BEST PLACE TO HEAR EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC 2004 | Arcosanti | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
With apologies to those goodhearted kids who make up the local music scene, the real place to go for truly experimental tuneage isn't even in the Valley itself. Be warned, getting a mate or two to accompany you on the hourlong drive north to Paolo Soleri's hippie-dippy haven, perched on a windswept hillside, is almost as frustrating as trying to explain which particular genre the musicians who frequent the place fit into. For instance, the exotic percussion reverberations of Italian "musicologist" Andrea Centazzo were hard to describe to friends, other than "it kind of sounds like the score to American Beauty." But once we got them to tag along to the open-air, starry-skied amphitheater, they were taken by the atmosphere and the freeform, unconventional harmonies. We skipped the CDs for sale (how can you re-create transcendence in a Toyota?), because now that we've rinsed out our brainpans, we're ready to crank up some Authority Zero or New Romantics on our way back down to Phoenix.

The kid is croupy and the boss is bitching and the mortgage is due, and, oh, for the good old days when the most important thing in your life was the release of the new Supertramp album. Which today is a very old Supertramp album, but which you can still buy (and maybe even a sealed copy!) at Memory Lane, our favorite link to our musical past. We travel back to puberty and beyond with every trip to Tempe's 20-year-old treasure trove of old vinyl albums and singles, where just recently we scored a dead-mint copy of Jerry Vale's Arrivederci, Roma (because we were feeling sort of '60s Euro-nerd), a clean reissue of Taboo: The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman (to quench our thirst for something '50s loungey), and an autographed copy of Wham!'s Make It Big because, well, we wanted an aural reminder of simpler times.

We always find our thrill, and a big hunk of our past, at Memory Lane, where the friendly, helpful staff never laughs at our oddball choices -- not even the time we bought three REO Speedwagon platters.

While many of the nation's fed-up rock radio listeners have been fleeing to satellite pay stations to escape commercials and obnoxious DJ banter, the Valley's classic-album-rock fans continue to get treated to the equivalent of Sirius' "deep cuts" channel, The Vault, without the $12.95-a-month subscription fee. Thanks to a mysterious radio station owner named Ted Tucker who, near as we can tell, likes sharing his personal collection of long-forgotten tracks from the golden era of "free-form" FM radio over one of several station bands he owns, KCDX is now, amazingly, in its third year of broadcasting wowzers by the likes of Procol Harum, The Band, and Traffic -- with the occasional Billy Joel or Men at Work megahit tossed in -- 100 percent commercial-free.

Recently, the station launched a sparse three-page Web site that keeps track of the songs just played and allows listeners to make requests via e-mail, but still reveals nothing about the station. No one knows how long it'll last, but for now, KCDX is like listening in on your favorite hippie uncle's quirky iPod library. Readers' Choice: KUPD-FM 97.9

A National Public Radio affiliate by day, KJZZ transforms into a chilled-out jazz station at the workweek witching hour of 7 p.m. Dominating the night is "Acoustic Jazz," a mix of jazz classics and newer traditional tracks, with silky-voiced local diva Blaise Lantana hosting the earlier segment and Paul Anderson, Michele Robins, Steve Conrad and Phil Pollard taking over in later slots. There's no time for the blues until the weekend, but two locally produced shows, Drew Verbis' Blues and Beyond, and Rhythm Room impresario Bob Corritore's Those Lowdown Blues (now in its 20th year), are always worth the wait. Readers' Choice: KJZZ-FM 91.5

Even if The Edge didn't use "Independent Radio" as its catch phrase, we'd still be able to hear it in the station's pleasantly unpredictable programming. We love it when radio catches us off guard -- a rare thing these days -- and Edge DJs aren't afraid to spin something by the Supersuckers or Echo and the Bunnymen along with the standard playlist faves ranging from pop-punk to alt-rock to neo-New Wave. Extra credit goes to the weeknight "Local Frequency" show, which gives much-deserved exposure to emerging Valley bands like Thousand Yard Stare, Girl Kicks Boy, and Before Braille. Readers' Choice: KEDJ-FM 103.9

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