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Phoenix Comicon 2015: Top Five Custom Cocktails

1 Jun
Part of the special

Part of the special “Villains Ball” menu at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, on deck the weekend of Phoenix Comicon only.

The new trend at this year’s Phoenix Comicon was artisanal cocktails. It seemed like all the bars surrounding the massive fanfest were offering character-themed libations. Here are our five favorites.

5. The Black Widow (Province at Westin): Espresso, Bailey’s, Frangelico, Grand Marnier

4. Sonic Screwdriver (District American Kitchen & Wine Bar): Conch Republic rum, Bogle Essential Red, pineapple juice

3. Don’t Be a Pussy (Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour): Horchata milk punch with Olmeca Altos tequila

why so serious

Why So Serious?

2. Why So Serious? (Icon Lounge at Renaissance Hotel): Gin, cucumber, lemon, rosemary

Sinister Powers

Sinister Powers

1. Sinister Powers (Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour): Powers Irish whiskey, vanilla liqueur, fresh lemon, ginger beer

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McDowell Mountain Music Festival: The Good, the Bad and the Groovy

29 Mar
Passion Pit performs at the 2015 McDowell Mountain Music Festival Friday night. Photo by Esther C. Groves.

Passion Pit performs at the 2015 McDowell Mountain Music Festival Friday night. Photo by Esther C. Groves.

As a general rule, I don’t like large music festivals. I don’t like standing in long lines for everything from admission to drinks to the nasty outhouses; I don’t like waiting out crappy bands I could care less about wedged in-between bands on the bill that I do want to see; I don’t like trying to wade through swarms of dancing, drunken people; and I don’t like being stuck standing directly under the sun for any extended period of time (“extended” being longer than like, two minutes).

At the same time, festivals provide a way to see multiple bands (sometimes from disparate genres), meet interesting people, try new foods, and enjoy the (hopefully nice) weather.

The McDowell Mountain Music Festival (held this year March 27-29) occupies what I call the “Goldilocks Zone” for music festivals. It’s not too hot, not too crowded, not too expensive, and has just the right amount and balance of music acts. I last attended the festival in 2005, when it was held at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The event has grown substantially since then: It’s much larger, taking place over three days, and it’s moved from Scottsdale to Hance Park, in the heart of downtown Phoenix, right next to the library. I love the location.

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My city hosts Super Bowl XLIX today. From star-studded private parties to the social media protests of #LaserTwitter, here’s what it feels like from the inside-out.

1 Feb

IMG_20150127_210231We are about six hours from the start of the single largest sporting event in the United States, as I type this. This year’s Super Bowl XLIX takes place in Glendale, Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium, which is about a 20-minute drive from my house near north Scottsdale.

The past week has seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of out-of-towners into Metro Phoenix, who are here for the Big Game and the countless big parties that come with it. Downtown Phoenix has been one big traffic jam – as the site of Super Bowl Central and the Bud Light House of Whatever, our urban core has been transformed into a giant playground of hype and unconscious consumerism, filled with massive roman numerals that double as digital displays of Grand Canyon panoramics, a building-size football sculpture, half a dozen stages filled with musical acts of every ilk, beer gardens galore (excuse me, BUD LIGHT beer gardens glore), and skyscrapers draped in banners trumpeting the Pepsi halftime show. Scottsdale is the current headquarters of ESPN, and party central as usual, with a glut of star-studded events going on all weekend, from lingerie bowls hosted by Victoria’s Secret supermodels to private parties with red carpets trampled by everybody from Man vs. Food star Adam Richman to actress Alyssa Milano. Glendale, which is typically a borderline-bankrupt ghost town every other week of the year, has even seen some Super Bowl action around the stadium, with body-painted Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots fans milling around the stadium-adjacent big-box bars. It’s estimated Arizona will make more than $500 million from hosting the Super Bowl this year, though the mayor of Glendale has said the city expects to lose about $2 million on the event (more on the saga of how sports are killing Glendale here.)

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Party with Lady Death at creator Brian Pulido’s chaos- and cake-filled Kickstarter launch event

29 Jan
lady death chaos rule no 1

Cover art by Paolo Pantalena


Graphically and novelly speaking — and speaking of graphic novels — writer Brian Pulido is sort of like a landscape painter… of underworlds full of stabby little knaves and puffy black clouds. I first met him while we were both serving as judges for a zombie beauty pageant at the 2009 Phoenix Comicon. At that point, he’d already had a successful career in comics with his publishing company, Chaos! Comics, and Lady Death and Evil Ernie series, and he was about to release the first full-length feature film he’d written and directed, a horror flick titled The Graves.

pulido ntA few months after meeting him in 2009,  I wrote a cover story (pictured left) about Pulido for Phoenix New Times called Desert Chills, right around the time The Graves came out in select theaters. We’ve stayed in touch – and busy – and since then.

Most recently, after writing Lady Death stories for different publishers over the past several years, Pulido announced he’s reacquired total control over Lady Death, and will publish the first Pulido-penned and Pulido-published Lady Death story in more than thirteen years, a 48-page graphic novel titled Chaos Rules #1, under the banner of Coffin Comics (of which his wife, Francisca Pulido, is president). The project, Pulido says, is finished, but hell awaits funds for production costs. That’s where his kick-ass Kickstarter launch party at Jesse James Comics in Glendale, AZ on Feb. 4 comes in. From 6 to 8 p.m., people can mingle with Brian and Francisca Pulido and get items signed, take photos with cosplayer Freddie Nova as Lady Death, make pledges on-site at computer stations, enjoy refreshments and eat cake. The first 100 attendees will also receive a cool commemorative Lady Death gift. We recently caught up with Pulido to talk about the appeal of Lady Death, the new graphic novel, and crazy Kickstarter rewards like a one-off edition with a $6,000 diamond embedded in the cover.

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Marky Ramone: The “last link” to the Ramones dishes on drumming, pasta sauce for autism, and what happens when you hang out at Stephen King’s house.

13 Jan
Marky Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Marky Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Marc Bell, aka Marky Ramone, spent decades behind the drum kit for the Ramones, arguably the most important and influential punk rock band of all time. They were the leather jacket and ripped jeans-clad architects of punchy two-minute, three-chord songs about beating on brats with baseball bats, shock treatments and lobotomies, sniffing glue and wanting to be sedated. Simultaneously, they simplified and repackaged your parents’ rock and roll into Ramones music, recording distinct versions of The Searchers’ hit ballad “Needles and Pins” (a song co-written by Sono Bono) and Freddy Cannon’s “Palisades Park” and asking if you wanna dance under the moonlight (“do you, do you, do you, do you wanna dance?”). Tragically, singer Joey Ramone died from lymphoma in 2001 and didn’t live to see the Ramones’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. Three months after the induction ceremony, original bassist Dee Dee Ramone died from a drug overdose. Guitarist Johnny Ramone died from prostate cancer in 2004. In July of 2014, original Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone – who’d recommended Marky be his replacement in 1978 – also succumbed to cancer.

Marky Ramone, thankfully, remains alive – and active. He continues to play drums, and recently released his autobiography, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone (Simon & Schuster). His book tour stops at Changing Hands Bookstore at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on January 20, where Arizona Republic music editor Ed Masley will host a conversation with Ramone  (click here for tickets). I recently caught up with Marky to talk about the book, the Ramones, New York City in the 1970s, overcoming personal demons, his radio show on Sirius, his pasta sauce, his beer, and his charitable interests. I told you he was active.

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