It's safe to say that the new Club Red in Mesa has been a work in progress during its first three weeks. And booking manager Mattx Bentley is the first to agree, right before rattling off a list of things, mostly of a cosmetic nature, that the venue's staff is "working tirelessly" to handle.
"We've been making things how they should be, how we want them to be," he says. "We know what's missing, we have a whole list of things we have to do and it's not going to take long to do 'em. All the fun stuff like trimming out the decorating or building a dedicated smoking patio, stuff like that."
There's also outdoor signage to install, façades to add to its bars, extra seating to arrange, and some small paint touchups to make. But for all these aesthetic improvements it may be lacking, Club Red is still a fully functional music venue.
Since opening in late May, its new Mesa strip mall location (formerly a movie theatre in the '80s and a church in the '90s) has hosted close to two-dozen bands, boasts a powerful sound system, ample staging in its spacious, 600-person main theatre.
It also features high ceilings and a two-level tiered setup with a raised seating level overlooking a large pit area for audiences to either watch or even mosh along while bands play. Plus, there are acres of parking outside for both patrons and tour buses.
And come this weekend, Club Red owner Kim Commons says its second theatre (which features room for crowds of 100) will be ready for use, and -- most importantly -- the air conditioning system will be running peak efficiency throughout the venue.
As you may have heard, Club Red's formerly under-performing A/C was one of a few thorny issues that unexpectedly cropped up during its grand opening on May 31, which was headlined by local punk legends Authority Zero. Commons says they overestimated the cooling output of their unit, which reportedly resulted in an extremely sweaty scene during the sold out show in the main room.
"What happened was we bought what we thought what was enough AC to keep things cool. It certainly was the case the Tuesday before opening," Commons says. "But 600 sweaty punk rockers later we learned otherwise."
If that wasn't frustrating enough for Club Red's proprietors and patrons, a pipe broke underneath its recently laid concrete floor in the main room, creating a large puddle and forcing the bathrooms to be closed for upwards of 90 minutes.
Bentley says the Club Red staff tried to resolve the problems immediately and blames the plumbing woes on the fact that the property was dormant for more than a decade.
"I was expecting a curve ball of some kind because you never know with these old buildings. We were very frustrated that night with it being as hot as it was and with the problems with the plumbing happening. But the second we realized there were problems, we were on it," he says. "The bathroom problem was fixed in an hour. It was the city's plumbing that was clogged. We went through the whole system and found out its been backed up for decades."
Bentley stresses the fact that the venue's plumbing, like its air conditioning, is back at 100 percent. They've also added or fixed the lighting outside of the venue in order to help patrons feel more secure when attending shows. Bentley considers all of these issues to some of the final kinks that the Club Red staff has had to work out during the process of renovating a former movie theatre and church into a functioning music venue.
"We rebuilt the concrete floors from the ground up, rebuilt 95 percent of the wiring, made everything as energy-efficient as possible to run such a large property and venue," Bentley says. "It's not as though the plumbing was overlooked, it was just in an area that we never would've had access to until we had several hundred people flushing toilets at the same time. We kinda got a bad receipt on that."
Admittedly, Club Red's staff endured a major time crunch in getting its new location up and running. On May 17, the venue closed its original location at the Omni Center plaza in Tempe because Commons felt the new property owners weren't receptive to having a concert hall on the premises and because their space had parking limitations and other issues.
"We grew out of our old location and got away from a whole lotta problems that we hated for years and couldn't really fix," Commons says.
Club Red's staff then spent the next two weeks working round the clock to renovate its new home for its May 31 grand opening.
"Everyone had to suck it up and instead of doing bartending or security, everybody's getting paid to move or clean or break things down or get things set up," Bentley says. "None of us have slept much. I'm an insomniac who's been getting three- or four-hour naps."
So why was there such a rush to get Club Red open in such a short amount of time? Commons summed it up simply: "A closed club is not a moneymaking club," he says.
"We were closed for two weeks, that's it. And there was no income there. Like any business, we have bills and a staff that needs to be paid" Commons adds. "If we don't have shows and we don't have a bar, we don't have any money coming in at all."
Bentley says there were other factors involved, such as signing a contract with Authority Zero with the firm date of May 31.
"They really wanted to work with us because of the whole Mesa thing. They went to school right around the corner [at Westwood High] and have been gigantic supporters of Club Red," Bentley says. "So we had to shit or get off the pot. It was either going to be the first show at the new place or the last show at the old place. And if we stayed, we'd have to roll over and pay rent at both places. So we pulled the trigger and decided, 'This is it, we're doing it, we're going,' and started heading over to Mesa."
Commons says he doesn't regret making the jump over to Mesa, despite the accelerated schedule.
"We had to make the move sometime," Commons says. "And now were in our new home, we're going ahead full steam, we keep making progress every day, and we're pleased with how it's turned out."
Setting aside its various woes, however, Bentley still feels that Club Red's opening night was a positive experience.
"Our first show was with Authority Zero and it went great. People came, we had a great time, there weren't any fights, and the music sounded great," Bentley says. "And its not like we got in here and everything fell apart and we had to turn it off in the middle. The show went on and it was a great performance."
Ditto for every other show that's taken place since, including a gig by midwestern deathcore band Aegaeon a few days after the grand opening that also featured several local metal bands and Club Red regulars, including Apparitions, Singularity, and Unholy Monarch.
Apparitions singer Griffin Kolinski says he's a fan of Club Red's new digs, which he describes as "rad" and a definite improvement over its former location.
"For the older crowd that's coming to drink, the bar is way bigger and a lot easier to access," he says. "And then just the sound and the overall space is leaps and bounds above the old place, in my opinion."
Kolinski is also a fan of Club Red's increased size.
"I think there's a lot of potential here for larger fests and the larger acts that come through as well. With the closure of a few other venues around Tempe and Phoenix, it's getting to be slim pickings for bands," he says. "The other venue out here that I can think of that bands local and touring book a lot is the Nile. But the big difference is that they don't have a bar. That does deter some people, but that's not a problem here. It's more like a venue with a bar than a bar with a stage."
Kolinski isn't the only one in the Valley music scene who's on board with the new Club Red. A number of bands and local promoters -- such as Psyko Steve, Universatile Music, and 13th Floor Entertainment -- have booked a slew of upcoming concerts at the venue, including the sort of hard rock and hip-hop shows that Club Red regularly features.
"Some people may have been hesitant for the first couple of weeks, but not anymore," Bentley says. "We had a pretty hefty guests list on [opening] night and we showed people this is what we have, this is how it sounds, this is how it looks -- the higher ceilings, the pit levels, the parking -- everything's way better."
As for anyone who made complaints during Club Red's grand opening, Bentley says he hopes to win those people back, including apologizing, letting them know everything's been fixed, and welcoming them to give the place another shot.
"We're finally getting back to the business of show business after tying up all of these loose ends and getting back to what we're good at: putting on shows."
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.