The Mill Avenue scene has always been well-lubricated -- more boozy than arty, with happy hour deals and/or long lines of girls in heels, depending on the spot.
The Fixx aims to change that. The new all-ages coffee house/venue at 15 E. 7th Street, behind Jack In The Box, will officially open Saturday with a concert featuring local rock band Kid Sampson and three other acts. Robbie Pfeffer, who publishes a local zine called Tempe Starving Artist, is booking the bands.
"It will be the only all ages non-bar music venue in Tempe and will feature a wide array of local talent, starting with free shows every Saturday," he says. "This is a big moment for the Arizona creative community and Tempe in particular, considering it will provide a hub for creative culture in a city with a large base of young kids who have been looking for something better to do than just get drunk at a bar or frat party."
Read on for more about what Robbie had to say about his zine, why the venue is in Tempe instead of downtown Phoenix and what sort of shows they'll host.
Up On The Sun: So tell me about your zine, The Tempe Starving Artist: How long has it been around? What have you featured in past issues? Who writes for it? Where can people pick up a copy?
Robbie Pfeffer: The Tempe Starving Artist is an independently published zine that features a wide variety of creative work by Arizona based artists and musicians (with the sole exception being national band interviews). We will have been publishing for one and a half years, as of February. As a publication we try our best to publish work that the community at large may not readily associate with "Arizona art." So if you are looking for turquoise, desert landscapes or traditional Native American art, this zine is not for you. But because we provide an outlet for underground artists, we have managed to gain a large amount of support from the local artist community in a small period of time. This is something of which I am incredibly grateful for, considering the fact that if we published the same zine in a city with a more established art community I'm almost positive the contribution would be largely unnoticed.
We have had the privilege of featuring artists who have have worked with national organizations and celebrities, all the way back to people who have never shown art in a gallery before. We have had the chance to interview some really talented musical acts as well, from locals like Courtney Marie Andrews and The Constellation Branch to national acts like Minus the Bear and The Toasters. The zines are located in independently owned shops all around Tempe and Phoenix, with some distribution to Mesa and even Scottsdale now. The best place to check is the shops by Ash and University or pretty much anywhere on 5th st and Roosevelt. All issues are also available for viewing on our website or Facebook page.
UOTS: When you started your zine was the goal to open a venue or did that sort of grow out of it?
RP: If you told me when I first started this project that a) this zine would last more than 3 months b) people would give a shit about a zine I was making c) I would be running my own venue in less than two years, I would definitely not believe you. I started this project because, at the time, I was making comics for the State Press (ASU's newspaper) and they wouldn't let me print the more offensive ideas I came up with. I told my friends about the idea and they gave me their art as well. I had no experience in printing/distributing a magazine, promoting events, booking galleries, setting up concerts or poetry slams. Everything I've learned so far has stemmed from repeatedly messing up. I'm pretty sure we still have a reputation for getting the cops called to events we throw. So I guess if the state of Arizona acknowledged punk rock DIY points as a form of legal tender I might be able to afford a car.
UOTS: Why near Mill instead of downtown Phoenix?
RP: I'm sure this is not the last time I will be asked this question. There are two reasons for this, the first being that despite how much I love Downtown Phoenix and the creative community down there, it is not my home. I've loved Tempe since I was 13 years old and I begged my Mom to drive me to shows. I have a history in Tempe, I only discovered downtown Phoenix (or DTP as AJJ has coined it) after I started publishing an art magazine. The second reason behind not doing this in DTP (I'm going to use this acronym as much as I possibly can) is the fact that this is something that Tempe currently does not have. There are no non-bar all ages venues in Tempe, but in DTP I would have to compete with The Trunk Space and other already established venues with a similar set of things to offer.
This doesn't even begin to cover the idea that Tempe has more than 60,000 kids in the area who may be interested in something a little more culturally stimulating than a game of frat beer pong. Not to mention the fact that many of them are under 21. Hopefully this spot will provide a haven for kids not interested in the bro infused lifestyle that is so openly flaunted in the general Tempe area.
UOTS: Your location, 7th st. and Mill Avenue, has to be pretty pricey real estate -- right by Jack In The Box on Mill. How did you raise the funds for that and how long do you know you'll be able to keep the space?
RP: The location is absurd, absolutely dead center downtown Tempe, and it has easily accessible parking, which is unheard of on Mill. In order to explain how I got to help open this shop I have to lay down a little back story. I was selling paintings on Mill, and the graffiti artist "How You Say" came up and told me I could hang my art in E-Joy. E-joy was a bizarre internet cafe that had an awful paint job and screamed 1995 with the big CRT monitors. At any given time 2-3 homeless people were hanging out in, but I was excited to have a spot on Mill to hang paintings, so I went for it.
About a month later the shop owner passed away and the shop was locked up. I spent two months tracking down the new owners of the property so I could get my paintings back. After I finally found them they mentioned that they wanted to re-open the shop, but didn't know what to do with it. That's were I came in. So I don't pay the bills, but I'm booking all the concerts and artists on the walls and working nearly every day at the shop.
UOTS: What kind of shows will you be hosting? Who besides Kid Sampson, who will play the opener, have you scheduled?
RP: The shows will feature a wide array of styles including indie rock, folk, electronic, experimental/noise music, and hardcore punk. We will, at least for the first few months, be hosting free concerts every Saturday and starting in March we will host an open mic night every Friday. We will also start to book shows on the remaining nights, starting with Wild Pack of Canaries from Long Beach with Underground Cities and St Ranger on February 17th. The opening show is going to have some absolutely killer local indie rock, it will feature Kid Sampson, The Muddy Monies, Stellacutta and Lawnchair. The show will be completely free, will feature multiple live painters and starts at 7pm. We have some really good stuff coming for free in February including Owl & Penny, The Technicolors, Saddles and Vladee Divacc to name just a few.
UOTS: What sort of vibe are you going for?
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RP: I would have to say that I hope it can be an open-minded creative community that doesn't get absorbed in fashion or general pretentiousness. If it can be a place to blend mediums and create meaningful relationships that would be fine by me. So many people are afraid to step out of their circle of friends and would be surprised by what they like if they took the chance to learn about it. I want to make underground/local music and art available to a wider audience without gutting it.
UOTS: Where do you want to be in a year?
RP: On the cover of the New Times. But seriously, I'd love to keep doing what I'm doing and watch it expand. I'm not much for master plans, I like to work hard at what I do and let things come to me as they will. That's how I stay sane. I worked at 3 Roots, which was the last independent coffee shop on Mill. It was a huge disappointment to watch it go under. I hope, that the first new coffeeshop on Mill won't suffer the same fate. I know it is going to be an up-hill battle and that I'm helping start a business that has failed multiple times in the same building. But I have faith in the creative community of Tempe/DTP.