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Tempe History Museum Exhibit Shows That Music Scene's History Goes Beyond Gin Blossoms

Walking through the back rooms of the Tempe History Museum, it's easy to get distracted by the various artifacts of the city's lore. Boxes are stacked like in the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark; one clumsy turn could result in someone accidentally getting his face melted. Navigating confidently through the relics is Josh Roffler, curator of collections at Tempe History Museum. He steps inside a fluorescent-lit room to unveil a seemingly ordinary brick. His eyes widen in excitement.

The block doesn't look valuable or important, but intrinsic sentimental value lurks within the shale and clay. It is one of the remnants from the influential Tempe nightclub Long Wong's, where so many musicians, including The Refreshments, Dead Hot Workshop, and Gin Blossoms, staked their claim and rose to prominence. In another corner sits the soundboard that the groups plugged into before taking the stage at the legendary venue.

These items are among the numerous displays making up "The Tempe Sound" exhibition, now at Tempe History Museum through October 4, 2015. The 2,500-square-foot space is filled with nostalgia-inducing artifacts, including costumes, vintage band T-shirts, guitars belonging to artists such as Hans Olson and Roger Clyne, and even a replica of the Long Wong's stage. The exhibit will host concerts and a series of rotating exhibits throughout the year, including a photo display from New Times archives (coming June 2).

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil