The true mark of a vibrant urban core isn’t the popularity of special events like ball games, conventions or even First Fridays. Rather, it is the events that fill the gaps in between these. It is the creation of a 24/7 culture where things are going on every day (and night) of the week. While I wouldn’t say that we have quire arrived there, we are a lot closer that it may appear.
Here are 10 of the less heralded activities that are occurring in Downtown Phoenix on an almost daily basis.
1. Live music
2. Movie Monday at Revolver Records
No-admission movie screenings with special deals every Monday at 8 p.m.
The Torch Theatre is one of Phoenix’s best-kept secrets. Shows vary through the week, but make sure to check out the Saturday night Cage Matches!
4. Phoenix Public Market
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the lot at McKinley Street and Central Avenue becomes our local farmers market.
5. Over-the-Hump Day, open mic
Local wordsmiths and folk musicians perform every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Conspire at 5th and Garfield streets.
6. The Downtown Phoenix fitness walk/jog
Get some exercise by walking or jogging around Downtown Phoenix. Start and end points are the Phoenix Public Market every Saturday at 7 a.m.
7. Community Yoga Project
Bring your own yoga mat, towel or blanket every Saturday at 10 a.m. at Civic Space Park.
8. GROWHOUSE Garden Days
Volunteer in the garden at Garfield and 6th streets every Sunday from 8 to 10 a.m.
9. Fair Trade Café Sunday brunch
The Fair Trade menu features challah baked French toast with choice of yummy toppings, rosemary country potatoes, baked egg casserole with veggies or green chilies and biscuits and gravy. Every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
10. Sunday Service
Every Sunday at SideBar, DJs spin until 2 a.m., accompanying Downtown’s best drink discounts.
We are certainly missing a lot of other events that occur on a weekly basis. If you would like to add anything to the list, please add a comment!
This post was inspirited by the Roosevelt Row newsletter. To be kept up to date on what is going on in and around Roosevelt Row, click here to sign up for their newsletter. For a whole smattering of Downtown Phoenix events, see DPJ’s calendar page.
Most people don’t have the money or time to venture off to other states to stumble upon up-and-coming talent, but Phoenician music fans got that chance this week. Portland, OR’s Archeology is a calm, tap your toes and sway from side to side, indie band, and they rocked the Rhythm Room last night.
Daniel Walker, Jason Davis, Zachary Dilday and Ben Hayson make up Archeology, but only two of them have an actual love for archeology.
“Sometimes, we just go onto the desert and hike around,” Walker says. “We drag the other guys along and they say they like it, but I can tell that they don’t.”
During an archaeology dig, Walker and Davis met and began talking. Shortly after, the two were playing in a band together. In 2009, they began writing and playing a lot, but by the end of the year, the band felt like they needed some change.
“The music we were playing then… felt really forced,” Walker remembers.
Walker and Davis, both brought up in Evangelical backgrounds, soon spun off and started Archeology.
“I was raised in church,” Walker says. “My dad was the pastor from when I could remember. In my early 20s, I just kinda sat back and reconsidered about what I was taught.”
For all the questions they never got answers to, they wrote it out in lyrics. That’s where Memorial, their first full-length album, was born and was released earlier this year. And that’s how Archeology was quickly mistaken for a Christian band.
“We got a lot of e-mails from this album saying, ‘I don’t know if I could write on this Christian band.’ and I was like, ‘Whoa, we’re not a Christian band,’” Walker recalls.
In April, they did a quick West Coast tour, and now they’re embarking on their first national tour supporting Memorial.
The tour has been quite a journey for the band. They left Portland thinking a van with no air conditioning would be OK until they hit that blistering summertime heat.
“As soon as we hit Vegas and got over to the Midwest, it was like hell,” Walker says. “We’ve gotten use to the heat really quickly. I think we’ll be tougher for it.”
The band has mostly been accepted with open arms on their tour, except for a stop in Charlotte, NC. The band pulled into a campground at around 4 a.m., exhausted and a little tipsy, just wanting a couple hours of sleep. (Mind you, the park closed at 10 p.m., but they thought it’d be OK and smart to rest for a while.)
An hour later, Hayson was woken by an officer. The band was detained and surrounded by a park ranger and two more police officers.
“They told us to go to the church parking lot to sleep,” Walker says.
The officers were puzzled on why the band would sleep at a campground when there was a perfectly good parking lot down the road. Because nothing screams comfortable like asphalt. Other than that, the tour has gone well for Archeology.
“We’ve been stranded a few times,” Walker says. “The van has been picky on when it wants to go. We are a good 5,000 miles over for an oil change.”
The band likes playing in and visiting Arizona. Walker loves going out and exploring what our desert landscape has to offer.
“It’s the Indiana Jones in me from my childhood,” he says.
If you’ve lived in the Valley long enough, you’ve probably seen “Psyko Steve Presents” stamped on many a flyer and poster. But who is this Psyko Steve?
Stephen Chilton, an Arizona native, has been promoting shows for a decade, and has showcased so many bands that Coachella might even be jealous.
Every promoter has to start with what they’re familiar with, so Chilton started his promotion career with friends’ bands.
“Really, it just started by helping bands in high school,” Chilton recalls. “I kind of just fell into it.”
And that’s when Psyko Steve was born.
“It was just a dumb nickname in high school and it stuck,” Chilton says of his “psyko” moniker, as easygoing as ever. “There’s no cool story about it.”
Chilton grew up in the East Valley, and hit his stride in 2000, when he started promoting. Back then, the Nile Theater in Mesa was still going strong, but a new venue was on its way up in Downtown Phoenix. The venue? Modified Arts. Chilton started booking shows there with bands like Before Braille, Fight Shy and others.
“Modified was just the small place that everyone could do anything,” Chilton says. “It was kind of the perfect place to do that stuff.”
For nearly a decade, Chilton and Modified had a close relationship to say the least. Before being converted into a gallery space late last year, Chilton put together Modified’s last shows, including a surprise Jimmy Eat World show.
“To see a band of that caliber in Modified was crazy,” Chilton says of the multi-platinum Mesa band.
Jimmy Eat World wanted to grace the iconic Downtown stage before its conversion, and no one knew about the show until the day of. When word of mouth hit everyone’s ears, the show was pushed far beyond capacity.
“We had to turn away more than 1,000 people,” Chilton recalls. So much for it being a secret.
Psyko Steve has promoted countless up-and-coming bands before they found their way to thousands of iPods. Cold War Kids, All-American Rejects, Motion City Soundtrack and Thrice have all visited Arizona in conjunction with Psyko Steve Presents.
But Chilton isn’t the kind of guy to demand credit. It seems like he’s doing his civil duty by helping bring a band from nothing to something. And he always likes to bring the attention back to his home state. He planted an Arizona seed at South by Southwest by putting on the showcase called “I Heart AZ” featuring only Phoenix bands like Kinch, Dear and the Headlights, Miniature Tigers and What Laura Says. The showcase attracted about 2,000 attendees.
“One of the things I like about Phoenix is that there are all types of different bands that are doing well,” Chilton says. “There isn’t one sound that is a Phoenix sound.”
Phoenix bands have grown so much throughout the past 10 years, and the scene has definitely progressed toward Downtown Phoenix. Chilton, who lives in Garfield, aims to promote Downtown as much as possible, and regularly books shows at Downtown spots.
Last year, he put on nearly 100 shows, and this year he thinks he’s on his way to the same. Be on the lookout for Psyko Steve Presents shows around Downtown and beyond!
At 10 p.m. in the middle of a Tempe neighborhood, most people are going to bed — kids dreading the first days of school, parents watching David Letterman — but behind one door, there’s a family reunion going on. A Dry River Yacht Club reunion to be exact.
For the first time in a while, all eight members are together again and yes, it feels so good.
The night before they’re off to record at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles, they get together to practice, have a few beers and catch up. DPJ was lucky enough to be part of the late night festivities.
In the kitchen, we talked about their history together, stories from tour days and how the new record is going to be beyond amazing.
The Dry River family consists of Freddy Reyes (sax, bass clarinet), Steve Bohn (cello), Henri Benaro (percussion), Kristilyn Woods (bassoon), Megyn Neff (violin), Ryan Probst (guitar), Jordan Robert (French horn) and Garnet (vocals, accordion).
This isn’t your usual guitar-bass-drums band, but when all these instruments come together, it’s like you’ve found that missing puzzle piece to your music collection. A well-oiled machine, at one time or another the band either played together or worked together and decided to become one band. Dry River started playing open mic nights at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe with a set list of three songs.
“We put together an EP, made shirts that we bought at the thrift store and our friend Nate silk-screened them. That’s how we funded our tour,” Woods recalls.
You can only imagine the amount of stories that will come out of 10 days in a seven-passenger minivan full of gear on tour together for the first time.
“We went out with 100 discs on that tour and sold them all,” Benaro says. “Then we were like, ‘Let’s start playing with this band.’”
The band came back to town to play its EP release show with no EPs, but no matter. They soon introduced two new bandmates, Neff and Robert. You would think with so many members that they wouldn’t be able to fit on stage, but they surprisingly do… most of the time.
“We broke a stage in Austin one time,” Reyes reveals. “Jordan and I were scared and we got back on the floor.”
Three members of the band don’t live in town anymore, yet the band still plays on. They recruit friends to come in and play shows or fill in the bandmates’ absence with a heavier influence of the available instruments. As they say, the show must go on.
Dry River has played so many places in Arizona that it took five people to remember all of them, from ASU to the Botanical Gardens, and MADCAP Theater to even the light rail. The list goes on and on.
“That felt like we were illegal bandits, man. It was cool,” Benaro said of playing the light rail music competition, Train Tracks.
As much as their local fan base loves them, they love the local music scene right back.
“There’s a very diverse palette,” Bohn says of Phoenix. Dry River has played with bands that aren’t even in their genre, and they feel like in other cities there isn’t much of that going on.
“In other cities that I’ve lived in, bands that are in the same genre are always sort of tearing each other down,” Woods says. “It’s very cliquey. Here it’s not like that at all. You’re excited when your friend’s band has a good show or wins a competition or gets to play a big festival.”
Speaking of big festivals, Dry River will be playing a festival coming in Page next month, Powellapalooza. Yes, Arizona’s very own Coachella!
And, definitely keep an eye out early next year for a CD release party.
“We’ve been giving out free champagne in the past,” Reyes says of CD release shows. “We just get as many people there as possible. You get a free disc when you get in… who knows about the free booze, but we’re gonna have a lot of fun.”
Haven’t heard them yet? You will soon, because Snake! Snake! Snakes! is having its first EP release show on August 11, and you are personally invited.
The band was a three-piece for many years, with friends helping here and there to play shows. Finally, they settled on a lineup of Jonathan Messenger (vocals, guitar), Christopher Sanchez (bass), George Rodriguez (keyboard) and David Cooper (drums).
Messenger, Sanchez and Rodriguez were called The Tuning Room for about four years until Messenger decided on Snake! Snake! Snakes! Sanchez added the exclamation points. DPJ talked to Sanchez about snakes, music and Phoenix.
“We’re not into snakes or anything like that,” Sanchez says, putting an end to any speculation.
As the band was starting to craft its first songs, they were having just one problem: finding a drummer. Every time they did find one, they would throw away their songs and start all over again.
“We went through at least eight drummers before we found David,” Sanchez recalls. Cooper was the guy next door who became a bandmate.
“People are starting to dig us a lot more,” Sanchez says after playing regularly for some time.
They were recently on Radio Phoenix, but they’re still new to the idea of getting interviewed and being in the limelight. However, through the power of the Internet, fans have popped up in New York, Hawaii and even Canada.
Their self-titled EP has five old but rearranged songs on it and one that was written only three days prior to recording.
“We ended up liking it so much that we recorded it,” Sanchez says.
Before recording, the band had “never made a real, legit CD,” but had some bedroom recordings, so spending time in a studio was something new.
“We actually recorded this in March,” Sanchez says of the EP. “We’re big-time slackers. It was supposed to come out in June, then July, and now August.”
If you’re too anxious to wait until next Wednesday for the physical copy, you could buy it off iTunes right now, but you should wait for the real deal, because Messenger’s album artwork gives it a better touch than the digital copy.
SSS is planning a tour later on this year, but things aren’t set in stone.
“We want to get on the road real bad,” Sanchez says eagerly.
They band’s goals right now are touring and eventually recording a full-length album, but they have something even bigger they want to check off their bucket list.
“Our big dream and our big goal is to play the Conan O’ Brien show,” Sanchez says. By the time O’Brien’s late-night show debuts on TBS this fall, they may be ready. But if you don’t want to wait until then, why don’t you join me at the show next Wednesday?
The Snake! Snake! Snakes! EP release show is Wednesday, August 11 at the Rhythm Room, with Phoenix locals Gospel Claws, Dust Jacket and Ladylike also on the bill. Tickets are $8, available online here. The Rhythm Room is located at 1019 E. Indian School Rd. in Midtown.