It's getting toward closing time during The Blunt Club Thursday night at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room and it looks like no one's in the mood to call it quits.
The main bar is glowing with Christmas lights and busy with activity as DJ Reflekshin drops slow jams in between classic hip-hop joints from Biz Markie and N.W.A. onstage while local painter Queen Loopy creates live art behind him. Out on the dance floor, b-boys and girls are dishing out moves in the middle of a loose cypher while other patrons are singing along to the well-remembered refrains of of "Just a Friend" or "Boyz-N-The Hood."
In short, it's another classic session of The Blunt Club at the Yucca Tap. It also happens to be one of the last weekly editions of the long-running hip-hop night at the bar.
According to Blunt Club co-promoters Adam "Dumperfoo" Dumper and DJ Pickster One, the night will leave its longtime home after one final blowout on Thursday, December 18, and will cease to become a weekly event. Starting next month, it will be held at different venues around the Valley on an irregular basis for the foreseeable future.
"Basically, we're shifting focus from a weekly event to a branded event around town that will go off maybe once a month," says Pickster , "Or maybe it will wind up happening twice a month or even as much six weeks between Blunt Clubs. It's all going to depend on different things, like with guests or venues. It's just not going to be every week at the same spot."
It's a major move for The Blunt Club, which launched back in 2002 by Dumper, a local artist and hip-hop impresario. While this isn't the first time it's headed for new digs (as its taken place at a number of bars and venues in Tempe and Mesa over the last 12 years), the fact that it's ending its streak as the longest-running weekly nightlife event -- hip-hop or otherwise -- in Arizona is noteworthy.
Both Dumper and Pickster, the night's resident DJ, told New Times, however, that the weekly grind of running The Blunt Club is one of the many reasons behind the move.
Other factors include their desires to develop the Blunt Club brand, expand into a variety of venues (including those in downtown Phoenix), bring in bigger guest DJs and hip-hop artists, and to ultimately make each event seem more unique.
"We've been doing this for 12-plus years now. It's been a long run for me, it's been wearing me out," Dumper says. "We're both doing a lot of stuff right now, so to book all the time every single week was kicking our asses. So I think if we both focus on one big show or a couple of big shows every so often. I think it will be a lot better for the people that come to our spot and a for us, where we can put 100 percent into it instead of like throwing 35 percent or 50 percent into it."
There's also a sense of wanderlust involved, Pickster says, since the Blunt Club has been a migratory beast, having moved to the Yucca Tap in 2010 from the old Club Red in Tempe. (Before that it was held at the now-defunct Hollywood Alley in Mesa.)
"We've been at Yucca for going on five years in January and it just felt like is was time," he says. "This is the longest we've stayed at a spot actually. Usually we've been somewhere for about two or three years and then we move on. And we want to do it in Phoenix, we want to do it in other spots in other venues, in other states, in other cities. But it's kind of like, on a weekly level, that really can't exist right now."
While Dumper and Pickster both state that it's an amicable split from the Yucca Tap (and have nothing but positive things to say about the venue and its owner, Rodney Hu), they feel Blunt Club has outgrown its current home, partially due to its predilection for no-cover shows.
"We've been able to do some bigger shows, but we've still been a bit limited on what we could do [with] capacity and cover charges," Pickster says. "Rodney's been great and he really worked with us and let us charge a cover sometimes when they almost never charge a cover. So we were able to bring in [guest performers] that we were able to pay more for and stuff."
The Blunt Club co-promoters aren't ruling out the possibility of holding one-offs at Yucca Tap Room or someday making the event a weekly again.
"Rodney has been helping us out since day one and we'll definitely try to still do stuff with them and have Blunts over there," Dumper says. "That's the plan for the future."
In the meantime, however, they're gearing up for their first non-weekly event, which will be held somewhere in Phoenix in January. (Details will be announced at the last regular Blunt Club session at Yucca on December 18.) A new Blunt Club website and clothing line are also in the works.
"We just want to try something different for a little bit and try switching it up, so that way we can work with other promoters and venues that have wanted to work with Blunt Club for years," Pickster says.
Although nothing has been set in stone yet, they're hoping to hold upcoming Blunt Clubs at venues like the Crescent Ballroom or Monarch Theatre, as well as the new Club Red in Mesa. They also might co-brand events with local promoters like Universatile Music, Relentless Beats, and Stateside Presents.
"We're going to try on our pants and see where it's cool," Dumper says. "But we're definitely looking for anywhere where it will be solid every time."
"We're just trying to keep the party going," he says. "It's just going to take on a different face."
The final Blunt Club at Yucca Tap Room will take place on Thursday, December 18. Admission is free.