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Tuned In: A Closed Jar

Mason Jar's closing marks end of era for local music scene

 by Tara Brite  published on Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Mason Jar in downtown Phoenix, long known as one of the best local spots for live music, shut down recently and soon will become a gay bar.
The Mason Jar in downtown Phoenix, long known as one of the best local spots for live music, shut down recently and soon will become a gay bar.


On any given weekend for the past 20 years, teenagers and 20-somethings have poured into The Mason Jar in search of great live music.

And they always found it.

But now, the small, worn-down building no longer hosts some of the area's best bands. It has closed its doors and soon will become a gay bar.

In its heyday, the Mason Jar always was covered floor to ceiling in fliers. The bathroom walls were tattooed with graffiti -- some of it meaningful, some of it not. Small mosh pits among the younger crowd was a staple, while the older customers lined the bar in the back.

And always, a live, energetic band played.

In the 1980s, the Mason Jar was the Valley's home for heavy metal and hair bands. In the 1990s, it transformed into a Mecca of grunge and hip-hop. More recently, it was known as the place for for ska, punk and hardcore music.

Undecided freshman Blake Dijkman says he attended concerts at the Mason Jar quite often for bands such as Tiger Army, Kill Me Tomorrow, Locust, Toys That Kill and more.

"The point is that it was a place I enjoyed going to," he says. "But it was enjoyable because it was a smaller venue, and you were right up front."

However, he says he does not mind that it is becoming a gay bar, though he expects many people will object to it.

"I don't care, as long as it doesn't just sit there and collect dust," he says. "However, there is a lot of nostalgia."

Dijkman's only wish, he says, is that the new owners put the space to good use.

"Maybe they can use the stage as a karaoke bar," he suggests.

Although the majority of the shows scheduled at the Mason Jar have been diverted to other Tempe venues such as The Big Fish Pub, pub owner Mark Dicarlo says the Mason Jar's closing has affected his business minimally.

"A couple of shows moved here that we wouldn't have gotten," he says, leaning against the wall of the small venue, located just east of McClintock on University drives. "But we haven't gotten a whole lot more calls for booking."

According to Dicarlo, the Mason Jar may be gone, but the name and the spirit just might live on.

Dicarlo says the man who owns the Mason Jar name may be looking for a place downtown to reopen.

"The Mason Jar is coming back," Dicarlo says. "He loves that place. It probably broke his heart to close it."

The Mason Jar is not the only venue in the Valley to make changes.

Dicarlo says he just purchased The Big Fish Pub from its previous owner, Don Johnson, a couple months ago, around the same time the Jar first announced its closing.

After doing shows at the venue for years, Dicarlo says he started gaining interest in opening up his own venue. When he found an investor, he immediately called Johnson.

"Donny always said he'd sell it to me and nobody else," he says, smiling. "I've always loved this place."

While Dicarlo says his plans for the pub are not as drastic as what is happening to the Mason Jar, he says he is trying to take the cover charge out of local music by implementing happy hours.

"I'm just trying to make a place for the locals to party," he says.

No matter what happens to the Mason Jar or any other venue in the Valley, Dicarlo says he is certain the music scene will not be effected.

"There are still tons of venues," he says. "The scene is alive as hell."

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