Valley Musicians Share Memories of 20 Favorite Hollywood Alley Shows | Up on the Sun | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona

Valley Musicians Share Memories of 20 Favorite Hollywood Alley Shows

Ever since the legendary Hollywood Alley closed earlier this month, the only thing that's left of the renowned rock bar (other than many mementos of the place that were scooped up by regulars in the days following its shuttering) is memories. And plenty of 'em too, like 25 year's worth...

Local News is Vital to Our Community

When you support our community-rooted newsroom, you enable all of us to be better informed, connected, and empowered during this important election year. Give now and help us raise $5,000 by June 7.

Support local journalism

Share this:

Ever since the legendary Hollywood Alley closed earlier this month, the only thing that's left of the renowned rock bar (other than many mementos of the place that were scooped up by regulars in the days following its shuttering) is memories. And plenty of 'em too, like 25 year's worth. We devoted this week's cover story in the New Times to nothing but recollections from local musicians of the influential establishment and all the good times and great shows that happened there, from its early days in the late '80s up until is final shows.

But as much as we tried to fit into our retrospective, there were voluminous amounts of anecdotes and rememberances that had to hit the cutting room floor. (Believe us, it was a tough call.) We didn't want 'em to go to waste, especially since it includes many fantastic gigs that took place at the Alley over a quarter century, so we've assembled a list of some of the more memorable shows from the venue's history that were contributed by members of the Valley music scene.

Tortoise (1994) My best memory was seeing Tortoise play there on their first album tour. I rarely am willing to fight a crowd to get up to the front, but I did for that one. And I was right at the front edge of that stage watching that show. And it was, to this day, one of my favorite shows ever. It was sold out. And I remember... just the percussion. I'm so drawn to percussion. And just seeing them play that record [1994's Tortoise] which, at that time, nobody was doing anything musically like that. It was just amazing. -- Kimber Lanning, owner, Stinkweeds

Grant and the Geezers (1994-95) I played there with the reincarnation of Grant and Geezers. We did a show at the Alley and Grant brought a bunch of stuff on stage and he would slowly pull it out of his satchel, like some religious artifacts and other crazy stuff and then towards the end of the set he pulls out some maracas and a religious picture or something and some lighter fluid and sets all this stuff on fire. And my drums were on fire at the same time, and the stage too. And he's shaking these flaming maracas and it felt like things could end at any minute, because it was getting a little out of control. Grant almost burned the alley down. -- Bobby Lerma, The Voice/Father Figures

Rock Against Racism (1994-95) I booked that show. It had TSOL, Orange Wedge, Royal Crown Revue...that was their first ever show in Phoenix, I think. The performances were inside, but they blocked off the whole parking lot and barbecue and food outside. It was this big, all-day event. Glass Heroes played too. TSOL just killed it and I think an early version of Curse of the Pink Hearse was there. -- Keith Jackson, guitarist, The Voice/Beat Angels/Glass Heroes

Cherry Poppin' Daddies (1995) The first time I actually came in to the Alley, I had moved here from Pennsylvania and had met some people from Boston's. And they told me about a show going on down here. And they brought me through the back door and said, "Don't worry, the owner's cool. So the first time I ever came in, I came in through the back door behind the bar. And Cherry Poppin' Daddies was playing that night. It had to be way over capacity. It was awesome. And I was like, "I wanna play here." That was back before we even had the band [Fred Green] together. -- Todd Minnix, guitarist, Fred Green

Palace (1995) That was one of Steve Naughton's shows he promoted there as Medical [Presents]. And it wasn't really something that I had planned to see, but I wound up checking it out. And [Will Oldham] was great. Holy crap. It was just a man and his guitar. The whole crowd was mesmerized. -- Tom Reardon, bassist, Hillbilly Devilspeak/Pinky Tuscadero's WKAF/Father Figures

Dave and Deke Combo (1996) That was another great show. Incredible. Deke Dickerson, who's a big guitar nut, would break out all those old guitars of his, that double-necked Mosrite and whatnot. He's like the Rick Nielsen of the Americana world as far as guitars are concerned. He's just got a whole slug of 'em. And for me, just sitting there watching him pulling out all these different guitars and picking on 'em is just like, "Wow!" Stuff that you'd only just see pictures of before and to see one in the flesh, so to speak, was actually pretty cool. And Ross was really cool about doing stuff like that. These out-of-state touring acts that wouldn't have a place to play would contact him and he'd accommodate them. -- Dave Ramsey, owner, Truxton Records

Autumn Teen Sound/Sugar High (1997) Sugar High, they were the band of the moment, was officially changing their name from Autumn Teen Sound. So we did a burial show and I had this coffin onstage with a skeleton inside and Princess Di's head on it and a bunch of dead roses. It was two months after she died. I came out dressed like Screaming Jay Hawkins. And when I opened the coffin, there was this big murmur. It apparently was too soon. -- Serene Dominic, musician and New Times contributor

Jeremy Enigk (1997) I went to Hollywood Alley more just to go to shows than I was bringing shows there. And hands down one of best shows of all time at Hollywood Alley, I think, was when Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate played there. And he had like this string section with him and the whole main room was packed and all these people were standing on the booths and watching on in awe. Every booth had people standing in 'em. It was like one of those special nights. I think anyone that was there easily put it in their "tops of all time" list. It was his first tour after Sunny Day Real Estate and a little bit of a departure. -- Charlie Levy, onwer, Stateside Presents

NoMeansNo (1998) It held a couple records back in the day: most revenue for the bar and most beer consumed. There was this one part of the bar I couldn't get into because it held smashed, crunched, squashed empty beer boxes. People were freaking out since it had been a couple years since NoMeansNo had visited the Valley and it was the first time in awhile that they had played in a great place. And they fucking melted the speakers. It was a blast. We were well over fucking occupancy. I asked Ross, and it was echoed by concerned security, "How many people are we going to let Fun Bobby have in here?" He went, "As many as he wants." There a lot of motherfuckers in there enjoying NoMeansNo in a great place. And you know what? Nobody got hurt and nobody was a dick for that one.

Secret Fox (2000) We did a Secret Fox show there once, that was a Guided By Voices cover band that I sit in with every once in awhile. And that was great. It was the first time I did that. I don't know what people thought about that, but it was really fun. -- Jim Adkins, guitarist/vocalist, Jimmy Eat World

FEAR (2001) Punk rock is one of my favorite foods as far as music goes. Having the opportunity to have Lee Ving and company in the house an honor. One, because the stage for the Alley wasn't that tall. Sometime keeping people off of that stage, whether its enthusiastic crowds dancing or pogoing around or those people in the back that will push, my skinny by wiry ass had to put my heels in and lean and push back. And I thought, "I can't have for Fear, a bunch of people getting onstage." So I got a barricade for that show. You can have a beer with Fear but not have a beer and put it in one of our monitors.

Fear was older and stuff, but the show was just absolutely amazing. I had extra security. Yvette Hathaway, who's married to Todd Minnix of Fred Green, was at the door patting down chicks, so we found a few knives that people had on them for whatever reason. The band just smoked and kicked ass.

After they were done and I was walking up to the bar to tell Ross, "Look, we did it, no bullshit." And all of sudden, I saw this look at his eyes that made me about face and see a tornado of mischievous bodies moving around. And I went sprinting in that direction, pushed everyone out the front door, and yelled, "Who is ruining my fucking show?" -- Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham, longtime Hollywood Alley bartender and booker

Betty Blowtorch (2001) [Beats the Hell Outta Me] played with Betty Blowtorch at Hollywood Alley and its was another one of those packed sort of shows, probably a few more females than normal because they were an all-girl band. It was before [Bianca Butthole], the main gal for Betty Blowtorch died. Betty Blowtorch was always a fun night. It was just fun to see these punk chicks rock out. It was always an eclectic crowd, people that wouldn't normally come to Hollywood Alley would come out for a show like that. -- Michael Pistrui, guitarist/vocalist/Beats the Hell Outta Me

Desert Trash Blast 5 (2002) I think we did four [Trash Blasts] at Hollywood Alley. We'd get a weekend and have bands from Japan and Argentina and New York, all sorts of weird places. They all thought that it was just a great American rock 'n' roll bar. We brought out Texas Terri to headline one of the nights. That was over-the-top crazy. She was blown away because it was sold out, the crowd was just as cool and as wild as you can possibly imagine. She got paid at the end of the night, which a lot of people when they toured they either don't get paid or they get really shorted. It was just a great, great thing. And why Ross and Hollywood Alley were so different. -- Jeff Dahl, guitarist

Floater (2004) One of my favorite bands ever was Floater from Eugene, Oregon. If I was a player, that's how I would play. -- Ross Wincek, owner, Hollywood Alley

Jeff Dahl's 50th Birthday Blast (2005) There are so many good shows. My 50th birthday show we had done there and that was the night we got the [Slash City] Daggers all back in town to reunite and that was really magical. Those guys were a band that were this far from being world class. I thought they were on the verge of taking over the world if they just stayed together. They came together and did that reunion show, that was incredible. I was lucky about that one. -- Dahl

For [Jeff's] 50th birthday, he requested that I sing the Alice Cooper song "18." That was like a wonderful experience because I love that guy to death and I have a lot of respect for him. -- Jamie Monistat VII, vocalist, Blanche Davidian

Smoky Mountain Skullbusters (2005) The Skullbusters released an EP onetime at did the show with Greenhaven, Pinky Tuscadero's, and Casket Life and it was off the fucking chain. There were people out in the parking lot that didn't want to be inside it was so hot. It was in the middle of winter and it was really shitty outside and raining. We did a big thing where we dressed up in kung-fu outfits and shit with props all over the stage. And its was just a good fucking time. It was just one of those nights where everyone was there, everything was popping, good times with your friends. The kinda shit you're always gonna remember about that place. -- Mike Skullbuster, guitarist, Smoky Mountain Skullbusters

Truxton Records 10th Anniversary Show (2005) A lot of the bands on Truxton constantly played at the Alley: Grave Danger, Flathead, Sonic Thrills, Dammit Jim...they all played there. So we knew we wanted to film the 10th anniversary party there because it was just a bigger, more open kind of club. Good and dark, Ross always kept it kinda cold. For me, it was always just this perfect club, particularly for me, since I lived like a mile away. I knew we needed a larger place because those three bands were going to back them in and they did. It was nice to do a big show with Ross like that. -- Dave Ramsey, owner, Truxton Records

Ghostland Observatory (2006) I booked them back in 2006. And there's some pride in that because, at that time, we weren't able to get to many of the good indie touring bands because Stateside was getting everybody. Every once in awhile you catch a little diamond in the rough or stuff that falls past their radar. It was really the only time they played Phoenix. I think there was only 50 people there, but just to know they played our stage was a big deal. And it was a great show. -- Will Tynor, longtime Hollywood Alley bartender and manager

Jay Reatard (2007) The very first Jay Reatard show was there, like his solo shit. I booked that, I played drums. Yeah, it was fucking wild. He was doing his thing. My buddies were up front getting ape-shit with him. Fucking moshing, breaking bottles, having a good time. Ross didn't give a shit. I think he had a big old grin on his face. -- Ryan Rousseau, guitarist, Destruction Unit

AZPunk Thrash of the Titans (2007/2010) It was a really good time. It was sorta this brainstorm that I had, to throw all these [musician's] names into a hat and pick out names to make these random bands and see if people could actually make it function. And I shared the idea with Michah [Elliott] from AZPunk and he thought it was a fantastic idea. We had six bands with like 25 local musicians and everyone had three full months to get it together to do a half-hour set. And there was no choice to have the show at the Alley, because, for me, anything that was above and beyond a CD release or Halloween show, I always angled to do that because it was the perfect place for that sort of festivities. -- Reardon

A couple of the more memorable shows I've been to at the Hollywood Alley were the AZPunk Thrash of the Titans shows. It was such a cool one had ever tried an experimental band competition of [that] type before. Ross and the guys were so cool and open for any and all ideas we had. -- Micah Elliott, co-founder, AZPunk

Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Phoenix New Times has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.