Some heavy-duty changes have been taking place behind the scenes at longtime local music venue Chasers over the past week. The dive-like Scottsdale rock bar, which has hosted big concerts and local shows for close to 20 years, has been sold to new owners, rechristened with a new name, and is in the midst of major makeover.
Now known as Pub Rock, it will continue to be an epicenter of live music, albeit with a whole new look and some interesting additions. Namely, its new owners are building a broadcasting booth in one corner of the venue booth for use by local radio stations, including KUKQ.
The transformation from Chasers into its new identity began last Tuesday when former proprietor Jason Olson sold the bar and music venue to EPI Industries, a Glendale-based event production firm.
Olson told New Times that Chasers has been up for sale for a few months, owing to the fact he's been wanting to change careers and move on with his life.
"I sounds cliché, but its just really that time in my life," Olson says. "There's many reasons, some personal and mostly professional. Me wanting to move on is the biggest one."
EPI Industries, which has helped put on KUPD's annual U-Fest and other big-name outdoor concerts and events around the Valley is owned by Jeff Stotler, who has spent countless hours overseeing a flurry of renovations at what's now known as Pub Rock. Different stage lighting and a new soundboard in currently being installed, an improved stage is in the works, and the bar's office will soon become a better green room for visiting musicians.
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Stotler's also been busy coordinating with Nancy Stevens, an events coordinator at Sandusky Radio (the parent company of KUPD) and program director at online radio station KUKQ, to help handle booking bands at the music venue.
According to Stevens, Stotler plans to keep things pretty much the same at the rock bar venue, save for the new name and the cosmetic upgrades. (Fans of the University of Nebraska's football fans will be pleased to learn that they can still check out college's games in the weeks ahead at the renowned Huskers bar.)
"The immediate changes are just basically cleaning up the place a little bit, fixing the stage, and making things better," she says.
After all, she says, the venue has a somewhat epic history as a local music venue dating back to the early 1990s.
Back in those days it was originally known as Atomic Cafe, a haven for industrial music and harder rock sounds, before being sold to Olson in 1998 and reopened as Chasers. Over the past 14 years, the venue has featured a variety of metal, rockabilly, punk, and hip-hop acts.
"And we don't want to change that," Stevens says, adding that they plan on honoring the venue's lengthy live music legacy. That includes all the upcoming shows that were previously booked at Chasers by Olson.
"He has some great shows on the books and they're going to stay on the books" she says. "We want local bands in here, we want to create cool nights, we want to hatch some pretty cool little ideas that I don't want to reveal yet. And it will all be music-related."
The upgraded stage Pub Rock -- which Stevens says is reference to the mid-1970s British musical movement of the same name (where bands like Dr. Feelgood and Ducks Deluxe eschewed arena rock shows and ginormous venues in favor of performing at tiny pubs) -- will also bring in some bigger acts. To wit: A gig by pop-punk stalwarts Unwritten Law at the venue on October 16 was announced yesterday.
Stevens -- a local music scene veteran who was the onetime program director at the now-defunct KEDJ and formerly managed local bands Authority Zero and Violet Wild -- has been meeting with local promoters since the sale last week about their upcoming gigs.
She also plans on reaching out to local radio stations about Pub Rock's soon-to-be-built broadcasting studio, which will be constructed in a corner of the bar that formerly housed a few pool tables and arcade games.
Stevens says that the space will be "bigger than a closet [but] smaller than a bathroom," wired up with high-tech equipment and T-1 lines, and allow disc jockeys and radio personalities to do live remotes and artist interviews from the venue.
"A jock can go in [and] do a show. Any thing else they want to do as far as interviewing bands and things, we're gonna do it from the stage," she says. "We'll be able to wire up the stage directed into the soundboard and go live via Pub Rock on the radio."
Despite Stevens' connection with KUKQ and the fact that she says the station will be using the studio for events -- such as Craven Morehead potentially hosting ska-punk nights at Pub Rock during his weekly show -- it won't be exclusive to any specific radio station.
"It's not exclusive to KUKQ, I want to make that clear," Stevens says. "We want to make it open to any station. We can possibly do stuff with KDKB, KSLX, KUKQ...whoever."
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According to Stevens, that "absolutely" includes indie station KWSS, which has previously recorded segments and broadcasted from live gigs at such venues as Joe's Grotto and the Rogue Bar in Scottsdale:
"I just happen to do the Sandusky stuff as my main job, which means there will be stuff for KUKQ and KUPD happening here, but that doesn't someone like Beef Vegan can't come in and do a show here. Everyone's welcome."