/bar Casey Moore's. The shady group of owl thieves, apparently unified by its love of local rock quartet Haggis, has released the following ransom note: "We have owl. Gather $1,000,000 in unmarked, unconsecutive 20s or the bird gets it."
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Haggis has a bit of a history with Casey Moore's, with the title of the band's debut CD, What's Up Haircut?, coming from an argument at the bar between Haggis bassist Moon and a well-lubricated guy with very short hair. Since the argument occurred, Moon has taken to greeting his erstwhile adversary with the question, "What's up, haircut?"
Of course, the people at Casey Moore's couldn't give two hoots about any of this trivia. They say they just want their owl back.
Contact Gilbert Garcia at his online address: email@example.com