Benjamin's Weekend Word: First Friday, Just Blazed, and Richard Cheese
By Benjamin Leatherman
Music editor Niki D'Andrea decided to take a well-deserved sabbatical this past weekend, getting as far as possible from the Valley as she could. She didn't tell anyone where she was headed, but knowing the kind of crazy life the pint-sized powerhouse of lesbian spunk leads, it probably involved jetting off to some exotic Sapphic sanctuary where scantily-dressed maidens catered to her every whim. As a result, yours truly is stepping in to pinch-hit a report on what I saw and did from Friday until Sunday.
My weekend world is nowhere near as insane as some of the misadventures Niki usually gets herself into, but as Clubs Editor for the Phoenix New Times I'm regularly out visiting bars, nightspots and other locales in the Valley to get a handle on the nightlife scene; sipping martinis with bootylicious babes and rubbing shoulders with the beautiful and powerful. (Okay, I'm laying the confabulation on pretty thick, but I usually spend most of my weekends at bars and clubs, and get to interact with a rogue's gallery of colorful characters and nightcrawlers when I'm wandering around).
Friday, June 6
The Valley isn't exactly overflowing with events from June until September, courtesy of the skyrocketing mercury. So it kinda came as a surprise that this past weekend was loaded up with awesome happenings and shows, from Kanye taking the stage in Glendale to Johnny Cash tribute band Cash'd Out performing over in Mesa. (Maybe it's due to the unseasonably cool summer weather we've been experiencing).
I decided to start out at the virtual ground zero for activity in downtown Phoenix, the monthly First Friday artwalk. I've got a major yen for First Fridays, mostly because it's the best place to meet a cool cross-section of people, check out artwork, and sample a virtual bizarre bazaar of human behavior, like some sort of abnormal psychology experiment writ large. So with an iced mocha in hand, I met up with Phoenix New Times web editor extraordinaire Jonathan McNamara (who had his camera with him), and the perpetually-cantankerous Stephen Lemons to check out the First Friday shenanigans. (See a slideshow of McNamara's snapshots from the night).
I was hoping to catch a show by Weezer-esque indie poppers Miniature Tigers and other local bands at the Static House at Sixth Street and Roosevelt, but was disappointed to hear that the gig had been cancelled for unknown reasons. Indie promoter Psyko Steve later told me that funk-rockers Black Carl decided to show up anyways and stage an impromptu performance.
Fifth Street was its usual madhouse of activity, with bicyclists swarming outside of HoodRide popping wheelies and pulling off other gravity-defying tricks while DJ Jon Dread perched up in the Tree Jay House, raining down old school hip-hop and reggae. Across the street at Pravus, the salacious clown photography of Jerry Portelli and devilish-looking custom French Dunnies were on display inside, while on the sidewalk outside an open mic session was held with guitarists like the Sweetbleeders' Robin Vining strumming for the public.
Johnny Mac, Lemons, and I ambled through Ron Paul wingnuts and past the overcrowded Fate and nextDOOR establishments (where Mendez and other DJs spun techno and house) and headed for .anti_space, which - in my honest opinion - is always the best stop on First Friday. The always-fabulous Andrea Beasley-Brown (a.k.a. the Midnite Movie Mamacita) had a makeshift screen set up where she was showing trailers for schlocky 70s flicks, while an unnamed rock trio was performing on the sidewalk.
After peeping the works of such galleries as Waldoism and CB*AG, we headed for Grand Avenue where the Headline Bluegrass Band and the rock/jazz fusionists of MHC performed at Paisley Violin. The Bikini Lounge was packed as ever, and I hung out briefly in a corner booth with DJ Shane Kennedy, who was nursing a pitcher of brew with a friend and humorously ranting and raving about "all the tools" hanging out at the hipster dive at that particular moment.
McNamara and I eventually wound up at the Ruby Room, where we caught the second half of a killer set by horror rock trio Calabrese. The brothers were as tight as ever and performed a few of their newer songs for a crowd of gothabilly types and punkers.
Saturday, June 7
I started out the evening with a visit to Just Blazed Hip-Hop Smoke Shop & Gallery near 16th Street and McDowell Road to scope out the "American Beauty" graffiti art show. The place was pretty damn fly, and the smell of spray paint hung in the air as graf artists did their thing on the cinder block walls of the shop's courtyard out back.
Kicking it old-school at Just Blazed.
An old-school vintage Chevy Impala lowrider was parked out front and the back was filled with both people and the bumpin' and thumpin' hip-hop beats provided by DJ Tranzo and his brother MC Bener One. Just Blazed also had a few closet-sized booths in the back where customers can test out their markers and leave their mark.
Speaking of off-the-chain events, the New Times Summer of Sound hip-hop show absolutely blew the doors of Chasers over in Scottsdale. (Eyeball Joseph Golfen's Summer of Sound report). I would've been there to witness it myself, but I was busy noshing on chicken souvlaki and falafel with friends at Mr. Greek over on Indian School and 40th Street before heading to the Celebrity Theatre to witness lounge-pimp Richard Cheese put on his final Phoenix show ever. (Check out my Richard Cheese review).
Afterwards, I wanted to introduce my friends to PHX Nightclub, the newest addition to downtown Phoenix's club scene. There was a huge line out the door, so we went a few doors down to Bar Smith, where DJs Pete Salaz, Senbad, Benjamin Cutswell, and others were spinning house and hip-hop.
Sunday, June 8
Feeling the need to for a relaxing kind of Sunday, I stopped by Shady's on Indian School and 28th Street. The unpretentious laidback lounge features free pool during the day on weekends, so some friends and I made like Paul Newman in The Color of Money and shot some stick. Shady's ever-awesome jukebox never failed to disappoint, and we proceeded to load up some tracks from The Smiths, Al Green, The Cramps, and Roy Orbison while engaging in our billiards battles.
Bikini Lounge...the perfect Sunday night getaway destination.
On my way home, I stopped by Bikini Lounge again (since it's only a block from my apartment) to soak up the divey vibe without the crowds. I enjoyed a couple small pitchers of PBR (only $3 bucks each) while watching Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Boston Celtics trump the L.A. Lakers, 108-102 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Later, I got a chance to speak with affable DJ Chris Flores, who spins up some soul, funk, and jazz on his twin Technics turntables every Sunday night.
Stay tuned next weekend for Niki's glorious return, where she'll thrill you with some more of her tales from the darkside.