It really bums me out to report this, but it seems that downtown Phoenix music venue the PHiX has shut down. Owner Lee Berger sent an e-mail to New Times confirming its death, stating simply that "the PHiX is closed after a six-year run."
The Grand Avenue establishment (which was housed in a former motorcycle shop and functioned as both an art space and music joint) opened in 2004, roughly around the same time as the Trunk Space made its debut just up the street. Ironically enough, the latter venue celebrated its sixth birthday on Tuesday during the same week that the PHiX shut its doors.
Speaking of the Trunk Space, Stephanie Carrico and JRC's space is now -- for all intents and purposes -- one of the few cool spots remaining in downtown Phoenix to watch live music.
As recently as three years ago, Grand Avenue had nearly a half-dozen viable places that hummed with bands most nights of the week, including the Paper Heart, Chez Nous, and the Cone Gallery. In 2006, I attended Psyko Steve's Oh Shit! A Fest!, which featured a crapload of local rock and pop acts spread across eight downtown Phoenix venues on both Grand and Roosevelt (such as Four White Walls and OnePlace). With the exception of Trunk Space, pretty much all of them have gone bye-bye, including the PHiX.
I've been unable to reach Berger via either phone or e-mail for an official post-mortem for his venue, so I can only guess as to why it finally went under. The owner certainly had his share of the typical problems facing any downtown space, such as tussling with the city over improvements or getting people through the door.
The PHiX had garnered a certain reputation in the local scene for hosting countless hardcore bands. (New Times even gave it a Best of Phoenix award in 2005). But the spot also was a space where you were likely to see memorable gigs in any number of genres, including experimental acts and freakfests.
In 2006, I witnessed an orgy of destruction and violence of a Locking Your Car Doors show put on by downtown performance artist Ryan Avery and his co-horts. Here's an excerpt from my cover story on Avery:
A raging rabble of more than 50 teenage and twentysomething scenesters, many clad Unabomber-style in hoodies and sunglasses, has spent 90 minutes smashing all manner of home electronics into the floor while slam-dancing to a bizarre soundtrack of Avery's favorite party music (including rocker Andrew W.K. and Europop group Vengaboys) blasting over the PA. Shattered bits of televisions, sewing machines, computer keyboards, vacuum cleaners and other devices lie in a foot-high heap in front of the art gallery's stage. The havoc isn't limited to appliances, as this mob has also obliterated watermelons and bottles of soy sauce, as well as tossing powdered sugar and uncooked pasta onto the crowd. These foodstuffs soil the walls like bloodstains but stain the air with a pungent aroma.
While Avery remembers that night at the PHiX quite well, it wasn't the only memorable night he had at Berger's joint.
"It was a show with Kimya Dawson, The Tree Forts, and the Deitrichs. There was such a weird mix of everything and it was just a real awesome vibe, despite how gross the evening was," he says. "In the middle of Tree Forts' set, the guitarist gave another member a blowjob. And at some point they also gave the audience a bottle of aftershave and spilled it everywhere."
Avery says he's saddened to learn of the PHiX's passing, but suspects that Berger is happy that it's closed.
"He opened as an art gallery and it become a Mecca for hardcore shows," he says. "I'm bummed to see it go. You spend so much time there it becomes a part of you, its like finding out your best friend died."