The Vans Warped Tour, which since the late 1990s has become the U.S.'s prime traveling summer punk and ska showcase, routinely attracting stars of the genres (Rancid, Less Than Jake) as well as the artists pushing the noise into uncharted territory (Andrew W.K., S.T.U.N.), rolled through the Valley on July 15. To accentuate the event's supposed populism -- seems like anyone who wants to play the fest can on any of at least a half-dozen stages -- tour organizer and promoter Kevin Lyman likes to hold the all-day festival in "non-traditional venues." These usually consist of amphitheater parking lots, skateboarding facilities, fairgrounds and amusement parks and, in metro Detroit's case, the massive, ugly Pontiac Silverdome.
For the Phoenix stop, however, Warped went the way of the peanuts and the Cracker Jacks. Lyman booked the festival at the Peoria Sports Complex. The complex is the spring training home to baseball's San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and an annual destination of Midwestern retirees and otherwise enthusiastic visor-wearing fans. For a day, though, choppy power chords, Mohawks, hard-core slam dancing and tattered teen bluster dominated the bleachers, the outfield grass and the ballpark's beautiful field, which at times brought a whole new meaning to the term "warning track."
"Even though it was hotter than hell, it felt a little cooler on the grass," says Lyman via e-mail. "I would call a baseball park an alternative venue in my book."
Point well taken. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of the barricades protecting the pitcher's mound and the infield grass. Freedom, schmeedom. Punks truly won't stand between the March faithful and a Jamie Moyer change-up. Although third base must be more important than first base, since most of the first-base side's dirt was curiously left bare.
Regardless, the bands and the fans seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously, and in the case of AZPunk.com, Lyman could have chosen a reactor within the Palo Verde nuclear plant and the local punk advocacy still would have been ecstatic. With only a little prodding, Warped awarded AZPunk.com its own 20-foot-by-20-foot stage, draped in AZPunk.com's nihilistic yellow, orange and red logo, and a "village" of 10 vendor booths. Their area sat in the grass behind the left- and center-field walls, where Edgar Martinez and Ryan Klesko normally deposit fastballs.
"I was just looking for some say," said Chris Lawson, the Webmaster for the AZPunk.com site and one of its three co-owners, as he lounged behind his village's information booth. Lawson said he merely e-mailed Lyman suggesting that whatever local stage the Peoria Warped show presented should be done right, with respect and inherent love for the local scene. Last year at Warped, AZPunk.com ran only a small booth with no accommodation for music.
Lyman responded quickly. "They just went for it this year and I backed it," Lyman says. "The tour even paid for all their stages and tents -- about $3,000."
With the logistics taken care of, AZPunk.com went about booking the stage (while no one was paid for their performances, most of the bands are sure to appear on the upcoming AZPunk.comp Volume 2 compilation disc this fall). Two of the bands were easy calls -- Michah Allen of West End Crooks and Bryan Sandell of Last Action Zeros are Lawson's partners, and each band was appropriate anyway, since both are influenced heavily by Rancid, the event's awe-inspiring headliners.
The other bands, Lawson and Allen said, also were not difficult to attract. North Side Kings, with opinionated, gregarious singer Danny Marianino (author of anti-al-Qaeda tirade "Choke on Your Blood") and the hyperintense Where Eagles Dare, fronted by the supernatural screamer Jaesyn Schiller and his two black eyes, headlined the stage. Both play the style known as "hard-core" -- real fast, real loud, real sick and real democratic, as Schiller could barely keep his mike away from the folks down in front. Where Eagles Dare, coincidentally, made the most of their opportunity, renting vendor booths to sell merchandise and operate a kissing station, charging $2 for a full-on smooch and 50 cents for a tepid peck on the cheek. The proceeds, according to band manager Michelle Donovan, will subsidize the band's touring.
No Gimmick, Bullet Train to Moscow, and Parkway Wretch also performed on the AZPunk.com stage, which attracted a stream of young fans and anarchic dancers -- if you can call shoving your forearm in another dude's throat dancing -- throughout the day.
"We were preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Lawson said. "Other than the heat, it was just an awesome day. The bands were happy, and the kids were happy."
Now, here's at least hoping the complex's groundskeepers went home happy as well.
A viable club venue may finally be coming to downtown Phoenix.
The Old Brickhouse Grill, across the street from Alice Cooper'stown on Jackson Street, has begun to hold concert events in the weeks before its official grand opening on August 1. On July 13, it hosted the first-ever Phoenix heat of the long-standing Technics DMC World DJ Championships, which has been a big deal in New York and other cities for years. The event, featuring five-minute turntable sets by local hopefuls and MCing by Ru-Ski of the local collective Morse Code, was originally supposed to take place at Nita's Hideaway, according to promoter Barry Goldwater III, but was bumped in favor of a Wallflowers acoustic show with only days to spare. Even with the short promotional time and a relatively invisible venue to work with, more than 200 people made their way to the Brickhouse, and what they found was an environment conducive to urban music -- brick walls (hence the name), high ceilings, factory aesthetic, central bar and resonant acoustics. For the August 1 opening, local hip-hop oddballs Illegal Substance will hold an album release party, and Bionic Jive and Drunken Immortals also will perform.
Cole Massey, co-owner of the Old Brickhouse Grill, says he won't be limiting the club's bookings to just urban music, though. The ambitious Massey, who's been promoting club nights and events in the Valley for several years, says he's in discussions to hold regular band nights with the artists' collective known as the Shizz and poetry slams, and that he's approached NIPP/AMJ SW, which owns the Marquee Theatre, about holding some of their shows at the Brickhouse. Massey also mentions the possibility of holding a local party for Jimmy Eat World when the area's most successful rock act returns to the public grind this fall with a new album.
Urban atmosphere? The Shizz? Jimmy Eat World? Sounds like it could be an exciting blood transfusion for the area's cultural cul-de-sac. -- By Christopher O'Connor
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