5 New Years Resolutions for the Phoenix Music Scene

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She's a beaut, isn't she?

​2010 sure was a fickle beast at times. A Kanye West album was top dog, a Canadian teenager ruled the world and a bunch of bands decided to boycott Arizona. But enough looking into the past, it's time to look towards a fresh, new 2011. What better way to get the juices flowing than to set some resolutions. This batch of resolutions, however, needs to be Phoenix-centric -- they need to focus on things that can help bolster the local Phoenix music scene. If these resolutions can be put into action early enough, who know what can happen for Phoenix in 2011.

Here now are my five New Years resolutions for the Phoenix music scene.

5. Portray The Sound Strike Positively

The bands involved with The Sound Strike boycott aren't going anywhere -- not until the boycott itself is dropped. That means that Arizona legislature needs to be changed, and that is something that a local music scene cannot change on its own. What that affected music scene can do, however, is become more active with their awareness towards some of its state's controversial Senate bills by offering information on how concertgoers can help make change. Actions like this have been going on since SB 1070 became a reality this past April and they need to continue on through 2011. A change will come and The Sound Strike has Arizona's best intentions -- even if those affiliated with the boycott refuse to set foot in Arizona. 

4. Another Venue Starts Booking More Regular, Bigger Name Acts

The Phoenix Metro area has its fair share of class venues -- The Rhythm Room, the Marquee Theatre, The Clubhouse, The Mesa Arts Center, The Nile Theatre, The Celebrity Theatre and Comerica Theatre just to name a few. There are some other venues, however, that could emerge as a new contender for booking more well-known, national acts. Mind you -- I know that Cricket Wireless Pavilion, US Airways Center, Jobing.com Arena and the Mesa Amphitheater book their fair share of acts, but those aren't quite 1,000 capacity venues.

The Orpheum Theatre is a likely candidate for this, yet I understand that they have different rules for booking shows that may deter some bands from playing there. Having an existing venue such as The Compound or The Sail Inn book more big name shows could really have a positive influence over the local music scene just for the fact that bands would have another viable option for when they want to play Phoenix.

It sucks to say it, but the absence of Modified Arts really hurt things. The Rhythm Room is but one venue -- it can't do all of the work in this town.

3. Noteworthy Spring Tours

There are still bands that choose to play Phoenix, even if The Sound Strike has made it fashionable to act otherwise. Spring is the time of year when music festivals start up and bands plot their first big tour of the year. Phoenix has done well in the past as far as booking some bands who head West to play Coachella or SXSW, and that attitude needs to remain going forward in 2011. The Sound Strike didn't come into fruition until late April of last year, and some bands had already played Phoenix in March/early April while then joining the boycott list a few weeks later (Yeasayer).

Phoenix is gearing up for its first full spring with The Sound Strike boycott, so spring of 2011 will be crucial to see just how many bands are willing to come spend a night in Phoenix.

2. Solid Releases From Local Bands

Local bands made quite a splash in 2010 -- Jimmy Eat World, What Laura Says, The Whisperlights and even Gin Blossoms all released new music. There is no better way to bolster a local music scene than having that scene's bands release quality music that gets noticed nationwide.

More than a few local bands will most definitely step it up this year and do their part to help put Phoenix on the map -- I'm excited to see just who it will be for 2011. I know there are quite a few talented MCs around Phoenix, so it could be time for a Phoenix hip hop album to really make some waves nationally.

1. Initiate a New, Multi-Venue Music Festival 

This one must be prefaced by saying it's much easier said than done. For those that may not know, SXSW is held throughout the city of Austin at its various smaller venues and clubs. It's a frantic week of music and film that has solidified itself as one of the nation's -- if not the world's -- best music festivals. Other cities have their own versions of what SXSW is at its core -- New York has CMJ Music Marathon and Portland has MusicFest NW. Both of these feature many nights of different bands playing shows at any number of different venues throughout the city.

Phoenix has a solid-enough core of local music venues to be able to pull off a multi-venue music festival. Arizona Fall Frenzy and Tempe Music Festival are great in their own right, but something like a multi-venue festival could go over really well in an area such as Phoenix. Just imagine having three nights were The Rhythm Room has a full slate of bands while The Marquee and Clubhouse have their own unique list of sets for the night. I know venues compete with each other and such, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for Austin, New York or Portland whenever their respective music festivals roll around. 

These are all just some suggestions for keeping things lively and interesting around the Phoenix metro area. Some are more grounded than others, but all deserve to be mentioned -- if not to actually be considered, than to create some discussion on the matter. 

Please, give your two cents in the comments as to what is right, wrong, needs to change or needs to stay the same about the local Phoenix music scene.

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No offense but Jimmy Eat World and the Gin Blossoms are not local bands. That are national bands that happen to be from AZ. Local bands are the bands slugging it out in the bars every weekend.


5. Portray The Sound Strike PositivelyThere are what 6 active touring bands in the Sound Strike?? I think the media in general has dramatically exaggerated how much impact the strike had. The idea that any boycott is going to change the direction is fundamentally retarded. The law is going to work its way through the courts and the Supreme Court will have the final stay in how we move forward. If the courts rule in favor of Arizona (and let the law stand) you will see a wave of states copy us and leave all the acts unable to tour anywhere without playing states with similar laws. If it upholds the lower court ruling that it is unconstitutional it will go away. Either way I bet we will see artists gradually dropping the boycott (at least the 5 of them on the list that do tour).

4. Another Venue Starts Booking More Regular, Bigger Name ActsI would love to see some more rooms open up. But lets be clear on what we need. We need rooms dedicated to music. Rooms with good set ups for bands, good sound, are willing to take a "good" show on the right night and not only chase the most $ how ever bad and act. There are a lot of rooms that have music in them that we never talk about because they never book anything relevant.

3. Noteworthy Spring ToursI think a lot of the people who complain about Phoenix music scene miss the national picture. There are simply far fewer midlevel acts than there used to be. Ask any agent or venue not in Phoenix and they will tell you that their are less acts touring today than 10 years ago and none of it has to do with Phoenix. To many mid-level acts don't tour a lot, they do a few commercials and play major cities. Look at Wilco or Flaming Lips who both do like 40 dates a year world wide. They skip A LOT of cities. 15 years ago the only way for an act like that to make money was at gigs now they can sell merch online, release their own music that they actually get paid from, get placed on TV, and get paid REAL money at a few big festivals all without the costs accrued on the road. 15 years ago the only way mid-sized acts like that could get press was by playing in every city possible because the national press would ignore them, now Pitchfork and blogs can rave about any act to the world without ever seeing the band. I talked with one promoter last week about his spring and he told me "Nothings out there, no one is touring" and he is NOT in Phoenix. We have to stop blaming Phoenix for phenomenons that have nothing to do with Phoenix.

2. Solid Releases From Local BandsYou nailed this one. This is what will or wont change the story in Phoenix. Seattle and Austin did not become "music towns" because bands started coming to them or because people started coming to see the bands in them, they became that when bands started leaving!!!! More bands in Phoenix need to think national.

1. Initiate a New, Multi-Venue Music Festival It would be worth noting that your paper used to do one and stopped doing it.

Find me 8 solid venues that are WALKING DISTANCE from each other and have good build in sound/stage/lights/and what not and we can talk. The reason Austin can pull off SXSW is that no venues are more thank 15 feet from each other, NYC has the subway and great public transport and Portland is all of about 10 feet wide. Find me 8 rooms that don't suck and you might see something like this. I can find 1 good room all over the city for something like this, just can't find the other 7 near it.

My number 2: Solid Releases From Local BandsI will leave yours, you nailed it.

My number 1: CHANGE THE NARRATIVE No one is claiming Phoenix is London or Paris or New York or Los Angeles. No one. So we need stop pointing out the obvious any time it comes up and move on. We get far more tours than all but maybe 10 cities in the US and we should stop pretending that is not true. We need to stop attacking the few bands from here doing anything at a national level just because it is hip to do so. We need to stop complaining about what we don't have and celebrate what we do, even if it is not as cool as CBGBs was in the 70s (cause really what anywhere is that cool?).

No one thinks Phoenix is one of the 5 best music cities, no one thinks it will be tomorrow. But we have to believe we have the potential to change that. We have to work towards that as a goal and stop pretending it is not possible. We have to stop dragging everyone down who doesn't want to talk about how bad we all suck everyday. We have to start supporting those who are trying to change it whether we completely back their taste or not simply because they are doings something of value. We have to stop finding reasons to nock everyone down we can just to prove right this old tiered narrative.

The narrative needs to change.

Then maybe more people will join the fight.


That is a weird view of local. I see Jim (from Jimmy Eat World) out supporting local music a lot more often than a lot of "local" bands themselves.

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

I know there isn't a decent infrastructure, if you will, for a multi-venue festival. I think I suggested this because the big music festivals that Arizona has - Tempe Music and Fall Frenzy - don't quite capture what it is PHX does really well as a music town. Those festivals cater to big name acts and the nice weather. It would be neat to see a festival that takes place at night, spread out over a few venues. Again, easier said than done.

I suppose this whole post was written in order to start the change in the narrative. That needs to happen and you're exactly right about it.

But what will start all that in motion? The point we agreed about - solid, hang-your-hat local releases. Once those become more and more common in PHX, people will start to notice.


Weird view of local? How many AZ shows do JEW play vs. out of state shows? It's an honest question - I don't know the answer. I know that I don't see tons of ads for their shows so I'm either living under a rock or it's not happening.

I consider a band local if the band hasn't broken into the national scene, the band hasn't gotten national airplay and the band hasn't gotten major music video airplay. Yeah, JEW started here and probably played more club shows here than I ever have or will, but in my estimation they've graduated past "local" with all they've achieved.

It would be nice if there was more local support, regardless if the people at the shows are in bands or not. If I were to make a "5 New Year's Resolutions" checklist, I wouldn't focus much on the national scene, but that's just me. I see maybe three national acts a year vs. 50+ local shows. The national venues we already have are just fine for me. Just my opinion though.

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