After a day of celebrating the glory of Downtown Phoenix at Grand Avenue Festival, my stomach was shouting for liquid sustenance. Naturally, my taste buds seem to gravitate towards something of the sweet tea variety. Stereotypical Southerner? Absolutely.
I had heard of a cool bar that is tucked away at 7th Avenue and McDowell. That seems extremely curious, considering that hiding at that busy intersection must be a task. With that in mind, I believed that I might be headed to a dive bar for sure.
Once I located the sign-less door, I was met by the colorful hum of Yellow Submarine flickering in the staircase above. Immediately, I realized that I had made a discovery. Cozy couches, dim lights and nostalgic movies seem to package this place in a unique style. On to ordering my drink. I know that I’m somewhere special when the drink ingredients are sweet tea vodka, sweet and sour and a sliced lemon. Simple. Brilliant. Sold.
My refined palate is amazed at the mixture. Seriously, is it possible to beat a combo that includes liquor and sweet tea? If not for the pleasant, relaxed mood of the room, I would have released a “rebel yell” of delight. I suppose SideBar is my diamond in the rough, and that gives it a huge lead on every other place. Now I just have to find it again.
SideBar is located at 1517 N. 7th Ave. and pours Lynwood Palmers until 2 a.m. every day.
By now most have heard the news that broke yesterday that Kimber Lanning is stepping down from her helm at Modified Arts, and the indie music that is oh so loved here is going with her (see her statement below). Though it’s certainly not a shock due to her massive commitments elsewhere (Kimber is the closest thing Phoenix has to Superwoman), it is also certainly the end of an era.
Right off the bat, I want to say that I’ll continue to fully support Modified and its new owners, Kim Larkin and Adam Murray, in whatever direction they choose to take. But, I must also say that it’s tremendously sad that Downtown Phoenix (well, the Valley, really) is losing its independent music mecca, whether the space continues to throw one-off local shows or not.
Phoenix has struggled with its music identity for decades now, as evidenced by the sheer number of venues that have come and gone in recent years (off the top of my head: the Nile, Nita’s Hideaway, Long Wongs on Mill, Bash on Ash, the Paper Heart, Onespace, the Mason Jar, Fat Cats, Neckbeards, etc.). Put Modified at or near the top of that list. Over its decade-long run, that little hole-in-the-wall art gallery, creaky floorboards and all, put on some killer shows, and brought in talent from all over the world — much of which has graduated to the likes of major music festivals, theaters and arenas. No one can argue that Modified allowed Phoenix to be on countless tour itineraries. Sure, someone will come along — hopefully in Downtown Phoenix, although there are whispers of an all-ages music renaissance about to crop up once again in Tempe — and open a new space that will one day reclaim the booking prowess that Modified earned over its years of service. But, it won’t happen overnight. And, until then, the independent music scene here is at a serious loss.From Kimber: Hello Phoenix,
I think you all know how much I love this town, right? Maybe some of you know me from Stinkweeds, or Modified Arts, or some of my newer friends know me from the work I’m doing with Local First Arizona. Well, I want to talk to you about some upcoming changes that you should know about. It’s important that you hear this from me, and that you know that you can ask me any question you may have at any time.
A brief history of Modified Arts: we opened in January of 1999 as a dedicated art space, providing a place for painters, musicians, actors, dancers, and poets to share their work in an affordable and welcoming environment. As you know, Roosevelt Street has blossomed over the years and is now home to an astonishing array of galleries, shops, and restaurants. I am proud to have been part of what has been nothing less than the complete transformation of a community.
Over the past 10 years, I have changed as well. I am now actively involved in community development, and work extensively on both city and state initiatives that I believe will be for the betterment of us all. Encouraging density and infill, sustainable policies- rather than suburban policies of the 50’s, local procurement, economic development, and entrepreneurship are my top priorities. Many of you who know me know that I have worked hard to walk the line between indie rock shows and city council meetings, between stocking the fridge and public speaking engagements.
It’s time for something to give.
I am pleased to introduce you to Kim Larkin and Adam Murray, a husband and wife team who will be the perfect people to carry on the Modified banner without me. I am overwhelmingly happy to have found a solution to a difficult situation. I will never give up that building, but I didn’t want to place a business in there that wouldn’t actively contribute to the neighborhood, and in particular to Roosevelt Row. Kim and Adam will be able to advance Modified in a way that I am unable to do with my current work load.
Kim’s background is in arts management, and she has already run a gallery of her own in Salt Lake City. Adam is a sound engineer whom some of you may know as a sound guy at Modified now. They have big plans for Modified Arts and I expect you all to get behind them and show support. Modified Arts will be more of a traditional gallery, though Adam will still be doing shows. However, we must tell you that the big, indie rock shows you’ve come to know and love at Modified will have to find another home. The programming will be changing to better accommodate a gallery, so the slant will be more experimental and progressive.
We will be closing Modified Arts as it exists right now the second weekend in December and re-opening with a new look for Third Friday in January. The stage and green room will be gone, giving way to a cleaner look that will better suit the artwork.
I know some of you will have a hard time with the change but I am asking you to embrace it the best you can and recognize that for almost 11 years we did something no one thought we could do. We ran in independent music venue and art gallery with volunteers from the community and kept the rent at $160 so that bands could play and make some money, and promoters could still bring the small bands and make ends meet. We provided the stepping stones for most of the bands playing at the Rhythm Room today. In fact, some of the bands playing at the Marquee or Cricket Pavilion got their first show in Phoenix at Modified. If you were there for one of those shows, please hold the memory dear.
As a city grows, things change. Be proud of what each of you contributed and be grateful you were there. Looking forward, Modified Arts will be something new to explore and yet familiar. Kim and Adam have promised to keep working with many of the mid-career artists I’ve worked to develop over the years, and I feel the situation could not be better. They will give the website a new look and have lots of plans for better events. I’m sure they will be in touch with many of you in the coming weeks to introduce themselves and to communicate their plans to you directly. You will like them a lot, I promise. Kim and I are collaborating on a show in January (my last, her first) that will document the history of the Phoenix arts scene going all they way back to the early 70’s.
I could talk to you all for days about the ways Modified has changed over the years- some good and some bad. The community has changed, too. I know I have certainly been distracted with all of the policy work I’ve been submerged in, but I will save that discussion for a book one day. Suffice to say I am happy I was able to be a part of it, and I’m happy I found someone to carry it on.
For all of you who were there along the way: thank you. Modified is a shining example of what a community can do when we work together. I look forward to whatever we decide to do next.
Dark comedy? Absolutely. Dark comedy based on real-life drama? Hell yeah. The Informant, starring Matt Damon as legendary ADM whistleblower Mark Whitacre, is an often funny, frequently intriguing and well-executed period piece (the period being the 1990s) that tells the story of a flawed man who exposes a global price-fixing scam perpetrated by (sinister music) ADM — yes, the friendly Archer Daniels Midland that sponsors your favorite show on NPR. It turns out that the self-proclaimed “Supermarket to the World” was actually conspiring with its competitors to fix prices in the market for the food additive lysine.
Whitacre, a group president in the bio products division of the agra giant, reveals to the FBI that his company is engaging in anti-competitive activities, and agrees to record conversations and meetings to collect evidence. The evidence he collects over several years leads to the arrests of top ADM executives. Unfortunately, it is revealed to the FBI that Whitacre has actually been bilking the company out of millions of dollars the entire time, and he ends up spending more time in jail for taking $9 million from the company than the ADM executives who cheated the public out of possibly hundreds of times that amount. As Whitacre says in the film, “I stole from the company, but they stole from everyone who buys anything at a grocery store.”
Damon’s portrayal of the complicated Whitacre was just right. His fidgety tendencies matched perfectly with the audience’s expectation of how a bipolar whistleblower might behave. His timing and delivery were perfect, including in the classic scene where he discloses his theft from the company to the FBI agents assigned to his case. He keeps just the right amount of suspense as he reveals his secret, and I was leaning back in my chair, wincing, thinking, “Oh, for the love of God, don’t say it!”
The costumes and art direction captured the feel of the late 1990s perfectly, right down to the patterns of the ties that reminded me of a number of Amway meetings that I attended in my college years. The supporting cast wasn’t anything to write home about, but they supported Damon adequately. The shining star in the chorus was Tony Hale as Whitacre’s loyal attorney, James Epstein. After hearing the real-life Epstein discuss his role in the case, I am convinced that Hale captured the passion of an attorney vigorously defending a client he truly believes in. I was shocked when I heard Hale use the word “bullshit” in one scene, because he is an evangelical Christian who has refused to use profanity on screen in the past. Back when he was on Arrested Development, in a scene in which his character goes on a profanity-laced tirade that is bleeped for television, he made a point of not actually saying any profanities, mouthing the alphabet instead.
I love a good conspiracy theory, so here comes one in my final thought about the movie. I wonder how much of what really happened is portrayed in this film. Yes, the movie has Whitacre’s tacit support, and I am sure that Kurt Eichenwald, the author of the book on which the movie is based, spend a lot of effort on research, but I wonder how much ADM’s political clout contributed to the minuscule sentences of the faithful executives, while Whitacre spent nearly a decade in jail. One cannot dispute the disproportionate punishment, given that Whitacre took millions, while ADM has likely taken billions.
Gallo Blanco Café at the Clarendon
When I think of secret informants, investigations, and conspiracies in Phoenix, I immediately think of the story of Don Bolles. An investigative journalist for The Arizona Republic, Bolles had uncovered a number of scandals, including some involving organized crime. On June 2, 1976, he went to the Hotel Clarendon (now the Clarendon Hotel) to meet an informant, and was killed when a bomb blew up his car in the parking lot.
I don’t think that any of my work for DPJ has been controversial enough to warrant concern about a possible hit on me, but I do always look twice when I park my car at the Clarendon Hotel, even if just for nostalgia’s sake, and to honor someone who died in a noble pursuit of truth.
On this week’s trip to the Clarendon Hotel, I visited the Gallo Blanco Café for what I believe is the best brunch for your money in Phoenix. Sure, it isn’t the relentless pursuit of truth, but it is delicious. Our table started out with the fantastic fresh guacamole, which at $7 is as expensive as any of the main courses that I have ever had on the Gallo Blanco menu. I enjoyed the huevos rancheros ($6), which feature well-seasoned beans, perfectly textured tortillas and a delicious chili sauce. They also serve an amazing veggie torta ($7) that I could argue is the best vegetarian sandwich in Phoenix. To drink, you must try the carmely delicious cafe con leche ($3.75) made with Cartel coffee beans.
The only misfire on the menu is the Chicharrón de Queso ($7) which is an over-crisp disaster. If anyone knows where in Phoenix one can find an LA-quality chicharrón de queso, let me know — please! The Gallo Blanco wait staff is efficient, if indifferent, and the atmosphere is what I call “Clarendon cool.” Like the rest of the property, Gallo Blanco’s dining room has the sense that someone finished about 90% of the construction, then just decided to quit. The flooring has ragged edges, the wall transitions are sloppy, and the decor is an odd mish-mash that isn’t quite eclectic. I am pretty sure that they save the attention to detail for the food, and there they score big time.
Sponsored by local Internet radio station Creamy Radio, the final release show for the When in AZ compilation rocked out last Friday night at Hard Rock Café. The show featured Big. Fast. Easy., FutureKind, The Necronauts, Yellow Minute and Black Carl. Representatives from Ear Candy and the Phoenix Conservatory of Music were on hand and spoke to the crowd between sets about the services their programs provide to the community. Check out photos of the first four bands below.
All photos by Greg Humphrey
Tourism and economic vitality are separate but equal. Intrinsically, they are common denominators in the future of a prospering Phoenix. Did you know that Phoenix hotels contribute more than $166 million into the local economy through taxes? This is a substantial amount of money that enables programs and services to continue, not to mention the jobs they create.
Literally, for Phoenix, strength is in numbers. An increased number of visitors and conventions to the area will strengthen local economic recovery efforts. Phoenix and the surrounding areas are lush and diverse. From resort living to down-and-dirty camping and fishing, there is appeal for everyone. Yes, I said everyone — even locals. You are not only residents, but you are also stakeholders. Through continued patronage of local business and amenities, stakeholders play a vital role in forming the future of Phoenix. In its greatest form, everyone is one degree of separation from tourism. The future of services and programs is dependent on the investments. Be proud in knowing that you helped shape the future of this great city and state.
Widely known and accepted is the belief that business drives the economy. When business is good, so are the pocketbooks of Americans. Today’s data only supports the notion that businesses need to continue to make sound judgments and not give into intimidation and negative publicity. As the global research firm Oxford Economics highlights, for every dollar invested in business travel, businesses experience $12.50 in increased revenue and $3.80 in new profits. I urge you to continue planning educational opportunities, product demonstrations and vacations, because Arizona’s future depends on it.