When Grunge Broke into Phoenix

“Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit!” – Mike Arm

Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is a fusion genre of alternative rock, punk rock, and heavy metal and a subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns – wikipedia. 

As a Generation Xer (the MTV generation), I grew up during in the grunge area. It never was my favorite term for this style of music, but it had a profound effect on my life in the early 90’s. In early 1991, I was really heavy into glam rock music (Def Leppard, Van Halen, Warrant, Poison, etc) and quite a concert junkie. I graduated from Tempe High school in May of 1991 and started dating a girl who change both my music and clothing taste. She introduced me to Alternative rock music (another term I’m not a fan of). At first I was resistant, but later would find myself listening to R.E.M., Depeche Mode, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Violent Femmes and U2. She helped me expand my music taste and it freed my mind to be more open to new things. My parents just divorced and I was officially on my own. I was an angry teenager as the result of the brokeness in my family and was suffering from a lack of self-worth. MTV, booze, girls and music were a big outlet for me. I was a frequent visitor to both Zia Records and Tower Records and built myself a huge collection of CD’s. The concert scene was big here in the Valley of the Sun, but people were unaware of what was going on with the music scene in Seattle. Even though a year earlier on February 19, 1990, an unknown band by the name of Nirvana opened for Tad in a small club in Phoenix, AZ (Nirvana’s first AZ show was actually at the Sun Club in Tempe in 1989 – video below of Cobain outside the club). The story goes that when Nirvana played this gig in Phoenix, the cheap-ass owner of the Mason Jar charged them a rental fee for some of the equipment that they used.

Music history would change forever on August 27, 1991 when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves. I caught on when the video premiered on September 29, 1991 on one of my favorite shows – MTV’s “120 Minutes”. I remember watching that video over and over for days. Being a glam rock fan, there was nothing glamorous about this band Nirvana. They were just regular looking guys that wore regular clothes that just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. The video was very simple as well and didn’t look like it cost a lot to make. I was instantly hooked onto this type of music.

At the time I worked at a Rally’s Hamburgers. A co-worker of mine mentioned how the Red Hot Chili Peppers were coming in concert in Tempe. Their song “Give it Away” was another huge hit on the radio at that time. He told me how Nirvana and some band called Pearl Jam were the openers. I remember wanting to go but for some reason I didn’t make the effort and regret it today. But what a killer line-up! The show was on December 29. 1991 in Tempe and it was heavily promoted on the radio. I remember everyone raving about the show as grunge music was taking the Valley by storm. I remember going to a huge rave party in the desert and somebody was blasting Nirvana on the radio. We were all standing in the back of someone’s truck drinking from a keg and singing to “Teen Spirit”. The girl next to kept going on about how much she loved Nirvana. It was such a crazy movement at that time. Nirvana played Saturday Night Live (another show I always watched) on January 11, 1992 which really thrust them into the spotlight. By this time, hair bands were slowly phasing out.

On January 31, 1992, I went to a Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion” concert tour with a bunch of friends at Compton Terrace. This was back when GNR were being assholes and making fans wait hours for them to come on stage. It was a memorable show for me because I made out with this smoking hot girl from Scottsdale named Wendy Luckett in the back lawn area. Every dude in my group wanted her and I had bragging rights for some time after that. Anyway, a band called Soundgarden opened for GNR and I knew nothing about them. It took me some time to get into them, but they were hard core. I was really into “Outshined” when they played it. I remember they ended the show with Kim Thayil leaving his guitar on stage making feedback noise. This was the next grunge band I would get into after Nirvana. Looking back. I always wondered why they opened for Guns ‘N’ Roses. Apparently GNR felt Soundgarden were too serious of a band and nicknamed them “Frowngarden”. Ben Shepherd’s response was that they weren’t rock stars and were there to play music. I guess in the 2nd show (the night after my show), GNR decided to crash Soundgarden’s set by walking out in the nude with blow-up dolls because it was the final night of the tour. The band members weren’t too amused by this which shows you the vast difference in these two type of bands at that time. One took their music serious while the other one was just there to party.

the source/ deanna

 

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All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

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While walking down the Sunset Strip, I spotted something from my past – a Tower Records sign on the former retail store’s old location. The original Tower Records’ sign was just recently restored by the current tenant Gibson and the filmmakers for an upcoming documentary about Tower Records. The documentary from actor/director Colin Hanks is called All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records. This space is hosting an invite-only party on October 15 and is showcasing the documentary. From 1960 until 2006, Tower Records was a huge music retailer that sold primarily CDs and cassette tapes. In addition to music, the stores sold DVDs, electronic gadgets (mp3 players), books video games, toys, and accessories. Russell Solomon opened the first Tower Records store in Sacramento in 1960 and it quickly grew into a huge national empire of over two hundred stores. In 1995, it became one of the first retailers to move online. Then after decades of success, it filed for bankruptcy and closed its last store in 2006.

I was a huge music fan in the 90’s and spent many nights digging through stacks of CD’s for rare but great music at Tower Records. I miss those old nights with my buddies hanging at the local record store. I remember waiting in long lines for new albums coming out from my favorite artists. I used to pick up their magazine Pulse! for the latest music news and reviews. Sadly all that exist is this old sign on the Sunset Strip. I am looking forward to catching that documentary and reliving my old music days.

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  • –  From All Things Must Pass website

Established in 1960, Tower Records was once a retail powerhouse with two hundred stores, in thirty countries, on five continents. From humble beginnings in a small-town drugstore, Tower Records eventually became the heart and soul of the music world, and a powerful force in the music industry. In 1999, Tower Records made $1 billion. In 2006, the company filed for bankruptcy. What went wrong? Everyone thinks they know what killed Tower Records: The Internet. But that’s not the story. ‘All Things Must Pass’ is a feature documentary film examining this iconic company’s explosive trajectory, tragic demise, and legacy forged by its rebellious founder Russ Solomon.

David Bowie

DAVID BOWIE  1947 – 2016

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David Bowie passed away today at the age of 69. He was an amazing artist who changed the music industry. Below is his last video (“Lazarus”) he made from his final album Blackstar – a parting gift to his fans. RIP.

Johnnyswim at MIM

Diamonds

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One of the hottest duos out there is the husband/wife team of Johnnyswim. I saw them perform at Catalyst last year in Irvine and was told they would be the next big thing. I loved their show and started listening to their music and was hooked. Next thing I know it, I see them on VH1 and Letterman. They make great music and are a lot of fun to watch on stage. I love it when couples put their creative talents together. Tonight they played at the Musical Instrument Museum. MIM is located in north Phoenix and displays more than 6,000 instruments collected from around 200 of the world’s countries and territories. They have a great music venue that hosts various acts almost weekly.

Below is a Tiny Desk Concert by Johnnyswim at NRP Music

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Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez

Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez put on a great show and played many of their songs from their Heartbeats EP and their new album Diamonds. I got to chat with them after the show and they were a blast to meet. I wish them the best!IMG_5983

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Myself with Johnnyswim

What a fun couple!

Johnnyswim on David Letterman 

The Tip Jar, Vol. II

Tonight I went to Obadiah Parker’s CD release party of The Tip Jar, Vol. II at Kazimierz World Wine Bar (one of my favorites for late night music). Mat has been a long time friend and I’ve been attending his shows for years. The new EP is great so check it out!