Mill Ave. History with Dead Hot Workshop
Alas, Long Wong's is long gone, but forgotten? Naw. You can still feel the place, every time "Hey Jealousy" resurfaces on throwback '90s alternative radio, every time Roger Clyne leads a hot 'n' sweaty sing-along in his size-30 black Wranglers.
This weekend, local music fans will get a double dose of that Long Wong's sound when a still-performing treasure of the era — Dead Hot Workshop — plays two dates in Tempe. To honor the occasion, we revisit the bands that made the movement.
Gin Blossoms: The Valley's most successful pre-JEW band was named after the booze-obliterated capillaries on W.C. Fields' nose — a joke made all the more cruel by the booze-fueled demise of their lead guitarist and best songwriter, Doug Hopkins, who killed himself about a month before "Found Out About You" (a song he wrote) become the band's biggest hit. The Blossoms disbanded in 1997, rebanded in 2002, and are currently touring with '90s post-grunge act Tonic in the cleverly dubbed Gin and Tonic Tour.
The Pistoleros: Led by siblings Lawrence and Mark Zubia, this hard-rocking outfit scored a major-label record deal with Hollywood Records in 1997 but was dropped after releasing only one album (Hang on to Nothing). Though officially "on hold," the band hasn't recorded in eight years. Currently, Mark Zubia is fronting Tempe-based local supergroup Los Guys.
The Refreshments: Best known for the snarky Top 20 single "Banditos" ("Everybody knows/The world is full of stupid people") and the theme music for the Fox animated series King of the Hill, this Clyne-fronted fivesome did as much to promulgate the Long Wong's sound as any band. In 1998, Clyne packed his kazoo and started Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, ending The Refreshments but beginning his reign as rock's Mexico-escape-fantasy poster boy.
Gloritone: Out with jangle-rock, in with power pop. Distinct musically from their Mill Avenue contemporaries, this Tempe power trio represented the faster fringe of the Long Wong's litter. They also had one of the more colorful off-stage sagas. Signed to a record deal at RCA mere weeks after forming in 1996, the band scored a minor hit with the single "Halfway," which was showcased — of all places — on an episode of Baywatch. According to the band's MySpace site, they subsequently lost the royalties suing David Hasselhoff when the star covered the song on one of his own albums. Later, in a regrettable publicity stunt, drummer Scott Hessel licked ice cream out of a flunky's ass-crack on the Howard Stern Show. The band essentially dissolved a few years later with the defections of bassist Nick Scropos (Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers) and Hessel (Let Go), but has played together as recently as 2006.
Dead Hot Workshop: Dubbed the "poet laureate of Mill Avenue" by former East Valley Tribune music writer (and current New Times contributor) Chris Hansen Orf, singer-songwriter Brent Babb is still one of the Valley's most respected rock talents, 15 years after the release of the band's lone major-label album, 1001 (Atlantic). A gritty country-rock band with just a hint of the old Mill Avenue jangle, DHW ditched their label in the '90s but never stopped making music that makes you wonder why they never broke out commercially (maybe it's their commitment to profanity: "Fuck No" off their 2006 LP Heavy Meadow is the album's choicest cut). So why not see them in their natural near-Wong's habitat, mere blocks from the luxury condominium that serves as a high-rise headstone to Tempe's dead-but-not-forgotten musical soul?
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