Here's a question no one ever asks me:
What was it like back in the inception of the Tempe music scene? That must've been an exciting time.
It was. It really was. There's no way to explain, to replicate, to relay to you how special this time in the late 80s-early 90s Tempe music scene truly was: Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop, etc, infinity. In a fair and just world, everyone would be able to experience it. I'd be able to send you a link over the Internet and you'd be able to get a sense of what it was like for yourself.
Nico Holthaus and Chris Valentine, co-producers of the documentary Mill Avenue Inc., put this film together for all the right reasons. They did it to alert people to what can happen when those things that are special, like a music scene or a community, get eviscerated by gentrification when no one is looking. ("Why would anyone want to ruin this?" is what we all must've been thinking, if we were thinking anything at all.) People in power got greedy for the soul of Mill Avenue, and guess what? They got it. Boy, did they get it. You couldn't have planned it any better.
And for the people who shrug their shoulders and say, "It happens. That's the way the world works. Everything changes. You just move on," one need only walk through myriad neighborhoods in San Francisco and Portland and plenty of other places to know it didn't have to happen like it did on Mill Ave.
But in order to tell this important story, the film makers have to show us what was so damn special about the Tempe music scene in the first place. And herein lie the real nuggets.
That's why we get to see Robin Wilson working behind the counter at Rockaway Records in 1989. The Gin Blossoms' first record, Dusted, was just a month from being released, and we get wonderful footage of an overexcited Wilson bouncing around the record store, doing his best to keep pride from bursting out of his chest at the thought of the record coming out. "I just want to make records...go on tour and buy a van and stuff like that." Oh, don't worry. You'll do stuff like that.
It's why we get to watch Kimber Lanning, owner of Stinkweeds, pull her hair out trying to fathom that she lived in an area that "had the potential of being [the next] Austin. To have that and to blow it..."
It's why we get to listen to Tempe legend Hans Olsen regale us with tales from Mill Avenue's oh-so-colorful past.
It's why we get to see and hear another Tempe legend, Walt Richardson, once again prove he's the wisest man on earth.
It's why we get to see Sara Cina refer to "her bands" as she relays the story of how no band asked for pay after playing the final Long Wong's gig, despite 2,000 people in attendance.
And that's what they were. They were our bands. The Blossoms were our Beatles. Dead Hot were our Stones. Mill Avenue was our music scene, and Mill Ave. Inc is our documentary. Buy it if you were there, buy it if you weren't.
Also, if you buy and watch, you'll get to hear me quote both Brent Babb and William Faulkner. (Woo hoo!)
Yours in laying down the law,
Buy Ghost Notes
Buy Songs from Memory
Buy Stuck Outside of Phoenix