The Music Venue Openings and Closings of 2012
The atmosphere inside The Nash during its grand opening concert on a warm night back in early October was positively electric. A fast-paced flurry of a finger-snapping bebop filled the air as a quintet of jazz musicians led by legendary drummer Lewis Nash, the namesake of the new downtown Phoenix music venue, laid down their rhythms at a breakneck pace.
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
As members of the audience let loose with catcalls and hollered their approval, Nash relentlessly thumped the skins during a frenetic drumming solo before joining with rest of the performers -- including bassist Christian McBribe, pianist Cedar Walton, and guitarist Russell Malone -- and building the crescendo into an explosion of jazz that marked the climax of their set. Then, there was nothing but applause.
It was a thrilling ending that served as the official beginning of The Nash, a combination concert hall and music education center run by Jazz in Arizona. Its arrival was one of the higher profile venue debuts that took place in the Valley during 2012, a year that saw the opening of several other unique joints around town, as well as the departure of several iconic and long-running establishments.
The Nash's grand opening concert in October.
Like many of the venues that entered the scene over the past 12 months, The Nash was a project that was a couple years in the making. According to Joel Goldenthal, Jazz in Arizona's executive director, it took three years to get the place open, but was well worth the wait. Especially since it meant being at the intersection of First and Roosevelt streets, which -- as any culture vulture will tell you -- is smack-dab in the heart of the downtown arts district.
"It actually took awhile to settle on this space, although this building was the very first one we looked at," Goldenthal says. "And the reason we targeted Roosevelt Row is it's a hotbed of culture that's a block from our building, a block from light rail, and is close to the [ASU Downtown] campus. So we strategically targeted that [spot] to be accessible to a broad community and to provide opportunities to an underserved population of jazz fans and those that would not normally have access to a jazz educational programs."
Besides serving as the Valley's few dedicated jazz venues, he adds, The Nash functions as a learning center for neophyte musicians eager to learn about the genre and to add some young blood to the local jazz crowd.
"The Nash was conceived on the premise of providing opportunities for young jazz musicians to perform and to cultivate a young jazz audience," Goldenthal says. "So we have a wide variety of classes available, approximately 18 to 20 twenty educational programs that are in the works that over time will be ramped up."
As such, performances at The Nash since it's opening have ranged from gigs by student combos and burgeoning local acts like Running From Bears to concerts by top touring professionals.
"It's a very hip space," Goldenthal says. "It's a great location and vibe. Everybody that's been in this place from an audience standpoint and a musician standpoint is just absolutely enthralled with this space. It's like walking into a really cool jazz club."
The Monarch Theatre in downtown Phoenix.
And on the subject of primo locations, a few other music venues and dance clubs that premiered this past year have benefited from being in the perfect spot. To wit: The proprietors of The Monarch Theatre, who also own the adjacent Bar Smith, have experienced big turnouts since opening in April thanks to being located in the midst of the clubbing haven of Washington Street. Meanwhile, the owners of the flashy and stylish EPIQ Nightclub in Scottsdale took over the Saddlebag Trail locale formerly occupied by the now-defunct Pussycat Lounge and have seen hundreds of party monsters flock to their door.
Here's a rundown of other live music venues, dance clubs, and EDM havens that debuted in the Metro Phoenix area in 2012.
- Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts
- Monsterland Bar & Grill
- The Monarch Theatre
- Jivemind Community Music Workshop
- Pub Rock
- The Nash
- Gypsy Bar
- The Record Room
- Eastside Records
- EPIQ Nightclub
- Last Exit Live