Breathing Life Back Into Phoenix
Photo by Abigail Spong
There is always a small amount of anxiety that overtakes my body while I’m on my way to a show, but the more that I think about it, the anxiety may be a mischaracterization of what isn’t always a bad feeling. Sometimes it feels as if nerves and anticipation lead to an inevitable small quiver in my knees. Other times I’m exalted as I oscillate between believing that I’ve seen and experienced everything that live music has to offer and then being surprised by something entirely new.
As I walked across the street to the parking lot of a large cement building painted white and blue, I was greeted by more people than I anticipated. We gathered at a practice space in which bands and musicians can rent rooms on a month-to-month basis to have unlimited access to space with no volume restrictions or, at the very least, a place to store all excess gear. I was not a stranger to this particular space, as I had spent many hours there with friends to record instruments for a band we were in. It was more spacious than what we’ve been accustomed to normally, which was always a big selling point, but on this particular night, it would be used to welcome hardcore back to Phoenix.
Pushed to max capacity, the crowd filed into the space. As the first note rang out, I could feel a collective sigh of relief around the room. It was clear to me that this was something we’d all missed, and that its absence had resulted in a loss; a loss of a place to go, to express our emotions, and to celebrate music, friendship, and community. The group had gathered to celebrate Josh Mata’s birthday and, in return for our presence, he joined his band Skin Ticket to play a quick set. As the first song peaked there were already bodies flying across the room and into the crowd.
Halfway through the set, a blunt was passed around the room like some sort of secular christening. As the smoke lingered, creating a thick haze, I contemplated my earthly existence, shoulder to shoulder with 25 other people. After 16 months of isolation, a small amount of loneliness left my body.
This small gathering was something we’d all physically needed, to feel close and connected again, to feel emotionally bound. Hardcore, as the cliché goes, has always been a place where I could escape my mundane life and be transported somewhere new. I owe my life to hardcore as it has given me so much, so many friendships, so many opportunities but it has some heavy lifting to do this summer for many of us. Hardcore is a reminder that we’re not so alone and that there are more like-minded people in the world than the ones that inhabited our quarantine spaces.
I find an immeasurable amount of comfort in the smell of hot summer asphalt. As we made our way up to the evening market, we could overhear a small chorus of inaudible chatter being drowned out by the cacophony of passing cars on 7th Street. It was a sure sign that life had returned to Phoenix. As I walked through the curated booths of hand-selected garments and dinnerware, the smell of hot summer dirt filled the air. Scanning the delicately arranged wares, I could tell that each vendor had curated their offerings with diligent attention and care. Every booth had a personality that directly reflected its owner.
In an oversaturated vintage market, I find myself bored with most vintage-focused events but this one felt different. Each booth was a careful realization of love and passion, executed flawlessly.
Photos by Julia Rodriguez
As I made the rounds I ran into my friend Jake of Recordbar Radio, as they were providing music for the event. Having gotten drinks with him a few weeks prior, he greeted me with warmth and kindness.
After browsing all that this event had to offer, I found a spot next to my good friend Nate who was helping his brother, Marsh, sell his hand-made upcycled clothing. Working under the moniker Pantano Clothing, Marsh is paving the way in made-to-order clothing in Phoenix that is both original and timeless.
Nate and I huddled around his phone while we watched the last 3 minutes of the Suns game, finding time for conversation in between whistles and the occasional stream buffer. I could only think about how grateful I was to be surrounded by friends again.
As the night wound down, I was propositioned for drinks at a local bar and couldn’t find it in me to decline.
We found a cozy corner on the patio and everything once again felt normal. We laughed the night away over cocktails and as my date excused herself to the restroom, I began penning the events of the night into my moleskin as I remembered them.
I reflected on the summer of 2020 and what I anticipated this moment would feel like but being unable to fully articulate my feelings as I blamed the whiskey I was drinking and the fact I haven't written anything in over a year. Would Phoenix rebound from being pushed to the complete brink of annihilation? I’m still trying to articulate the fact that the only reason some small music venues and bars survived was due to community fundraising. I was very pessimistic in the summer of 2020 but after this week, my community has proved to be extremely resilient. I’m not sure what the future holds for live music or community events but I’m confident the freaks of Phoenix will continue to show out in droves.