Ross Wincek, the co-owner of Hollywood Alley is responsible for bringing countless great bands to Phoenix over the past 25 years, as well as giving local bands a place to grow. Wincek had a stroke in March, so local bands and fans of the Alley are doing everything they can to help out.
Tom Reardon of The Father Figures organized Saturday night's Ross Rocks benefit to help raise money for Wincek, who has about $10,000 in medical bills. For $10, fans could enjoy 19 bands spanning across 15 hours. The venue also had an auction with all sorts of goodies -- a spa package, a vintage Slayer T-shirt, a skateboard deck, a bag of pubes.
The night was full of great music, fun stories, and well wishes for Ross.
There was a fantastic turnout Saturday night. The bar was packed for most of the evening and parking was scant. Thankfully the nail salon across the street didn't tow.
At the end of the night, Fun Bobby (a legendary Hollywood Alley barkeep who returned from Oregon to visit) asked who had been there the whole day and only a couple people raised their hands. Kudos to these folks, because even with arriving in the early evening, last night was exhausting (but still a great time).
Local punk stalwarts The Father Figures played a bunch of new songs tonight for a nice, big crowd. The band will be recording a new album in June that is estimated for a fall release.
"You can play here and not worry about getting paid. It's really what a rock club should be, that's the bottom line," said Father Figures' guitarist Michael Cornelius. "A story I remember the most is I played here on New Year's Eve in '90/'91 with my band Housequake. After our show, Ross and Ross' mom fixed all of us breakfast at 2 in the morning. They made it home. From then until now, I spot in my heart for the Wincek family."
Fat Gray Cat mixed metal and sludge with vocals reminiscent of Tool. The songs were long and very guitar-driven. Vocalist Michael Pistrui has been playing shows at Hollywood Alley since 1989- "I played in several other bands as well and got to criss cross the country. I've played in all sorts of different clubs from CBGB's to Whiskey a Go-Go to . . . you name it, and there's nobody like Ross. I love the guy, he's so easy to work with and in all of the 20 years that I've been here, I've never had a bad experience," Pistrui said.
Via Vengeance was really entertaining to watch, as it is the one-man band of Shane Ocell. Ocell sings, drums, and plays guitar all at once to create aggressive metal without the use of a backing track. He got the idea for Via Vengeance after his father died in 2005 -- "My dad passed away so I had lyrics kind of spewing out and just was messing around one day and just figured it out and ran with it," Ocell said.
He also spoke very highly of Ross: "We all know Ross rocks. [He is] ust so humble and nice and just awesome. Not one negative thing to say about the guy, he's just an awesome guy."
Via Vengeance and Grave Danger ended up switching time slots. Grave Danger was a nice change of pace from its metal-oriented predecessors, performing a solid set that combined horror punk and rockabilly with a stronger dose of rock 'n roll than 'billy. No upright bass was necessary.
The Father Figures' Tom Reardon played two more sets with Blanche Davidian and Hillbilly Devilspeak (who reunited for this show). "This is probably the only place I'd do three sets in a night for," Reardon said, "We wish Ross the quickest recovery and we hope to see him soon back behind the bar doing his thing. We're just so, so thankful for all of the bands that pitched in their time. All of the people that have been donating money and just for Hollywood Alley. The Phoenix area would be just a loss if there wasn't a Hollywood Alley."
I'm not quite sure what happened around midnight, but the venue emptied out quite a bit, as if the show was over. Either it was past everyone's bed time or most people came out to see Hillbilly Devilspeak. At any rate, the venue was pretty empty by the time Chappelle Des Morts took the stage.
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At least I think that was Chappelle Des Morts. A man dressed in all black (Doug Clark of legendary Phoenix art-punk band Mighty Sphincter) took the stage while spooky ambient music played and did not say a word. He paced back and forth and started singing like Marilyn Manson, then he stopped and the vocal track continued. He packed up his acoustic guitar (which he never played) and paced around a bit more, causing a bunch of feedback (and fans yelling for him to stop playing). The whole ordeal was like seeing a goth version of the Ariel Pink freak out. I'm still not sure if that was actually Chappelle Des Morts or some guy messing with us, but it was interesting to say the least.
Things picked up a bit for Greenhaven, who closed out the evening with a solid rock set that fans of Clutch would have loved.
Last night was a refreshing reminder that the local music scene is far from dead. Get well soon, Ross.