The sprawling Stetson Drive bar and music venue, which debuted in 2014, is not only surviving the fickle Scottsdale scene but is thriving after its first three years of existence.
And according to Jason Johnson, Wasted Grain’s director of operations, it’s been a hectic stretch that’s encompassed both highs (such as big gigs by Snoop Dogg and Too Short) and lows (including the death of his business partner Michael Stravers earlier this year) for the venue.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Johnson says, “But we’ve made it work and managed to stick around.”
It’s an achievement worth celebrating, which Johnson will be doing along with the venue’s regulars (and hundreds of live music fans) during Wasted Grain’s Three-Year Anniversary celebration this weekend.
The festivities will run three straight nights, with a mix of DJs and live acts each evening, including Z-Trip on Friday, Phunk Junkeez and The Black Moods on Saturday, and Too Short on Sunday.
There will also be an an extended premises with the party stretching into Wasted Grain’s parking lot, as well as prizes, giveaways, and drink specials.
In the 100 Proof Lounge on the second floor, for instance, new artwork and a few minor renovations will be in place. Meanwhile, Johnson says new and enormous lighting setup will illuminate the Wasted Grain's exterior starting this weekend.
"There's a huge lighting package that's going to light the place up almost like the Griswolds' place in Christmas Vacation," he says. “We never really capitalized on the curb appeal of the place like some of the other clubs in Old Town. But we're right there on the corner [of Stetson Drive and Drinkwater Boulevard] and a focal point of this part of Scottsdale, so we wanted to draw some more attention to ourselves. And that will be evident at the anniversary party.”
Johnson says that Wasted Grain will start having a greater focus on live music. Since opening in 2014, when it replaced the now-defunct Martini Ranch, the venue has mainly featured weekly shows from tribute and cover bands, including Metalhead and Rock Lobster, with occasional gigs by local acts and a few big names like Snoop Dogg and Morgan Page.
“We're going to be doing a lot more shows, bringing in more [nationally known] bands to complement what we already have going with our house bands,” Johnson says. “We’ve had a lot of packed-out shows, but want to have more.”
According to Johnson, all of these changes to Wasted Grain were inspired by Stravers.
“He kind of inspired myself and everybody else around him to be a lot better then we have been,” Johnson says. “Not that we were bad or things were bad around here, but he definitely he challenged us to find the best part of ourselves. That's the kind of guy he was. So after he passed away, I kind of made it my mission to make [Wasted Grain] better than it has before, so we put the pedal to the metal, and are gonna refurbish the place and do a whole bunch of new shows.”
By doing so, Johnson says, it’s a tribute to Stravers.
“It kind of like paying homage to him and all the work he put into the place,” Johnson says.
If nothing else, he hopes it will help the venue stick around the competitive Scottsdale scene.
“Martini Ranch went for 17 years and change. and we feel like Wasted Grain has just as much opportunity to go just as far,” Johnson says.
Wasted Grain's three-year anniversary party runs from Friday, August 4, to Sunday, August 6. Hours and admission prices vary.