BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON A FIRST FRIDAY 2005 | Grand Avenue, east of 15th Avenue | People & Places | Phoenix
Good old Bikini Lounge will always be one of our favorite downtown nightspots, and we'll still head west on Grand to 15th Avenue and beyond for our fill of arts and amusements. But lately we've been digging the great vibe just down the street, where a whole new generation of gallery spaces and hangouts has cropped up: the Cone Gallery (for art and experimental noise), the PHiX (for lots more noise), the Red Door (for more art, plus wigs, racks of vintage clothing, and thrift-store finds), and plenty of others. At long last, Roosevelt Row doesn't have a monopoly on walkable First Friday neighborhoods. And, dare we say it, this stretch of Grand Avenue has the colorful, laid-back vibe that First Fridays used to have on Roosevelt. You've come a long way, baby!
Whether he's setting the decks ablaze at the after-party for the Soul Train Music Awards in L.A., or backing up Da Nutz weekday afternoons on Power 92.3 FM with the Two Hour Drive at Five, DJ Fashen is one of the greats in the game, who weaves the most popular hip-hop of the day in with classic and sometimes surprising sounds to craft a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am jam, a master mix of interlocking tracks that works well whether it's at the Buzz, Next or on the air. A member of the Heavy Hitters, one of the illest crews in hip-hop, Fashen started out as a club kid and native son of the PHX. Now his name's known and respected throughout the industry. Why, he even snagged the 2003 West Coast DJ of the Year, though homeboy lives in the freakin' desert! Well, here's another plaque for your wall, Fashen. We'll keep listening.


Wet Paint

While downtown Phoenix First Fridays have turned into a gallery-hopping parade of thousands, Tempe's Final Fridays are still relatively intimate. It has a lot to do with the lay of the land -- the area around Mill Avenue is more about bohemian hangouts (with cool art on the walls, of course) than full-on art spaces. The anchor of the action is still Wet Paint, an art supply store convenient to the Arizona State University campus that transforms into a happening hipster central one night a month. Shelves of markers and canvases make way for a young, savvy crowd that shows up to browse paintings, graf art, and photography from local artists. Meanwhile, a host of entertainers -- bands, MCs, DJs, and even local b-boys and b-girls -- come out to perform, giving visitors enough excuses to stick around for a while.
The easiest way to figure out the best galleries in town is to ask the artists. These days, plenty of people are name-dropping the Chocolate Factory, an impressive new offering from local artist Hector Ruiz, whose provocative exhibition of sculptures, carvings, and woodblock prints, "La Realidad," is on display at the Heard Museum until next spring. Also home to Ruiz's personal studio and two other artist workspaces, the Chocolate Factory showcases all kinds of media, including paintings, installations, and video art, from both local and out-of-town artists. While Ruiz has worked with curators and individual artists to put together the monthly shows, he doesn't represent a set roster of creative talent. "Really, this is for art's sake," he says. We're impressed.
DJ William Fucking Reed has but one command for your delicious derrière: Get on that floor and dance! Every Saturday night at the Rogue Bar East in Scottsdale, Reed hosts Shake!, a frenzied, hip-twisting bacchanal where he drops genres like mod, glam, post-punk, garage, Brit-punk, metal, power pop, British invasion, and so on into one high-energy perpetual-motion machine with Reed like some impish gremlin at the wheel. Here at Shake!, Roxy Music meets The Bravery, Louis XIV hooks up with T. Rex, and the Beach Boys and OutKast suck face like teenagers in the bathroom -- uh, metaphorically speaking, of course. In Reed's hands, rock no longer seems like some moribund beast kept alive with the help of an Intensive Care Unit funded by Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone. Instead, it's a horny, thousand-armed demon that takes hold of you and makes you move despite yourself. By day, Reed works at the ever-chic Clarendon Hotel. But come Saturday night, everyone knows Reed's the king.
The night that Tigerface crashed its own party might've been the kind of mortifying experience that most musicians would rather forget, but no matter. We were damn impressed. It was a sticky July evening at Modified Arts, and the Scottsdale quartet was in the middle of its opening set for psychedelic D.C. band Weird War. The steadily swelling crowd was mesmerized by Tigerface's Faint-inspired grooves and dark, Nine Inch Nails-worthy intensity. But we never saw Trent Reznor do a stage dive with an instrument to keep a song going, which is just what keyboardist Ari did when his synth stand fell forward into the audience. Remarkably, the show did go on; instead of missing a beat, the other band members kept rocking as Ari caught the keyboard in midair and continued to play chords, sprawled out on the floor on his stomach. Talk about dedication. It might take a bigger budget for Band-Aids (or a good set of elbow pads), but maybe Tigerface should make this feat part of its regular act.
We ambled through dozens of studios during Art Detour, the downtown Phoenix art walk sponsored by ArtLink that's held one weekend each year, usually in March. Months later, we have to admit, our recall of this year's now institutionalized city art event is just all one big beige blur -- except for a very distinct spot that stands out in our memory. It's the shared studio space of Carrie Marill and Matthew Moore -- a well-tended Grand Avenue, by-appointment-only studio at the very back of a series of artist studios leased out for years by art doyenne Beatrice Moore.

Husband and wife, Marill and Moore peacefully and productively co-exist in their joint studio space, and, while their work is very different, you get the feeling that, in many ways, they share not only physical space, but the same basic aesthetic as well. Moore's work is land-based, inspired by his day job as manager of his family's fourth-generation farm in the West Valley. Marill's stylistically stripped-down yet elegant paintings and drawings of various landscapes explore the idea of the sameness that pervades society.

As we stood gazing at Marill's beautiful paintings, an artist we trust whispered, "Buy something -- she's getting big in L.A." (See our "Fun and Games" section in Best of Phoenix for examples of Marill's work.) So we did, after which Moore offered us a gigantic home-grown carrot, which, along with the couple's artwork, was the sweetest thing we'd tasted all weekend.

The urge to "live fast, die young" has been around about as long as rock 'n' roll itself, but a certain song by the Circle Jerks made it more of a punk motto 25 years ago. Funny, then, that one of that band's contemporaries, the Angry Samoans, spawned the legacy of Jeff Dahl, who's evolved into the Valley's patron saint for dirty, glammy garage punks while simultaneously keeping his career alive, both onstage and in the studio. When he turned 50 this past summer, Dahl decided to throw a killer party for himself at Hollywood Alley in Mesa, and made getting old look pretty worthwhile. After all, what better way to spend a big birthday than to be surrounded by drunken, adoring fans and guest musicians who'll sing along to every Stooges song you can muster? Maybe 50 is the new 30.
First Fridays was a mere zygote of a scene when local artisans Dayvid LeMmon and Jerry Portelli first rolled the 2 Kaotik Gallery through downtown in 2000. The pair rented a U-Haul, loaded up a generator for lighting, and made stop 'n' parks throughout the downtown district, usually planting themselves in the dirt lot across from Modified Arts on Roosevelt Row so they could show a wide selection of paintings, sculptures, photos and drawings by Valley artists. Although the pair halted their roving artmobile in January, they plan to resume roaming the streets with the 2 Kaotik Gallery on First Friday in November. Once the duo stakes out their stops, they'll post their mobile gallery positions on the 2 Kaotik Web site. But if you don't find them, don't worry -- they'll probably find you.
We've always considered beading strictly a consumer endeavor -- as in, we don't want to look at them, we just want to buy them. And it is true that we were immediately sidetracked by the Bead Museum's large (perhaps larger than the exhibit space itself, although, to be fair, it's under construction) gift shop. But after we were done shopping and plunked down our very reasonable $4 admission fee, we had to admit an instantaneous appreciation for the history of the bead. It's a mind-boggling chronicle dating way back to prehistoric times, when superstitious but fashion-conscious cavemen first strung seashells, seeds and animal bones into personal adornment for ritual and talismanic protection against stone-age evils, like man-eating mammals, marauding enemy clansmen and your run-of-the-mill natural disasters. Glendale's Bead Museum is one of the few in the world actually devoted solely to the bead. And, even with its exhibit space under renovation, we got more than an inkling of the historical and cultural importance of beads. Museum organizers have arranged their carefully culled collection in glass cases, which include well-labeled pull-out drawers in which artifacts are arranged by subject matter -- a great way to observe not only single beads, but beaded jewelry and ritual objects from around the globe in bite-size chunks. Both antique and contemporary beads and adornment from various cultures in Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and India fill cases and drawers, all with engaging photos and text explaining what you're looking at and its basic significance. As we left Glendale, we vowed that our next outing will be to the Arizona Rock and Mineral Museum in downtown Phoenix. Just what goes on in that giant claw outside the museum, anyway?

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