So you've written some songs. Recruited your best friend to play bass. Taught your neighbor the drums. Rehearsed a little. Played some house parties. Now you're ready to take the next step and play an actual venue. But where do you go?
First gigs are like losing your virginity. You eagerly anticipate your first time, only to walk away afterward with a heart full of disappointment. Gigs get better the more you do them, but not after you grit your teeth and bare through the first one.
Everyone has a first time. Check out these venues in Metro Phoenix if you're looking for yours.
The Firehouse Gallery is bar-none the absolute best place for a band to play their first show. It is conveniently located right off of the light rail in downtown Phoenix (1015 N. 1st St.), so you don't have to ask your friends to walk or drive too far, and pedestrians often wander in wondering what's up. The stage, lighting, and sound are head and shoulders above anything one might find at a house show. But possibly most important of all, it's an art space and not a bar or club, which means no age restrictions, and the owner's number-one goal is not to make money. Now don't get me wrong, they need to pay the rent and keep the lights on like everyone else, but the pressure to have a big draw just doesn't exist in the same way that it does in a bar looking to make money from selling drinks. People do live in the Firehouse, and very often evidence of that fact can be found scattered around the grounds. But the volunteers who run lighting and sound are very knowledgeable and professional, so what you end up with is the best of both worlds. The casual attitude and environment of a house show mixed with the stage, lighting and sound setup of a club. -- Jeff Moses Trunk Space
You know a Phoenix venue is great when big-time touring acts like Brooklyn-based Matt and Kim remember it so fondly that they donate $1,000 to the venue's Indiegogo campaign for air conditioning. But that is just the sort of welcoming place the Trunk Space is. It's the type of place you can play seven years earlier come back for the first time and still feel right at home. The lighting isn't great, the sound system is okay, and the climate is very often unbearable. But the people who run the place, and the work the venue are just so damn friendly that for years, people showed up to the un-airconditioned mid-summer shows. It's always all ages, and the hardest thing served is coffee, but for the hard-drinking crowd the Bikini Lounge is just two doors down. It's also a venue that attracts a crowd that is very often full of musicians, so finding honest feedback is usually not a problem. -- Jeff Moses
To be blunt, like the sound of a lot of new metal bands, Joe's Grotto is the place to play if you are an aspiring heavy rock combo. The Paradise Valley club is a bastion for Valley hessians. Over the years, this venue has welcomed new bands with open arms, which says a lot for the actual "Joe" of Joe's Grotto. Like any other bar owner, Joe Grotto (as he likes to be called) is a businessman and expects bands to draw a crowd, but he'll take a chance on almost anybody who plays metal or, at very least, some type of metal/punk hybrid.
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The upside for you hopeful rockers is getting to play on a more-than-adequate stage with better-than-average sound. The soundmen at the Grotto are almost always top notch, so treat them right -- keep your attitude for the crowd -- and they'll take care of you. All-ages shows happen at Joe's Grotto on the regular, so if you're a bunch of youngsters, this place accommodates. The downside is that your friends will have to pay $8 to $10 on average to see you play at 7 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday night. Friendly advice: If you know you're going to play the Grotto, take advantage of one of their many open mic nights before your gig comes up, so you can get used to the stage and get some of the nerves out of your system. -- Tom Reardon Rips Ales & Cocktails
Rips Ales & Cocktails in Phoenix is another excellent place for a new band to make its debut, especially if most of your friends and family live in the CenPho. The location alone makes it easy to get people to come out, and Rips has seen almost all styles of music on its stage over the four or five years it has been hosting local shows. Owner Davey Tanberg does a great job of working with bands to help them have the shows they want to have, so don't be shy about hitting him up for your first gig, and be persistent. Aside from a good location, the bar has a fairly extensive yet affordable selection of beer and can hold a decent amount of people, even though there are some difficult sight lines for seeing the stage from different parts of the bar. The stage itself might be a challenge for even some four-piece bands, and the sound, well, leaves a lot to be desired, but Rip's welcoming attitude toward just about anyone makes up for it. If you anticipate a packed show, make sure you get there plenty early or you'll be schlepping your gear from across the street, as Rip's has limited parking. -- Tom Reardon
House? Maybe not -- this place is two-to-three times the size of most cribs. But hidden? Most definitely. Jammed in the strip mall across from the Bashas that was recently robbed on Seventh Avenue and West Osmund Road, this dive might sketch you out before you get a chance to fall in love. With a handful of pool tables, a number of arcade games and pinball machines, beer so cheap it's practically free and kickass events like karaoke nights, comedy open mics and even indie hip hop and rock shows, it's one of the more overlooked places to chillax. Well, maybe 'chillax' isn't the right word. People sure like to raid the jukebox here until half the bar is headbanging and screaming along to "Girls, Girls, Girls" and it's not uncommon to see a fist fight or two in the parking lot. It's the kind of homegrown charm that makes you wish this really was a house -- namely, yours. -- Troy Farah