Niki's Weekend Word: Mill Avenue, downtown Phoenix, Summer of Sound, and Foxboro Hot Tubs

By Niki D'Andrea

As Music Editor at Phoenix New Times, I usually run around town every weekend, going to various events and meeting up with any number of people, sometimes falling into misadventure and often falling into disrepair. My weekend often starts on Thursday and doesn’t end until Monday morning, when I have to drag my ass back to the office and affect some image of wakefulness/awareness. I figured I might as well be as self-indulgent as music critics are now alleged to be – at least those who are still walking the plank. Might as well document these times of my life and simultaneously share my experience of the scene and happenings around P-city, before I am too old to stand in front of another amplifier and dying from some debauchery-rooted disease.

Welcome to Niki’s Weekend Word. It's truly the diary of a madwoman.

Thursday, May 22: It was pouring down rain all night. Spent five hours on Mill Avenue in Tempe, after driving to Mesa to pick up my date and her sister. Had dinner at Corleone’s (the traditional cheesesteak with onions, mushrooms, and provolone cheese for me). Afterwards, we walked across the street to Coffee Plantation and I chugged a white chocolate mocha before meeting my friend (and frequent “Niki at Nite” cohort) B-Boy at this club called Suite 301. There were some guys in bad hair metal wigs performing Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing.” We watched them play for a while, but then my ears began to hurt from the ridiculously high vocal mic volume, so we walked over to the coolest head shop in the Valley, Graffiti Underground.

We spent more than an hour browsing the Zong Bongs, belt buckles, fetish wear, incense, pipes, and boots, and talking to the shop’s brilliant owner, Lawrence (who also recently acquired the Zong company, which makes some of the world’s best water pipes). He’s been in a prime, two-story spot behind The Loft and Gordon Biersch since 1987, when he says he signed a 25-year lease with a one-year option. He still pays the same rent on that space that he paid in 1987 -- $8000 a year. Consequently, Graffiti Underground has become the last profitable remnant of the old Mill Avenue, one of the few independent businesses that survived rent hikes and the subsequent corporate takeover of the strip. Stop in and shop, if you haven’t already. But do it before 2013, when Graffiti Underground will have to vacate its very high-demand space in a now very high-priced commercial rental property. They’ll probably put a Starbucks there, to complement the one that’s already less than 30 feet away.

Zongs and more can be found at Graffiti Underground.

Friday, May 23: After leaving the office, I joined my friend Joker (another “Niki at Nite” cohort) at Bikini Lounge. This downtown dive bar ( located off 15th Avenue and Grand), is one of my favorite drinking holes, because pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon only cost $2.50, they come with frosted glasses, and the bartenders are no-bullshit, cash-only veterans of the bar scene. I also like the spot because it’s located between art/performance spaces Perihelion Arts and the Trunk Space. After Joker and I finished our hour-long blabfest over booze, we spent another hour outside, talking to the scenesters we kept running into. First, we saw Valley photog Giulio Sciorio cruising down Grand Avenue on his bike, and then we caught New Times columnist Steve “Noise Boy” Jansen while he was on his way to play a cheese grater at Trunk Space (no joke). Joker and I then headed down 7th Street to MacAlpine’s to soak in the quaint, retro soda shop atmosphere and fill our bellies with grub (big coney dog smothered in chili and cheese for me).

Yes, hot betties like this really work at MacAlpine’s.

Saturday, May 24: I drove waaay out West (79th Avenue and Glendale, to be precise) for the New Times Summer of Sound punk show at Exit 7, featuring the Dickies. You can read about the show here. What the blog doesn’t mention is that the trio of hot female bartenders working at Exit 7 that night -- in super tight shirts, itty bitty skirts, and daisy duke shorts – are the most babelicious bar crew I’ve seen since the Rogue in Scottsdale had both “It girl” Katie Rose and local bass-playing badass (and Love Me Not) Christina Nuñez behind the bar a few years ago.

Sunday, May 25: Headed to my favorite part of town to see live music (downtown Phoenix) for the Foxboro Hot Tubs show at the Brickhouse Theatre. You can read about that show here.

Now, it’s Monday – a holiday, thank goodness, so I have time to recover. Happy Memorial Day, everyone, and if I survive the city scene again next weekend, I’ll see you back for more Weekend Word on Monday, June 2.

For more of my adventures about town, check out my "Niki at Nite" columns in the archives at www.phoenixnewtimes.com.

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