Saturday night is overrated. More often than not, I find myself having the most fun on a school night.
After all these years, there's still a naughty thrill to going out in the middle of the week. Maybe it's because there are lower expectations and people loosen up. Maybe folks are in denial of meetings the next morning or looming deadlines. (What? Me worry?) Or maybe weekends never quite live up to the hype.
I'm thinking of a recent Tuesday night. (The gratuitous boldfacing here should give you an idea of how much was going on.) I should've seen it coming that afternoon, when a friend gave me a flier for a new weekly hip-hop night, Take Me Back Tuesdays, at the Stray Cat. Then another pal called to invite me to Shawn Johnson's new weekly gig at Zuma Grill on Mill Avenue.
Sorry, guys, I said, but I'm all booked up tonight, and I'm even going to be multitasking.
Augustana was headlining at the Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe that evening, and the turnout was decent -- comfortably full, not shoulder-to-shoulder. The crowd was casual and pretty young, packed more tightly in the under-age space in front of the stage. I kept my breathing room by the bar.
The real reason I was there was to see the opener, Dear and the Headlights, an amazing local indie rock quintet I've had my eye on for several months. So far, they've put out two demos of beautifully crafted songwriting, a mix of soaring, emotional vocals, subtly poppy keyboards, and acoustic and electric guitar rhythms over upbeat drums. They're supposed to record a full-length with producer Bob Hoag any minute now, and I'll be shocked if it doesn't make these guys a runaway success.
"This music makes me smile," said Chelsea Ide, who stood there watching the band with me. If you've read any of Chelsea's writing in the music section, you know she's a devoted hardcore and metal fan, but she can be a softie for sweet indie rock. I was smiling along with her, wondering how long it will be before Dear and the Headlights is headlining a show just like this one.
A little while later, between sets, we ran into local show promoter Psyko Steve, who was passing out fliers for a big event he's putting together called "Oh Shit! A Fest?" I admit it's a pretty unfortunate name for a downtown music festival. But who cares? It's something Phoenix badly needs, especially after so many music fans were looking forward to the ill-fated Cayenne Festival. (See my Stiletto from November 24.) I wonder if "Oh Shit!" is some kind of reference to that.
Steve told me he's got several venues lined up to host about 35 indie, punk, and hardcore bands: Modified Arts, Holgas, and The One Place in the Roosevelt area, and The Trunk Space, The PHiX, and Four White Walls on Grand Avenue. For the price of one wristband (a super-cheap 10 bucks!), fans will be able to check out as many acts as they like. More than half the performers are local, with San Francisco's ever-popular Communiqué booked as the headliner.
The whole thing goes down on February 10, and I'm telling you about it now so you can plan to go. I know I'm not the only person who wants to see the downtown music scene thrive. (Things are looking up, anyway, with the Brickhouse back in action, and that new spot, The One Place, open for business.)
After the show was over at the Clubhouse Music Venue, I headed from Tempe back to downtown Phoenix for Plus One at Paco Paco, a cozy little gay bar on 16th Street. It's a new monthly dance night started by Hot Pink! DJs Denny Le Nimh and Dirty Dave, and, dare I say, it's a lot like Hot Pink! -- fun, snotty electro punk and glam rock, lots of mirrors, lights and smoke -- only much more intimate, which I like. Because it was his birthday, Dave was running around in a gold crown and gold Elvis sunglasses, weaving his way through the eyeliner-and-asymmetrical-haircut crowd to chat with friends and pose for pictures. Meanwhile, William Fucking Reed, Denny, and his girlfriend Courtney took turns in the DJ booth.
The whole scene was really by DJs and for DJs, because it seemed like every other person I talked to had his or her own DJ night somewhere in town. I mean, even the guy at the door, Devon, was telling me about playing tunes at the Rogue on Fridays.
By now everybody knows William's got a good thing going with Katie Rose at Shake! at the Rogue on Saturdays (next month, it'll be the year anniversary already!), but Katie's also at the Rogue for Blue Mondays with Jason Puffer. And her boyfriend TeeRoy, who's been showing his destroyed denim fashions around town for a couple of years now (most recently, Katie was his model at Four White Walls on First Friday), rocks out at the Palo Verde Lounge on Wednesdays.
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Katie's still playing with Hell on Heels, but she's also in a new band with Jason, called The Night Shift (look for their debut show sometime in the next couple of months). Digital Leather is Jason's other band, and he told me they're playing the Reckless Records showcase at South By Southwest in March.
That got me thinking about who else from Phoenix is heading out to Austin, and since then, I've found out about several other acts making the trip: Bodhisattva, Peachcake, Jessi Colter, Goodbye Tomorrow, Tokyo Electron, and Opiate for the Masses. It may not sound like a lot, but consider that in previous years, I had to scrounge to find half that many locals at SXSW, including the bands that weren't officially part of the event. Now I'll be busy trying to cover it all, and that's a good thing (but you already knew that).
So between the live bands and the great dance music, the colorful people, the cheap drinks and the good gossip, it was a damn good Tuesday night in the Valley -- and it wasn't out of the ordinary at all.
No rest for the wicked, right?