Now Open: RCK CTY in Tempe

The entrance to RCK CTY in Tempe.
The entrance to RCK CTY in Tempe.
Benjamin Leatherman

If you happen to be a fan of the old Big Bang in Tempe who's been patiently awaiting the opening of RCK CTY, or just dying of curiosity to see what's happened to the place, you needn't wait any longer.

The basement-level bar along Mill Avenue quietly made its debut last weekend following a month-long transformation from a piano joint into more of a nightclub and lounge. And as of last night, it also qualifies as a music venue as well, since it hosted its first-ever live gig (namely, a performance by hard rock tribute act Metalhead) on Thursday evening.

See also: New Music Venue/Bar RCK CTY to Take the Big Bang's Spot in Tempe

RCK CTY co-owner Austin Walter says it's the first of many shows the bar will host on Thursdays now that it's open. They've also been featuring local DJs like 101.5 regular Diverse in the mix on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Other performances and entertainment like live band karaoke or solo gigs should also be starting in the near future, he adds. There's also a possibility that they might feature dueling pianos, a hallmark of RCK CTY's predecessor, at some point also.

"We're still planning on doing live music every Thursday," Walter says. "And then, we're going to start our live karaoke on Tuesdays soon and then on Wednesdays we might do some different things like some small acts with some of the old musicians who used to work at the bar when it was Big Bang. They want to come in and do some stuff, too."

And the stage inside the bar, which is located on the lower level of the building at Mill Avenue and Fifth Street in downtown Tempe, will be much as they remember it, as Walter says it didn't get much of a makeover during the transition process from Big Bang to RCK CTY.

"It's still the same size, which is a good-sized stage for the bands," Walter says. "We refinished the front of the stage and put new lights up, but left the stage pretty much how it was."

RCK CTY's proprietors also gave it a new and colorful backdrop in the form of a skyline-like mural created by local father-son graf artist duo Such Styles and Champ Styles.

"They basically painted the entire wall behind the stage with a giant skyline with our logo," Walter says. "Such Styles and his son Champ and him do it together. One kind of paints and the other watched and then they switch and take turns."

RCK CTY's stage backdrop and some of its staff.
RCK CTY's stage backdrop and some of its staff.
Hayley Rae Photography

Its one of many changes that took place during the renovation, which Walter describes as "stressful but productive."

We did a lot in a short period of time without doing any actual construction, and changed the face of the whole place," he says. "It looks night and day different from the Big Bang since we added granite countertops and all these metal [elements] to the bar."

There are still a number of things to button down, however, such as getting their food permits squared away with the City of Tempe and opening RCK CTY's kitchen.

"Right now we just have with beer and liquor and whatnot," he says. "Until that happens, we're just going to remain open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and potentially Sunday, kind of like the Big Bang was for a while."

And Walter wants to stress the fact that RCK CTY is indeed open for business, despite what a few inebriated passers-by on Mill Avenue might have said during the bar's soft opening last weekend.

"It was hilarious. We had bouncers out there this past Saturday taking IDs and we had our [outdoor] sign on and everything like that. And some people walked by and asked, 'What's that?' and their friends say, 'Oh, that's not open,'" Walter says, laughing. "And our bouncers said, 'Well, we are open that's why we're here taking IDs and letting people in.'"

He believes such misinformed opinions were partially due to the fact he kept the bar's signage and exterior lights going during its transformation.

"The sign was on for the entire time, since its free advertising, really, and people just got used to it just not being open," Walter says. "You'd be surprised at how many people popped in while we were doing our remodeling, basically. We had a lot of people come through when we closed."

And a lot more now that they're open.

RCK CTY's Grand Opening will take place on Friday, October 17.

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