Alchemy Studio
You think you're too busy to acquire a new art skill? Well, we're not impressed. Got a day? Get artsy with Alchemy Studio's one-day workshops conducted in, as they put it, a "small but rich time frame." An eclectic mix of classes ranging from figure drawing and playwriting to hand-sewn scrapbooks and Polaroid transfers (where the emulsion creates a print on non-photographic surfaces) is offered within the convenience of a weekend afternoon.

Experienced art professionals teach the seminars, including Mary Virginia Swanson, whose credentials include directing special photo projects for the famous NYC photojournalism collective Magnum. A brand-new space, slated to open later this fall, will house a darkroom and more etching equipment that will allow for additional printmaking techniques and 19th-century photographic processes. So fold your laundry later. You've run out of excuses, pal.

Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences
When a post-secondary school has a voluntary three-year waiting list, you know it must be a great institution. You also know it's full of some serious geeks. For more than two decades, the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS) has been teaching audio fanatics the ins and outs of the recording world. From analog and digital sound manipulation to production mastery and music business management, CRAS' 30-week real-world approach allows for success in many different entry-level positions in audio. Together, the Tempe campus and newer satellite campus in Gilbert contain eight full analog/digital recording studios, six practice labs, and, in the latter location, a 6,000-square-foot concert venue that allows for live sound recording. Recent graduates have won Grammys for their work on popular albums such as Radiohead's Hail to the Thief and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. There is a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio with a year-round rolling admission policy. A geek heaven indeed.
What do you say about a club night where one of the DJs' names is "Squalor" and people donate detritus to the garbage-laden walls? We'd say that's one trashy event, trashy-cool, actually, on the same level of John Waters' early flicks like Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, and Desperate Living. They call it Sadisco, short for "Sadistic Disco." It previously went down at Jugheads once a month, usually in the middle of the month, though Sadisco's now calling .anti_space home. Every event has a different theme, from Fight Club and Prom Night Massacre to Psycho Beach Sadisco and Crime Lab Absinthian, with .anti_space being decked out by Sadisco's creative team of Toby Heidebrink (DJ Squalor), Donnie Burbank (DJ Doctor Father), and their demented band of libidinous misfits. Somehow, we think Baltimore's Prince of Puke would approve of these perved-out Children of the Revolution. The music is a combo of noise, industrial, EBM (electronic body music) and electroclash, and the dress code is one of mandatory insanity. There's nothing else like it in Phoenix. No other club night even comes close.
For anybody who needs a fill of "out there" improvisations, unconventional time signatures and syncopated dissonance, the Phoenix Creative Music Movement (PCMM) is just what the ear doctor ordered. Influenced by Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and New York's Jazz Composers Collective, Jennifer Rogers and Marvin Scott established the PCMM to provide a place for creative musicians to meet and première original pieces. April's inaugural performance showcased an ancient sound narrative performed entirely behind a white sheet, a hip neo-groove jazz quintet, and a solo drum collage of hyperactive sounds using -- among other "instruments" -- children's toys. The bimonthly concert series at Modified Arts is known to incorporate theatrical elements, mixed-media installations and electronica DJs into the programming. The forum tends to concentrate on artists working in avant-garde jazz and progressive classical compositions. However, as past shows have displayed, the PCMM is open to just about anything and everything -- and beyond.
Palazzo
Hey, we know the difference between goths and Satan-worshipers. After all, the goths may look ghoulish, but we never see them at Black Mass, taking up a collection while we're doing the hard work of sacrificing a virgin. Sheesh! Still, one look at Steven Rogers' glorious new space Palazzo on a Friday night, when he unveils the Goth-Romance-Trance nightclub Tranzylvania, and you know Our Dark Lord Beelzebub must be hard at work somewhere. One part Queen of the Damned, one part Merovingian's "Hel Club" from The Matrix Revolutions, Palazzo itself is all travertine floors, gargoyles, and half-nekkid sphinxes. There's a huge bar of carved wood and black marble, and a second-story, New Orleans-style catwalk from which the VIPs can monitor the frenzied moves of the dancers below. Tranzylvania's clubbers come decked out in everything from leather bustiers to Vampira-style makeup, and at midnight the black lights go on, turning the chandelier purple, and illuminating previously hidden murals of erotic escapades and Dante-esque scenes of roasting sinners. Hey, if hell's gonna be this much fun, where do we sign up?
No, they don't have a buffet. But if there's a club in P-town that really should have a buffet for its patrons, Club FullFilled is the one. Club FullFilled is the Valley's premier plus-size event, held weekly at rotating locales -- usually a bar or club -- where Big Beautiful Women (BBWs) and Big Handsome Men (BHMs) can shake as much flab as they want and not feel self-conscious about it. Say it loud, these plump party animals are fat and proud, and they have a number of beanpole Fat Admirers (FAs) who love them just the way they are. But we ain't dissin' 'em. Let's face it, the average American these days is the size of a small Zeppelin, which accounts for why we all ride gas-guzzling SUV behemoths and why trendsetters come up with genius ideas like diets made up of all meat. But we digress. Point is, big is in, and thin is so Third World, so '80s. So grab a drink, and squeeze in next to the hefty honeys or hunks of your choosing. And while you're at it, pass the pretzels, dawg. We're starving.
Contrary to popular belief, some pretty happening things got their start in Phoenix -- like the chimichanga (reputedly), Steven Spielberg, and, dare we say it, the New Times chain. But the coolest thing to come out of this town in a long time is First Fiction, the authors' tour created by Cindy Dach, marketing guru for Changing Hands Bookstore. A few years back, Dach noticed that David Sedaris had suddenly made the memoir mesmerizing, but no one, it seemed, was hip to the whole fiction thing. Dach came up with the idea of bringing together several first-time fiction authors to read short excerpts, for one night. The key to success: cheap drinks.

First Fiction was born. It was such a smash hit, on its 2003 debut at the outdoor patio at Monti's La Casa Vieja in downtown Tempe (including a reading by Nell Freudenberger, that year's It Girl of the fiction world), that Dach had requests to expand First Fiction outside Arizona.

So she took the authors on the road. Last fall, five debut novelists (including Joshua Braff, brother of Zach, whose New Jersey-set coming-of-age tale The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green is an amazing companion piece to Zach's Garden State) ended a six-city tour at Monti's in Tempe, laughing and joking and acting like teenagers who'd just returned from summer camp together. It was standing room only; the authors felt like rock stars. A tour this spring skipped the Valley, but in October, First Fiction starts in New York City and winds up back at Monti's, this time with three female authors whose work includes a fictitious take on the life of Rudyard Kipling.

We can't resist saying that this was a novel idea. And we're glad First Fiction can call the Valley home.

Modest Proposal Presents is the place to see a rotating cast of young, creative, totally off-the-wall talent doing sketch and standup comedy. And did we mention that it's only five bucks? Hey, that's no joke.

We gotta say, we didn't think it was funny at all when Ron Babcock and Ryan McKee, the dynamic duo behind the Modest Proposal mother ship -- which encompasses a magazine, short films, and a music night as well as this Third Saturday comedy showcase at the Paper Heart -- fled Phoenix for the L.A. scene. We certainly don't begrudge their career opportunities, but it's still nice to know that they've kept their ongoing comedy gig intact -- in downtown Phoenix.

Fetishism used to be "underground," and the only glimpse the general public got of the fetish community at play came from movies and TV shows. But TNG (The Next Generation of Fetish & Kink in Arizona), along with local body modification outfit Horns 'n Halos, has brought several fetish events to the Valley and left them open for anybody who was willing to wear some vinyl pants for a few hours. The AZ Fetish Balls have included musical acts like N-17, My Darling Murder, and The Year, as well as flesh-hook suspension demos, strippers, spanking demos, and leather vendors galore. But the biggest fetish shebang, the AZ Fetish Ball, takes place on Saturday, October 8, at The Sets, and this year, Florida's vaunted fetish/metal band the Genitorturers and national act Combi Christ will rock the stage, proving that no matter how hard-core these fetish balls are, Arizona will keep raising the bar.
Margaret T. Hance Park
Phoenix's Margaret T. Hance Park, affectionately known as Deck Park because the Interstate 10 tunnel through central Phoenix is under it, would truly be a beautiful and serene respite from downtown, except for one thing. Try walking though it on a bright Sunday afternoon, and you'll see what we mean. On a recent hike to the Safeway on Seventh Street and McDowell Road from our digs at Central and Roosevelt, we were hit up by at least three young men begging to sell us crack cocaine, or whatever other illegal delight we desired. When we demurred, choosing instead to buy our drugs in the restroom of our favorite Scottsdale nightclub, one alleged dealer followed us all the way to the liquor aisle of said grocery store. The only way we were able to get rid of him was by threatening to hold him down and pour generic Safeway tequila down his throat. On several other treks through the Deck Park, similar events occurred. One persistent dealer even followed us back from the grocery to the Phoenix Police Department substation at the base of our building. After he was finally deterred by a burly cop peering out the window at him, the salesman looked back over his shoulder at us and inquired, "What's a white boy doing walking through the park if he don't wanna buy drugs?" He added that we were the first such individual that week who'd turned him down.

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