"Legends of the Mason Jar" Brings a Phoenix Institution Back (For One Night Only)
When people hear I'm new to Phoenix, they immediately want to tell me a few things. The first thing is that it may seem hot at that exact moment, but it will in fact get much hotter, so hot that I will surely die. The second thing -- well, something-something Arpaio, probably. But right after that, they want to tell me about The Mason Jar -- specifically, the iteration of the Mason Jar that they grew up with.
It's usually interesting. But Glenn De Jongh -- of The Spiffs, The Urge, and several other bands -- had more reason than most to talk Mason Jar with me when he turned up at our offices a couple of months ago: He was bringing it back. For one night only what is now Anvil will serve as a local rock time machine for what he's calling "Legends of the Mason Jar."
What's turned into a full-fledged reenactment started out as a simple Urge reunion, De Jongh says.
That reunion started out as little more than an impromptu jam session. "I hadn't seen [our] drummer in 20 years, and we just decided to jam. And then we said, well, we should play a reunion gig.
"We thought, we have to do it at the Mason Jar, even though it's not the Mason Jar anymore. I mean, that was our Cheers, basically." The new management wasn't receptive at first, but after a few pitches The Urge ended up with a date: Friday, September 20. "As word got out, other bands wanted to play -- hey, if you're gonna do it at the Jar, we wanna play! So now it's just a clusterfuck, really."
But a good clusterfuck, to hear him tell it. "I should have called this thing The Bands that Built the Mason Jar. Because the Mason Jar opened in '79, and all these bands that are gonna play are bands from '79 to '85, most of the bands. The Schoolboys that were huge back then, and ended up getting a record deal on Capitol and had to change their name to Icon. They were huge. And Raven Payne, big favorites from back then."
What was it, I asked, that made The Mason Jar so memorable that all these bands and their fans are coming back to see it one more time? "Every other bar, like What's Your Beef and whatever places, they played covers. The Mason Jar was a place where punk rock bands and New Wave bands would go in and play originals."
De Jongh gives a lot of the credit to the venue's original owner, the late Clyde Shields. He "just had the foresight . . . He was really supportive of the bands."
"Plus, there was a punk band in Phoenix that a lot of us took after, really. They were on the forefront -- Billy Clone and the Same. They turned into the Jetzons.
"The singer died of a heroin overdose in 1980. And his funeral was massive. That band started the whole Phoenix punk scene. So Clyde would book them and that's what really put the Jar on the map, and then we followed."
De Jongh figures he played The Mason Jar "more than any human alive" -- 400-plus sets. In any case, The Urge's spur-of-the-moment reunion idea has turned into a two-stage blowout, with a special appearance from the larger-than-life Franco Gagliano, a list of Mason Jar vets that's still growing, and 75-cent kamikazes.
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