If urban life has taught us anything, it's that no savvy entrepreneur tears down a perfectly good sign. Remove that mammoth mid-century marquee from your frontage, and big government comes a-knockin' with updated display guidelines. Besides, have you seen what new signs cost? So we enjoy the doughnuts of Vinchell's and Wishill's, and we play "spot the former wig store" on East Thomas Road. Not everyone's as stylish as My Florist. Mr. Tile is in a class by itself. Some frugal person with a steady hand has painted "Mr. Tile" on the front of the store (four times), on the wall facing Grand Avenue (three times), on the sign atop the tall post outside (twice on each side), and on the small sign at the parking lot entrance (another three-fer). Then there's the sign by the sidewalk, which features, along with the ubiquitous red "Mr. Tile," a five-foot-high truck tire embedded in concrete. Must make you feel like Hamlet's uncle.
Jesus has a posse, and we're not talking about the 12 apostles, yo. Nope, this particular Christ-following crew we speaking of are the more than 40 different members of Urban Artists United, an ultra-religious collective of ghetto-fabulous peeps who're down with both God and the hip-hop lifestyle. Co-founder Vocab Malone says UAU consists of rappers such as himself and EmceeQuest, the b-boys of For the Love, graf art painters like Bryan Kilgore, and DJs like Cre One. When they aren't leading hip-hop Bible study sessions in the West Valley, conducting break-dancing lessons at Black Canyon Juvenile Institution Addition, or performing at local fundamentalist churches, you can find them at First Fridays in front of Artisan Villages. Their goal: "Basically, we want to uplift and not diss by representing Jesus through hip-hop lifestyle." Amen, brother.
We struggle every day to love Phoenix (or, as we like to put it, to "heart" Phoenix), and one day, we found Jason Hill he makes it a little easier. Hill, a talented graphic artist, lends his own unique graphic style to iconic Phoenix buildings you never knew were iconic, 'til Hill got ahold of them. Thank you, Jason. We "heart" you, too!
Whether the almighty Jihad is shredding the bandstand at the Trunk Space, Great Arizona Puppet Theater, or Modified Arts, there's sure to be a rabid cult following singing every hyperactive, hilarious, and politically charged absurdity. The band is centered on the duo core of upright bassist Benjamin Ora Gallaty and acoustic guitarist/main vocalist Sean-Claude Vincent Bonnette, who screams out demented folk-punk without the aid of amplification. According to the pair, the band's moniker comes from a fusion of the toughest mo-fo American president and a word for "struggle." Keen subject matter ranges from cutting a piece off baby Jesus to the stupidity of smoking, all fronted by a furious, lighthearted lead vocal wit that includes lyrics such as "Fuck white people/Kill the white devil" and "I like telling dirty jokes/And I like smoking crystal meth/But darling I love you." Bow down to the gritty and raw audio confusion.
Hey, you. Yes, you! The one sitting at your suburban Starbucks, complaining that the Valley is bland. Head over to Arizona Mills on a Saturday night, and you'll be hit over the head with the fact that you live in a "real" city. Just about any time, but particularly on weekend evenings, Arizona Mills is packed with activity, teeming with people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds. Most are waiting for a movie at the Harkins multiplex, but others are there for the carnival-like atmosphere complete with a carousel recently installed in the middle of the food court. The carousel's the only bona fide ride, but you might want to check out a painted-while-you-wait wife-beater, or the other wares set out on tables in the middle of the mall, la the streets of Tijuana. Or you might just want to grab a corner, stand back, and people-watch.
Instead of taking their cues from MTV or VH1, like other cover bands in these parts, The Minibosses ape video games. That's right this quarter-wielding quartet of bassist Ben Baraldi, drummer Matt Wood, and guitarists John Lipfert and Aaron Burke look to the Nintendo Entertainment System of the 1980s to build their song list, re-creating soundtracks of such old-school cartridges as Mega Man 2, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Metroid, and Ninja Gaiden. For the past few years, they've been the game-music gods to not only the legions of Sparks-drinking fans down at Modified Arts, but also thousands of other "Minibossies" nationwide who learned about the band through appearances on NPR and in the pages of Wired. With all this success, it's a long way from game over for The Minibosses.

BEST PLACE TO SEE CHICKENS ROAMING THE STREETS

Harmony Neighborhood

No doubt about it, this quiet east Phoenix residential district is for the birds. Namely, the neighborhood, located north of Thomas Road between 32nd and 36th streets, has been overrun by dozens of chickens, as well as guinea fowl, quail and peacocks. Having become fruitful and multiplied after escaping from a couple of small ranches nearby, these carefree cluckers live a truly free-range lifestyle as they wander from yard to yard, pecking for morsels, tending to their chicks, or dodging traffic. Most residents don't mind the fowl play, adopting the winged wonders as mascots and providing food. The local cats even tend to peacefully co-exist with the creatures, lazily watching them go about their birdbrained business instead of preparing to pounce. In fact, the only hunters around these parts are bums and other poverty-stricken peeps pursuing the poultry in the hopes of bagging some dinner. Neighbors often chase off these would-be wranglers, but the situation finally answers the age-old question of why the chicken crossed the road . . . to get away from the hungry homeless folks.
On a massive site like MySpace, which features millions of bands, it's not always about the number of hits a band's profile receives, but who's hitting it up. Local garage go-go band The Love Me Nots had only been together for a month before they posted a MySpace profile, and within three months, the band hooked up with renowned garage producer Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Gore Gore Girls), garage scene guru and video producer Tim Gassen (The Cynics, The Fuzztones), U.K. college radio DJ Mark Watkins, and L.A. show promoter Dan Electro. All of the networking was a calculated cyber rendezvous by The Love Me Nots, who constantly surfed MySpace, looking for people to add to the band's Friends list and asking people to check out the songs on The Love Me Nots' page. With total profile hits that numbered just below 9,000 at the end of August, The Love Me Nots may not have the most-visited page on MySpace, but that's what makes that page the best find that, and the buzz that the band's cyber-networking has created. The Love Me Nots got some key people paying attention to their MySpace page right out of the gate, leading to a landslide of seek-outs. Now that's musical savvy in the Digital Age.
Phoenix is a long way from the bayou, but if you look hard enough, you'll find a small but talented group of old tyme musicians. The type of broke-down, Deep South kind of musicians that command you to stomp your feet and clap your hands, bringing to mind a time gone by in a place you've never lived, but feel you can almost remember. Paris James is the king of these roots musicians the type of man who just looks like he gets it and can bring down the house with traditional 1930s-style blues as well as the occasional Hendrix cover upon request. His original tunes are just as powerful, and sung in a voice that is clear and unfaltering. You can catch Paris every Sunday at the Native New Yorker in Tempe, and on occasion at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix.
All dressed up and no place to go? Head to Sadisco and get your freak on all night with like-minded evil geniuses who have a taste for leather, vinyl, and outrageous hair. At this sort-of-monthly dance party, held at nightspots including Mardi Gras and Jugheads, the soundtrack is as harsh as the eye makeup, with industrial, EBM, noise, and dark electronic tracks from resident DJs Squalor, Dr. Faustus, ///she///, Blonde NoiZe, and 5arah. Before you show up, lurk on Sadisco's MySpace page to find out the next date of debauchery, and, more important, the theme. Recent nights have included "Pink Trouble in Sadiscoville" (for a taste of John Waters' cinema kink) and "Zombie a Go Go" (on the necro-porno tip), so get ready to plan your outfit accordingly. And when in doubt, wear black.

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