The story of Long Wong’s imminent return to Tempe as a live music venue brings with it not only the requisite amounts of media drama and hope for the Phoenix Metro Area’s live music scene, but also discussion about how “cool” the scene actually was in it’s Mill Ave. heyday. I can’t speak with much authority about those days; my exposure to the whole scene was mostly limited to my mom’s then boyfriend blasting stuff like The Refreshments around her apartment. By the time I found myself going to shows in the late-nineties/early two-thousands, I was frequenting more punk establishments, like The Nile and Nita’s Hideaway.
But I’ve always had a measure of respect for The Gin Blossoms, the flagship act of that era. While the Blossoms jangle-pop inspires chuckles or outright scorn from most Phoenix musicians under forty-or-so, dismissed as antiquity, I’ve always really enjoyed their song-craft, owing a lot to my favorite group, Big Star, especially the compositions of Doug Hopkins, the band’s original guitarist, who was fired by the band during the recording of their major label full-length, New Miserable Experience. Hopkins committed suicide not long after, reportedly smashing the gold record her earned for the band’s breakthrough single “Hey Jealousy,” a tune he penned.
Pre-Gin Blossoms, Hopkins had played in the rougher-sounding Moral Majority, writing charming sounding songs like “Eddie’s Going Faggot” and “B.Y.U. Fight Song.” While that band’s recording have yet to surface, he followed their breakup by forming The Psalms, who’s recordings are floating about the interweb. The Psalms foreshadow the jangle of the Blossoms, but come across far more New Wave influenced, recalling The Cure and New Order. My search into Arizona’s punk, power-pop and garage past (aided significantly by Marc Reid and local blogs and sites such as AZ Local and Lost Horizons) has revealed plenty of interesting acts, which I plan of discussing more in the future, but The Psalms have proven to be the most immediately arresting, a particularly bad-ass sounding chapter of Phoenix’s musical history.