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Where We Live: Clubhouse Music Venue – Tempe, AZ

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Where does good music live?

Is it in the circuits of your iPod, or the tiny grooves of vinyl? Maybe it’s in the dirt of a Tennessee field, or in some million dollar stadium on an isle named Manhattan.

If you’re ever in Phoenix/Tempe, Arizona, good music lives near a 7-11.

The Clubhouse Music Venue is located in a tiny strip mall and has chugged along with shows for over six years. This is the type of venue that, in just the course of a couple of weeks or so, featured Passion Pit, The Vandals, and Gilby Clarke, formerly of Guns N Roses. Each decision was wholly organic and made sense within the context of the aim of the club. And that aim is one that is unbelievably hard to pin down. It’s not a venue for major bands (though its nabbed its fair share, like Panic At The Disco and Gza) and it’s not just for homegrown talent (though every band who lives in Arizona and even the Southwest probably has a CMV story or two). The venue is one that isn’t bound by genres or album sales and is totally a mom and pop effort for life.

From the outside, it’s a few tinted windows that occupy a few hundred feet next door to a sports bar. Inside is where the allure is at. It’s one giant room. From the back wall, where those over 21 stand to the massive bar where crowds gather before, during, and after sets, there are no divisions. The bar flows into a black pit, which flows into the stage. The bathrooms and the area to the side of the stage are all one connected space. Nothing is separated, and it creates a sense of unity and an area for sound to move freely without stairs or balconies or seats to keep it from the people. And while the place can officially hold 700 people, the feeling of a jam-packed crowd during a show makes it feel like you’ve gathered in some tiny hole in the ground for a tribal meeting. The air is never enough and you can hardly move between the ever-diverse crowd. That is unless you decide to walk outside for air, but no one ever bothers.

A perfect example of the quaint dive-ness of the Clubhouse came at the Peaches show this past October. While Peaches has a unique audience base, you can’t help but think that this particular venue has something to do with the guy in the six inch platform boots and a raver’s edition Frank The Rabbit costume dancing just a couple short feet from the hetero white male in the vintage t-shirt and sandals. And Peaches herself probably should have thanked the venue even further. Her live act is one of sex and energy, where she dominates the crowd and whips them into a frenzy. While many venues couldn’t hold her, this hole in the wall magnified her energy. When she stands on the hands of the crowd in a neo-futuristic pink military uniform spitting water or playing her vibrant neon pink light tube, even those wallflowers in the very back are faced with Peaches’ black hole-esque stage presence.

I’d love to say a show like that is one in a million, but when it comes to the Clubhouse, musically-facilitated existential freakouts like that are a dime a dozen. With all due respect, so many other venues in the city and the state feel so homogenized and conventional. In a state where we’ve bucked off so many traditions of big cities (we only just got a light rail system within the last year), it’s a wondrous thing that we have an East Coast-style venue that is more about the DIY energy and chaos and unconventionality of music than a guiding hand that is a promotions company bogging down the experience. We may never have the glamorous shine of a truly gargantuan city, but our tiny little Clubhouse should make us realize that we’re just one cramped concert away from something bigger.

Clubhouse Music Venue
1320 E Broadway Rd # 103
Tempe, AZ 85282-1578
(480) 968-3238

To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.

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