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Local: Tempe Music Scene

SPM finds out what's new in Tempe's music scene

 by Grayson Steinberg  published on Thursday, September 15, 2005

Glendale band It's Like Love wants to see more support for the local music scene -- especially from the under-21 set. That means don't just get up and leave after the band you go to see plays. Send these boys some love and scene kisses at
Glendale band It's Like Love wants to see more support for the local music scene -- especially from the under-21 set. That means don't just get up and leave after the band you go to see plays. Send these boys some love and scene kisses at


Tempe's music scene has changed in recent years, but one aspect remains the same:

"It's always been a struggle," says Mark DiCarlo, owner of the Big Fish Pub (1954 E. University Drive).

Bands must work as musicians, managers and promoters to attract attention and secure shows at local venues, DiCarlo says. Musicians can't wait for promoters and record companies to contact them.

But luckily, many local bands don't just wait around these days, says "Psyko" Steve Chilton, a local promoter and philosophy senior.

"The work ethic in a number of bands has gone through the roof," says Chilton.

After Authority Zero, Jimmy Eat World, and the Format secured record deals, local bands realized success was possible, Chilton says. Many groups, like Phoenix's Greeley Estates, began promoting themselves by distributing fliers and touring constantly.

Still, some bands rely on venue promoters to advertise their shows, Chilton says.

Jake Slider, owner of Neckbeard's Soda Bar (5070 S. Price Road) says bands often use only one cheap advertisement resource, such as to promote themselves, making it hard to get noticed.

But Ryan Zimmerman, lead vocalist of Greeley Estates, says he feels is a critical marketing tool. It provides his group with free advertisement and allows it to make an easy connection with fans through messages and e-mails, he says. But all the promotion in the world doesn't help if bands can't jump the hurdles keeping them from local success.

Eugenia Ruven, of the Clubhouse Music Venue (1320 E. Broadway Road), says musicians "pigeonhole" themselves into categories and restrict themselves to playing only certain crowds. Bands catering to the bar scene should appear at all-ages shows especially, she says.

"That's the crowd that wants to hear your music when they go home," says Ruven.

Loren Brinton, the drummer for Gilbert-based band Lydia, says his band's audience is comprised mainly of high school students and older teenagers. These groups represent a majority of the people coming to shows in Tempe, he says.

Brinton says there is a major lack of medium-sized all-ages venues in town. With the closure of high-profile all-ages clubs like Nita's Hideaway in recent years, he says the Clubhouse and Neckbeard's are the only viable options left in town for smaller local bands.

The lack of venues leaves bands with fewer places to perform, Zimmerman says. He says he feels more all-ages clubs like Neckbeard's should open because then bands won't have to worry about filling a bar.

Slider says his venue fills a niche as the only exclusively all-ages venue in the East Valley, the first since Mesa's Nile Theaterclosed its doors in 2002.

"The lack of an all-ages venue really did hurt our scene," he says.

Kids in Tempe didn't have a place to see shows that appealed exclusivley to them.

But sometimes the kids attending local shows aren't particularly helpful either. Jeremy Rondeau, lead vocalist and guitarist for Glendale's It's Like Love, says when several bands play on the same bill, kids stay only for the groups they intended to see. This makes it difficult for newer bands to build a reputation in Tempe playing live, he says.

Tempe itself has lost its position as the heart of the metro Phoenix music scene, says Chilton. Established venues closed, making Tempe a less critical concert destination. Many bands and their fans now hail from other parts of the Valley, further diminishing Tempe's importance.

Despite several barriers, local musicians, promoters and club owners agree crowds are generally supportive of bands, and there's a vast pool of talent just waited to be tapped.

"Ten years ago, as many bands were working hard and trying to make it as they are now," says DiCarlo. "Three of them have seen their dreams come true, and the whole scene has seen it happen. As long as inspiration is still alive, the scene will still be alive."

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