The atmosphere inside The Nash during its grand opening concert on a warm night back in early October was positively electric. A fast-paced flurry of a finger-snapping bebop filled the air as a quintet of jazz musicians led by legendary drummer Lewis Nash, the namesake of the new downtown Phoenix music venue, laid down their rhythms at a breakneck pace.
As members of the audience let loose with catcalls and hollered their approval, Nash relentlessly thumped the skins during a frenetic drumming solo before joining with rest of the performers -- including bassist Christian McBribe, pianist Cedar Walton, and guitarist Russell Malone -- and building the crescendo into an explosion of jazz that marked the climax of their set. Then, there was nothing but applause.
It was a thrilling ending that served as the official beginning of The Nash, a combination concert hall and music education center run by Jazz in Arizona. Its arrival was one of the higher profile venue debuts that took place in the Valley during 2012, a year that saw the opening of several other unique joints around town, as well as the departure of several iconic and long-running establishments.
Like many of the venues that entered the scene over the past 12 months, The Nash was a project that was a couple years in the making. According to Joel Goldenthal, Jazz in Arizona's executive director, it took three years to get the place open, but was well worth the wait. Especially since it meant being at the intersection of First and Roosevelt streets, which -- as any culture vulture will tell you -- is smack-dab in the heart of the downtown arts district.
"It actually took awhile to settle on this space, although this building was the very first one we looked at," Goldenthal says. "And the reason we targeted Roosevelt Row is it's a hotbed of culture that's a block from our building, a block from light rail, and is close to the [ASU Downtown] campus. So we strategically targeted that [spot] to be accessible to a broad community and to provide opportunities to an underserved population of jazz fans and those that would not normally have access to a jazz educational programs."
Besides serving as the Valley's few dedicated jazz venues, he adds, The Nash functions as a learning center for neophyte musicians eager to learn about the genre and to add some young blood to the local jazz crowd.
"The Nash was conceived on the premise of providing opportunities for young jazz musicians to perform and to cultivate a young jazz audience," Goldenthal says. "So we have a wide variety of classes available, approximately 18 to 20 twenty educational programs that are in the works that over time will be ramped up."
As such, performances at The Nash since it's opening have ranged from gigs by student combos and burgeoning local acts like Running From Bears to concerts by top touring professionals.
"It's a very hip space," Goldenthal says. "It's a great location and vibe. Everybody that's been in this place from an audience standpoint and a musician standpoint is just absolutely enthralled with this space. It's like walking into a really cool jazz club."
And on the subject of primo locations, a few other music venues and dance clubs that premiered this past year have benefited from being in the perfect spot. To wit: The proprietors of The Monarch Theatre, who also own the adjacent Bar Smith, have experienced big turnouts since opening in April thanks to being located in the midst of the clubbing haven of Washington Street. Meanwhile, the owners of the flashy and stylish EPIQ Nightclub in Scottsdale took over the Saddlebag Trail locale formerly occupied by the now-defunct Pussycat Lounge and have seen hundreds of party monsters flock to their door.
Here's a rundown of other live music venues, dance clubs, and EDM havens that debuted in the Metro Phoenix area in 2012.
Openings: - Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts - Monsterland Bar & Grill - The Monarch Theatre - Jivemind Community Music Workshop - Pub Rock - The Nash - Gypsy Bar - The Record Room - Eastside Records - EPIQ Nightclub - Last Exit Live
Live music spots took a major hit in 2012 as venues both large (The Compound Grill, Skye) and small (Yellow Canary Dancehall, Johnny's Eastside Tap) either went belly up or transformed into new establishments entirely.
Perhaps the biggest closure was the demise of Tempe's Clubhouse Music Venue in March after it was caught up in a nightmarish whirlwind of criminal drama in the wake of the gang-related shooting that took place in its parking lot prior to a Nipsey Hussle concert.
In addition to perusing the perpetrators who wounded 18 people, Tempe Police also went after the Clubhouse and its owner Eugenia Ruven, in what many in the local music scene described as a "witch hunt." The 45-year-old was arrested on charges of allegedly having insufficient security during the now-infamous show.
In the span of less than two weeks, the Tempe concert hall went from being one the Valley's more prominent live venues to a vacant spot ready for its next tenant.
Other spots that had a "For Lease" sign placed in their windows included a number of dancing and DJ havens like Club Silver in Phoenix and Wasted Velvet in Tempe, as well as long-running country music nightclub and venue Graham Central Station, which closed late last month.
This past year also witnessed a rather unique situation: Popular local vinyl emporium Eastside Records (which occasionally hosts punk and weirdo rock shows) closed its pop-up location in April, only to reopen in October in another part of Tempe when owner Michael Pawlicki couldn't secure a place in the L.A. area in which to move the store.
Given the 50-year-old vinyl aficionado's desire to leave Phoenix in the summertime (due to his never-ending hatred of the Valley heat) and possibly reopen in cooler climes, we fully expect to be writing another epitaph for the store sometime in the next year. In the meantime, here are the rest of the local venues and clubs that did a swan song in 2012.
Closings: - Yellow Canary Dance Hall - Club Silver - Clubhouse Music Venue - The Compound Grill - PHX Nightclub - District 8 Warehouse - Skye - Myst - Suede Lounge - Pussycat Lounge - Wasted Velvet - The Ghost of Eastside Records - Chasers - Graham Central Station - Johnny's Eastside Tap - Rockzone Records