DJ Dana Armstrong started her weekly country night, Valley Fever, a decade ago. Now, this weekend, it's coming to an end -- at least in its current form.
Running a weekly gig for 10 years is no small feat. Armstrong started the country with as a reaction to vapid pop-country, and used her time spinning records on Sunday nights at Yucca to create her own musical nirvana.
"I was attempting to turn Yucca Tap Room into Mr. Lucky's [the legendary Phoenix honky-tonk] from the '70s ... trying to recapture the feeling, I guess," Armstrong says with a laugh.
The final Sunday gig was last weekend, and on Saturday, the tradition will end with a bang -- the fifth version of Quarantine, a giant showcase of local country bands that Armstrong and her co-conspirators have organized on and off through the years.
The fun starts at noon and runs through 2 a.m. 15 bands will play throughout the day, including Flathead, Kevin Daly's Chicken & Waffles, Trailer Queen, and more, and Armstrong and friends will spin classic country records in between sets. Armstrong encourages people to camp out in the parking lot (no, that's not a joke) and settle in for an all-day country music rager. She'll be selling a compilation featuring all of the artists performing that day, and it will come with bonus mix CD of her favorite old-country tunes.
The biggest reason for ending the night is attrition, Armstrong says. It has long been a labor of love, and though for many years DJ Johnny Volume (aka Tim Neilson) assisted her with spinning records and booking bands, ever since he had to tamp down the commitment due to sudden-onset fatherhood, Armstrong has again been on her own.
"I've been doing it by myself for the past few years," Armstrong says, "It's getting a little tiresome, I guess, so I guess it will have more impact as less-frequent events. I just want to focus on more quality shows and focus on making them more excited... sometimes a weekly show can get more diluted."
Though the weekly concert/DJ gig is ending, Valley Fever is not. Armstrong plans to focus on planning bigger events that occur less frequently, and will still plan on doing the more popular Valley Fever parties, like the annual Halloween honky-tonk. After the showcase, she already has the Waylon Run (a motorcycle ride from Waylon Jennings' grave in Mesa to Black Canyon City) and a "catamaran" night at the Arizona American Italian Club.
One thing isn't ending -- her crusade to show the world that country music isn't just cookie-cutter pop songs. She has an uphill battle, especially when you have songwriters mashing up sing No. 1 country songs into one cohesive super-song just to make a point.
"That's kind of what I'm trying to do, let people know that country music doesn't have to be stupid and that it's really good. ... That's another reason why I'm choosing to stop doing it weekly, so I can focus on making shows good shows, and presenting the bands that I know should be seen and heard," Armstrong says.
Noon - Barefoot & Pregnant 1 - Jimmy Pines & Washboard Jere 1:30 - Jeremy Manley & Crazy Arms Waylon Jennings Tribute 2:15 - Jim Bachmann & Friends 3:00 - Maricopa County Prison Band 3:45 - Pick & Holler 4:30 - Steve Larson & James Parks 5:15 - Dog of the Moon 6:00 - Al Foul 6:35 - Kevin Daly's Chicken & Waffles 7: 20 - Fallen Arrows 8:20 - Flathead 9:30 - Junction 10 10:15 - Trailer Queen 11 - Tony Martinez Band and Chip Hanna
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