During a recent trip to Nashville, Tenn., sometime between watching "American Idol" runner-up Melinda Dolittle headline at a free concert in Centennial Park and walking down the streets of "Nashvegas" with radio-quality live music emanating from every honkeytonk nook and cranny, I couldn't stop myself from making a rather unfair comparison:
Why doesn't Ahwatukee have live music like this?
I honestly felt bad for thinking it. I realize there's a reason why Nashville is nicknamed Music City U.S.A. Admittedly, it was a true "the grass is always greener" moment. It probably didn't help driving through all the lush Tennessee greenery on the way to vineyards and plantations, only to come home to a thin layer of haboob dust covering everything in sight.
But seeing the story we ran Wednesday of 14-year-old singer/songwriter Riley Kocsis got me thinking. It's not that Ahwatukee doesn't have any talented musicians or live music, it's just that it's not as centralized as Nashville. You have to know where to look.
CK's Tavern and Grill, at 4142 E. Chandler Blvd., has had a rotating roster of live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the past seven years. On Thursdays, Halo Machine plays '80s and '90s covers that owner Kendra Fleetwood says are very entertaining and people sing along with them.
On Fridays, Fleetwood said you get more people dancing with a wide range of covers from the '70s, '80s, '90s and today with Chuck E. Baby bringing in people nonstop.
"People are fighting for chairs on Fridays in the high top area," Fleetwood said. "We have a whole slew of crowds from right out of college to people a little more seasoned."
Saturday's sound at CK's is a little bit more current to draw the younger crowd, with bands such as Angry Itch, Rugburn and Two Knuckles. Every other Wednesday, CK's has happy hour music.
Ruffino Italian Cuisine, at 4902 E. Warner Road, has a more subdued lineup. Wednesday and Sunday Jared Howe performs songs from popular current stuff to oldies but goodies on his guitar and saxophone. Ronald Jean just started performing about three weeks ago on his classic guitar, no vocals, on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Former opera singer and songwriter Rebecca De La Torre plays piano and sings every other Friday with her husband accompanying on base. Owner Steve Charron said she has an Alicia Keyes vibe when she plays. De La Torre also threw a CD release party at Ruffino July 15 for her pop soul album, "I'm Coming Home," which includes seven original songs. Opposite Fridays is Greg Waddington on the acoustic guitar playing '60s and '70s tunes as well as today's popular music.
Every Saturday Ruffino has a different style of musician. First Saturdays at Ruffino is Carson Boyd on guitar, who Charron described as a "pure entertainer guy." Second Saturdays features John Burack, who plays Billy Joel-style piano from showtunes to Niel Diamond to Elton John. Third Saturdays is Carson Parks, a jazz guy who knows his way around the trombone and guitar. Fourth Saturdays features Joe Shank, who used to work the dueling pianos in Las Vegas, so he knows a ton of tunes.
Just across Interstate 10, Fired Up Grill, at 7131 W. Ray Road, is the chosen venue for Brian Legate, who plays classic rock and light alternative every Friday night from 6 to 10 p.m. Every Sunday jazz band Aebi-Coulson brings a regular following of at least 10 people that play along in 10-minute segments. Head bartender Chris Brown said they are still in the process of looking for a permanent Saturday night act.
"It does draw a crowd. People tend to stay a little bit longer. They have another round of drinks and hang out," Brown said. "We've had people get up and dance with the musicians, so as a bartender it's a lot of fun."
Other establishments with live music include Arrivederci Trattoria and Le Ragazze.
So I take back my unfair comparison. Now when I say the grass is greener in Nashville, I'm only literally talking about the foliage.
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