The website for Hollywood Alley contains a fairly lengthy rundown of some of the vast array of renowned musicians and bands that have performed at the Mesa rock dive over its 25-year history, and it's both enormous and impressive. Said list includes name both iconic and influential, ranging from such punk legends as Sylvain Sylvain, Sonny Vincent, and the late Jay Reatard to rock and indie tastemakers past and present like The Action Design, Ghostland Observatory, and Girl in a Coma.
But as enviable as this inventory of past performers looks, it's merely a sampling of the literal thousands of shows and musicians who have graced Hollywood Alley's stage since the landmark music venue first opened in 1988. Like countless other locals, our scribes have stopped by on multiple occasions over the years to attend memorable concerts and gigs taking place. In honor of the Alley closing its doors for good after last night, we've assembled a list of seven of our favorite shows that occurred at the bar, including what will likely be its final night of live music.
Around 2006, Hollywood Alley played host to the Valley's premier hip-hop joint The Blunt Club. In fact, the venue was the site of more than a few memorable episodes of its usual b-boying/graf art/hip-hop-filled adventures, including the time when New Times scribe Stephen Lemons (who penned our infamous Inferno nightlife column) stopped by for a gig by the Crown City Rockers. What follows is an excerpt for the piece, which you can read here.
The Crown City Rockers are readying to leap up there and get at it in support of their latest and livest album to date, earthtones. Anyone who hasn't caught their high-energy act should examine their website, www.crowncityrockers.com, and especially the video for their track "B-boy." That could practically be the Blunt Club's anthem, with its refrain, "I love -- bein' a b-boy!" Needless to say, everyone is humming that tune by the time CCR's set is done.
After conversatin' with Professor Hyder and Señor Dumps, I chat with CCR's charismatic MC Raashan Ahmad, the leader of that multicultural quintet, whose members can -- check this -- actually play some motherfunkin' instruments! As opposed to some others these days who've never gotten beyond using prerecorded tracks.
"We definitely come from that side of like the more organic kind of hip-hop, like Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul," he says. "We follow that aesthetic. But we also love everything from Jay-Z and N.W.A to MF Doom and Living Legends, all that stuff. That's hip-hop, and we love playin' it." -- Stephen Lemons
For the Melt-Banana (MxBx) virgin, the Tokyo-based group has been around since '92, and has released eight full-length albums and 23 EPs. The gender-equal foursome (two women, two men) forever tour the States and the U.K., mostly because they don't get much love in their home country. Instead, they attract a dedicated following here, myself included.
Monday's set began with lead vocalist Yasuko Onuki carrying a gigantic fake tarantula on stage while bassist Rika mm', electric guitarist Ichirou Agata, and stickman Oshima took their places. The first tune featured sampled sounds of barking dogs before MxBx detonated into "1.21 gigawatts" of energy. (Remember Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future?) Onuki's vocal pyrotechnics were a perfect complement to the blistering "rhythm section," and Agata's pedal-modified guitar shreds, which reminded me of the sound FX on that old Atari game Asteroids, hopped up on speed.
Throughout the eve's performance, the music vacillated between noise and punk with elements of rock and free jazz (my other, more frenzied sonic obsession). Freakazoid compositions, comped by hyperactive vocals and tenacious drum accompaniment, were the norm. When Agata decided to get noisy with his concussion-inducing pedal effects, it never felt over-the-top or like I was watching some lame-o, droning noise band. -- Steve Jansen
This particular affair was considered to the main fete of Hollywood Alley's "20 Years of Rock" parties in 2008, as it was organized and attended by Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham, the affable longtime bartender/booker/mascot/institution at the bar (who moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2006). A few of his favorite bands and musicians were recruited to perform at the show, and they didn't disappoint.
I'd unfortunately gotten there later than I'd hoped, but was able to catch the end of funk-rock outfit Chocolate Fountain's dynamic performance, where guitarist D.L. Harrison was in rare form and was playing and moving about the stage with plenty of energy.
After the set, I sought out Fun Bobby, as we'd been conversing much over the telephone during the past couple weeks for an article I'd written about the party, as well as compilation of people's memories of the bar. It wasn't hard to pick him out from the growing crowd who'd turned out for the event, as the 6-foot-6 beanpole towered over most in attendance. I sidled on up to the dude as he was hanging out with Page Davis (the hilarious comedy rocker known as Page the Village Idiot), who'd performed earlier in the evening.
Fun Bobby was even friendlier than usual, as he was more than a little lit at the moment, owing to the fact he was a little nervous at having to perform in less than an hour with Bourbon Witch, the "supergroup" he'd assembled from the members of such local bands as Blanche Davidian and Tom Reardon of Pinky Tuscadero's WhiteKnuckle AssFuck.
I let [him] go get ready for his performance and checked out the musical efforts of Pinky Tuscadero's WhiteKnuckle AssFuck, who'd taken the stage. The punk sixsome had taken the stage and were proceeding to blow the doors off the place with their grinding sound. Their 30-minute set consisted of a lot of fun material, including songs about Sponge Bob SquarePants, Scottsdale assholes, and other hilarious topics. Frontman Tom Reardon (who also plays with the North Side Kings) took time out between songs to thank Hollywood Alley owner Ross Wincek and his family for all the hard work they've put into keeping the bar running for two decades. Reardon wasn't the only one dishing out kudos to the Wincek's, as the other musicians in attendance did so as well. -- Benjamin Leatherman
A three-piece grrrl punk band from Texas, GiAC is signed to Joan Jett's record label. As I wrote last week, they're got a great sound: a Sleater-Kinney edge, with those Jetty hooks we all love. They stopped by Mesa as a warm-up for their gig at the much more impressive Knitting Factory in LA on Friday. They've been through town before, building a nice little local fan base that turned out to see them play a late set (10:30 start time) on a weeknight.
Singer Nina Diaz's remarkable voice is the cornerstone of the band's sound, and she was on Wednesday night. Often compared to Morrissey -- I would argue that's mostly because the band's name is a reference to a Smiths' song, not because she actually sounds like Morrissey -- Diaz sounds equally natural in a full-on snarl or a delicate Debbie Harry "In the Flesh" coo.
According to this interview on Suicide Girls (our preferred source on such things) she's also very young -- either 20 or 21 -- but you'd never hear it to her belt out the grown-up "Clumsy Sky," which she did near the end of their hour-long set. "Pleasure and Pain," a new song, and their ballad "Road to Home" were also standouts. Nina was by far the most animated on stage, her eyes growing in to saucers as she sang, while her sister, drummer Phanie Diaz, and bassist Jenn Alva played well but didn't around move too much. -- Martin Cizmar
The only thing hotter than two badass rock 'n' roll chicks? Why, that would be three badass rock 'n' roll chicks. I think the packed crowd at Hollywood Alley in Mesa will vouch for me on this one.
Los Angeles rockers The Green Lady Killers made a triumphant return to the Valley with a jamming set last night. Vocalist/guitarist Lady Van Buren and drummer Cherrybomb have been refining their act since their move to the coast. The ladies are playing as hard and as fast as ever, aided by the fat bass sound of new addition Ivy Rose.
The hour-long set showed off the shiny new bassist as well as some of the new tracks the band has penned.
It's hard to imagine that GLK could have added to their sultry visage but they have with the addition of Rose. Besides striking fat chords, she brought gritty vocals, flounced on stage, walked into the crowd, flicked her hair about and dropped to her knees at just the right times, throwing her head back. She paired perfectly with Lady Van Buren as the two played off of each other and really ramped up the energy in the crowd.
Van Buren's shrills were sharp and her guitar licks wicked, while Cherrybomb laid some foot-stomping rhythms and splashy cymbals. "Psycho Ellen" and "Power" reminded us of all the things we loved about them when they were still walking down Phoenix alleys on a daily basis, but new songs like "Beautiful Loser," with its sweet-sounding melody and steady strumming showed the influence L.A. is having on the band's music-making prowess. -- Anthony Sandoval
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.
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." -- Melissa Fossum
After 25 years of gigs both epic and intimate, live music at Hollywood Alley ended not with a bang but a jam session. And it was a pretty emotional one at that. Led by longtime regular and talented funk guitarist D.L. Harrison, a member of local ensemble the Chocolate Fountain Experience, the jam lasted a bit past last call and featured bassist Brendan McBride, frequent collaborator Paul Calderone, drummer Miles Tippett, Jaime Ali on trumpet, a dude named Q on guitar, and a helluva lot of heart.
At one point the session, Harrison offered up a memory of how the late Lucy Wincek, one of the co-owners of Hollywood Alley who passed away in 2006, offered him encouragement before a show at the venue. It was a bit of poignancy that capped off the evening filled with memorable gigs, which also include performances by such regulars as Corey Gloden, Banana Gun, Deadfoxx, Cock Posse, and Daughters of Fission.
Infamous groove-rock act Fred Green also packed the place to earlier in the night with one last show at a venue that its gigged at countless times, providing a scorching set that included many of their hits, as well as a funky reworking of Soul Coughing's "Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago."
While the entirety of the final weekend of music provided many memorable moments -- ranging from a night of sweaty and grimy punk on Friday from Pinky Tuscadero White Knuckle AssFuck, Dick Hazard, and The Rebel Set, as well as local faves locals VinFiz, The Companeros, and Truckers on Speed on Saturday -- the final night sticks out in our mind the most, probably because we ran into some of Hollywood Alley's more famous and devoted patrons and proprietors who came by to partake in the place one last gig.
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That includes its esteemed co-owner Ross Wincek, who hasn't graced many shows since recovering from his stroke last year, but hung out throughout the weekend and seemed to enjoy what was a fitting tribute to the establishment that he and the rest of his family had helped run over the past quarter century. -- Benjamin Leatherman
See Also: - Mesa's Legendary Hollywood Alley to Close on July 31 - I Lived Next to Hollywood Alley and Never Gave It a Chance - Hollywood Alley Anniversary Party Will Go On Without Hollywood Alley - Hollywood Alley to Stay Open Through Friday Night