There's been a growing cacophony coming from inside Last Exit Live in recent weeks, including plenty of banging, thumping, and grinding. Such clamor isn't from any ear-crunching local hard rock acts testing out the soon-to-open downtown Phoenix bar and music joint, however, but rather from a flurry of renovations that owner Brannon Kleinlein and his crew are giving the place.
The construction will reach a crescendo soon as Last Exit Live is scheduled to debut less than a month from now, on March 22, and a horde of local bands have already signed up to perform at the venue.
Kleinlein says they've been averaging 12-hour days the past two weeks sprucing up the interior and exterior of the cozy building, which is located on Central Avenue south of Lincoln Street and formerly was the home of divey rock bar The Ruby Room up until 2009.
A lot has changed at the venue since those days, courtesy of Kleinlein and his crew, ranging from a completely new 12-foot by 24-foot stage ("We went as big as we pretty much could for this room," he says) to revamped bathrooms and a snazzy soundboard.
"It's definitely a step up from the old Last Exit," Kleinlein says, referring to the bygone Tempe version of the venue that he ran from 2003 to 2009.
Swing by the reincarnation of the Last Exit in downtown Phoenix and you'll also see (and smell) the fresh layer of asphalt that was added to the parking lot a couple of days ago, as well as the area on the opposite side of the building, which used to contain scrap and junk that Kleinlein had cleared away in December. It's now where bands can park their tour vans and load in equipment via a new ramp leading up to the side of the stage.
And bands will start rolling their amps and gear into Last Exit Live exactly three weeks from tomorrow, Kleinlein says, when the venue holds its two-night soft opening. The gigs will also serve as after-parties for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival taking place that same weekend a few miles up the road at Margaret T. Hance Park.
Kleinlein is booking the event's locals-only side stage and figured it would a good opportunity to debut his venue, as well as offer more locally focused after-party for festival attendees.
As we've previously reported, Crescent Ballroom will also be hosting MMMF "after hours" events featuring nationally touring bands like Deer Tick and Orgone. Kleinlein felt like Last Exit Live could get in on the action as well.
The two bands who will get the honor of busting Last Exit Live's concert cherry will be Tempe favorites Dry River Yacht Club (who will appear on Friday, March 22) and Banana Gun (who are scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 23).
Meanwhile, North Carolina funk rock ensemble Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band will appear at Last Exit Live on March 27 and the venue's official bow takes place from April 3-6 during what Kleinlein calls its "grand opening week."
"We didn't really want to pick just one show and call it a grand opening," he says, "So it's kind of like a grand opening week."
While it's a few days short of a bona fide week, we're willing to forgive Kleinlein for the math error, especially since the lineup of who's performing features many local music scene standouts, like roots/blues faves The Sugar Thieves who kick things off on Wednesday, April 3.
The next evening will feature the launch of TMI Thursday, a night that will be booked by the staff of KWSS' The Morning Infidelity show, featuing Tucson's Brian Lopez as the inaugural performer.
Kongos and Mergence are scheduled to perform on Friday, April 5; followed by a CD release show for The Black Moods on Saturday, April 6.
Before any of the aforementioned acts can hit Last Exit, however, Kleinlein admits there's still much to be done, including installing stage lighting and finish soundproofing. (Plans are also afoot to build a walled smoking patio out front sometime in the coming months.)
He has his fingers crossed that the venue's sign will be in place by the time that the grand opening week rolls around. While Kleinlein can't state for certain what it exactly will look like, he says it might look "sorta '50s" but will definitely be "highly visible" from along Central Avenue.
We certainly hope so, given that he obviously wants local music fans to be able to beat a path to his door.
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Dry River Yacht Club is scheduled to appear at Last Exit on Friday, March 22, followed by Banana Gun on Saturday, March 23. Find more upcoming shows at the venue via our online concert calendar.