You may have heard over the last week or so that there is a new venue in town—specifically Phoenix, you may have also heard that it’s seriously geared toward local music and the scene that we are literally drowning in nearly every day and night of the week. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grand Opening of Last Exit Live is here and this little downtown venue is amazing in every way. After a little over a week of soft opening shows featuring such amazing talents as Dry River Yacht Club, Banana Gun, Sugar Thieves and Fayuca, Last Exit Live is ready to let loose. With some other venues in town taking on more national acts and less local ones, Last Exit Live has arrived at a precisely perfect time. It is the resurrection of the former Ruby Room (the building itself) and the former Tempe hotspot Last Exit (the founder Brannon Kleinlein and the ethic itself) and it’s about time.
“I decided in 2012 I was tired of booking for other people’s venues and wanted to re-establish Last Exit once again,” Kleinlein said. “My search centered on Downtown Phoenix and Tempe but I ultimately decided on Phoenix based upon the growth I’ve seen in the last couple of years and the lack of venues. Ruby Room had all the aspects I wanted in that it was close to central downtown, was a free standing building, and had an abundance of free parking which is a rare thing in downtown.”
For anyone that remembers the Ruby Room, while the building might be the same, in theory—this is a whole, new beautifully place. As an audiophile, I was most curious by the sound system, I tend to spend a lot time in venues where my favorite bands sound their best and it’s clear that I will be spending a lot of time inside these walls. “From day one of planning the venue, my production manager Brian Stubblefield and I always agreed that sound and production would be our number one priority over everything else,” Kleinlein said. “The show experience for both fans and bands playing is so much better when there is quality sound, lighting, and overall production.” I have been in the sound booth and behind the curtain, I have walked up and down the venue at top volume and I have never seen or heard anything more impressive. Nothing compares to this. I’m not kidding—and it’s not overwhelming, it doesn’t destroy your ears, it wraps you in absolute natural warmth. I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but they’ve done it.
The décor and set up of Last Exit Live is also something that’s pretty amazing—it’s a glorious retro/mod reduction with both style and class. “I definitely paid some homage to the former RR with the dark, loungy, and red décor,” Kleinlein said. “I’ve always been a fan of these kind of bars in general and being that the RR was known as cool hip spot it just made sense to keep some of that existing vibe and put a little of my own spin on it.” Not to mention that, but there is an amazing red curtain where the band can set up and even soundcheck while the soudboard operator can watch everything on a GoPro camera. “I have always loved seeing shows at venues like the Viper Room & The Roxy out in LA that have front curtains that close in between bands,” Kleinlein said. “The fans don’t have to see all the hustle & bustle that goes on in setting up the band and when its showtime there is a certain feel it presents with the lights coming down and the curtain opening up and everyone know it’s go time.
So the sound is great, the mood is right, the look is brilliant, but what about the booze? Last Exit Live doesn’t have a liquor license (yet), but they have an amazing selection of great beer, eight fantastic wines (I’m a wine snob and I was pretty impressed) and this amazing selection of Sake and very, very clever and delicious cocktails make thereof. The first time I ever experienced Sake cocktails was Coachella, but Last Exit Live makes them an art (try the “Cherry Bomb”). “Not having liquor really came down to finances,” Kleinlein said. “It’s about $75,000 more for a full liquor license vs. a beer and wine license. I was much more concerned about my money going towards a top notch sound system. Also there are a good amount of ‘beer & wine’ only bars existing in Phoenix such as Lost Leaf and Film Bar so I think people are somewhat used to it. Sake has come a long way and now comes in many flavors that can be mixed into tasting just like a normal cocktail would taste.” Yeah, it’s pretty great.
The final element is, of course, the artists taking the stage of Last Exit Live. This first month of Last Exit Live’s lineup is a stunning collection of the finest talents throughout the valley. I’m not going to list them you can stare at the poster below and drool at it yourself, but really, this is an impressive month for any venue, especially for a new one. “I basically reached out to a lot of the bands I have previously worked with, whether it be at the old Last Exit or through my recent promotions and events such as ALMF,” Kleinlein said. “Already having a good relationship with these bands and a history of doing shows with them made the process much easier and most are just excited to be playing a new venue in Downtown.”
Brannon also confirmed my own thoughts on the past week of shows at Last Exit Live, a brilliant test run in a fantastic new venue: “The soft opening achieved exactly what we wanted it to. It got some quality bands on our stage to test our sound system out, got the staff & bartenders experience with our set up, and enable people to come out and get a glimpse of the venue prior to our official grand opening. It was a great test run for everyone in preparation for the real deal.
It begins this Wednesday as the Sugar Thieves start playing each Wednesday, then Brian Lopez and Snake! Snake! Snakes! on Thursday, followed by the mother of all shows on Friday: Mergence and KONGOS. This is only the beginning and you can see the rest of this month’s lineup below. This is THE new downtown place to be, won’t you join me?