Load up your copy of Avicii's "Last Dance" and steel yourself for some depressing news, EDM fans and nightlife fiends: Axis-Radius, the longest-running dance club in Scottsdale, will close by month's end after 16 years in operation. The Old Town institution -- which has served as the epicenter for DJs, dancing, and nightlife adventures since the late '90s -- will shut down on June 29 after one final blowout, appropriately titled "Last Call."
You'll still be able to spend your evenings and weekends enjoying music and after-dark thrills at either of the clubs comprising the iconic double-sided establishment, but only after each receives a complete reboot and remodel into two different concepts, including a live music venue.
Up on the Sun has learned that Evening Entertainment Group -- the company, run by longtime Scottsdale nightlife mavens Les and Diane Corieri, that owns the property -- is planning to transform Radius into a concert joint called Livewire by the spring of 2014. Meanwhile, the adjacent Axis will become a chic craft beer hangout known as Bottle Blonde, which is tentatively planned to open in January.
Jeff O'Neil, operations manager for EEG, says that the Corieris felt that "changing things up" at Axis-Radius was needed since the venerated danceteria, which is located along Indian Plaza near Saddlebag Trail, has been part of Scottsdale club milieu for the better part of two decades.
"They think that Axis-Radius has kind of run its course and it's time to do something new on that piece of property," O'Neil says. "I mean, it's 16 years old, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a lot of nightclubs that have lasted this long anywhere in the country."
While O'Neil and others at EEG (which also owns nightspots like The Mint and Hi Fi, as well as part of the newly opened Maya) are admittedly excited to give the place a new lease on life, they're a bit melancholic about the closure of one of Scottsdale's more iconic clubs that served as a vanguard for bars and clubs in its particular section of the city's downtown.
The club debuted in 1997 as just Axis, a posh cigar and martini bar ("Because that was the craze back then," O'Neil notes) in what was then a relatively nondescript neighborhood filled with mostly vacant office buildings and storefronts. The Corieris, who also owned bygone clubs Jetz and Stixx around that time, were searching for a new concept.
Resale Concert Tickets
It blossomed into something bigger, not only helping the couple expand their empire of nightlife establishments (which went on to include more than a half-dozen places in Scottsdale and around the Valley) but also breaking ground for what would later become known as Scottsdale's Entertainment District. Radius, which featured more of a dance club bent, followed within the next two years.
O'Neil, who has worked for the couple for more than 17 years, remembers when Axis first opened and speaks fondly of its swank vibe and a few of the DJ nights.
"It was this nice spot with cigars and martinis where we were open seven days a week with a great kitchen. And then Radius was just a dirt lot next door where we parked all our VIP cars there and then built it there as a nightclub," O'Neil says. "Axis started the whole thing around that block. It was nothing but offices, [but] once Axis came in other places like Sanctuary started opening, and then everything kind of grew up around there."
And people started coming into both Axis (which eventually dropped its stogies in favor of focusing on the dancing) and Radius, and continued to do so for more than a decade-and-a-half. That includes a long list of celebrities and glitterati that O'Neil rattles off, including such pop superstars as Prince ("He came in to party one night after a concert"), movie stars like George Clooney, and dozens upon dozens of pro athletes, ranging from Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley to Tiger Woods and Larry Fitzgerald.
Then there are the countless thousands of locals who've visited. "Everyone seems to have an Axis-Radius story," O'Neil says, "whether it's 'I met my wife there' or 'I had my 21st birthday there.'"
Scottsdale promoting king Steve LeVine has more than a few stories himself about Axis-Radius; he's been involved with the place since the early aughts, when he left a gig at neighboring club Sanctuary (itself later purchased by the Corieris, added to their nightlife fiefdom, and renamed Myst.) He's done everything from book DJs both big and small for Axis-Radius to actually spinning up tracks there himself.
LeVine says it's a definite end to an era but notes that change is sort of a way of life in Scottsdale.
In just the past three years alone, a few of Axis-Radius' neighbors and nearby competitors along Indian Plaza, Saddlebag Trail, and Stetson Drive have either been remodeled (EPIQ), renamed (Shotgun Betty's), or just sprung up outta nowhere (Wild Knight, El Hefe). Even EEG has seen plenty of change with its clubs, as Myst and Suede were torn down in 2012 to make room for Maya, which opened in April.
Axis-Radius weathered all the tough economic times and fickle tastes in Scottsdale, remaining relatively unchanged (save for a remodeling here and there) for 16 years.
"I think that the DJ booth was moved so many times on the Radius side it's hilarious," LeVine jokes.
It also endured the ebb and flow of electronica's popularity during that time, which ran the gamut from the big beats of the early 2000s to the current EDM zenith with a bit of a lull in-between.
"It's had a lot of dance music, and it kind of changed to be more Top 40," LeVine says. "Of course, it ended up changing back to strictly dance again. It's funny how things are cyclical and history repeats itself."
When asked to name some of his favorite DJs that he's booked over the past decade at Axis-Radius, LeVine runs through a list of "amazing shows" that features some of the biggest artists in EDM, like Kaskade, Benny Benassi, Above and Beyond, and Calvin Harris.
Another of LeVine's favorite memories is from January 2008, when it hosted several straight nights of blockbuster performers during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLII, -- like Kid Rock, Snoop Dogg, and P-Diddy -- an experience that he calls "unreal."
"I think [Axis-Radius] had a great run, but I also think its time has come," he says. "And you need to change with the times."
And according to O'Neil, there will be a lot of change taking place inside the property as it's transformed into its new identities.
Both the Axis and Radius portions of the property will expand their square footage, which O'Neil says is of particular importance to Livewire, since they aim for a capacity of 1,000 people
"There's a valet lane sitting in front of the clubs right now," he says, "and what we'll do is pull the buildings all the way to the sidewalk."
The music venue will be built inside the Radius part of the building and will keep its tiered structure, with a balcony overlooking the stage. Everything else -- like the VIP rooms, bars, and DJ booth -- will be torn out during the remodel.
O'Neil says a big stage will be built, for which the Corieris are springing for a new sound system and a gigantic LED wall, as well as other "bells and whistles."
Big-name locals and touring acts from multiple genres, as well as DJs and EDM artists here and there, will be booked to perform at Livewire.
"That's one of the good things about the Phoenix market; you have L.A., San Diego, and Vegas filtering through those cities, so it's just a natural thing to stop off in the Phoenix market," he says. "And we'd like to have them play Livewire."
One of the biggest events every year at Axis-Radius has been the annual Ghost Ball block party both inside the club and out along Indian Plaza during Halloween weekend, which has previous featured Top 40 headliners like Hot Chelle Rae. According to both O'Neil and LeVine, it's still being determined whether or not the event will continue during or after the remodel, although neither rules it out.
O'Neil says he personally hopes it continues, as it will serve as reminder of Axis-Radius' storied past.
"I sure hope there's a remnant or two of Axis-Radius in there somewhere, because it's an big piece of Scottsdale nightlife history that's going away," he says.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Last Call at Axis-Radius takes place on Saturday, June 29.