The Rebel Lounge Will
Always Be In A Mason Jar
The Recent Announcement That Psyko Steve Will Be Bringing The Mason Jar Back To Life As The Rebel Lounge Elicits Personal Memories Of First And Funnest Small-Venue Concerts Among A Large Swath Of Phoenix Metro Residents
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
March 24, 2015 - The first show I ever went to took place at The Mason Jar. That’s why I am so excited that the building that formerly housed the famous Phoenix venue will once again play host to live music under the name The Rebel Lounge.
The new venue is the child of prolific Phoenix music promoter Stephen Chilton, better known as Psyko Steve. Chilton has booked music for multiple venues around Arizona for decades and finally decided to open up his own place.The venue promises to offer something new for the Phoenix music crowd while still retaining the spirit of the Mason Jar.
“Some of the first national artists I ever booked shows for were at the Mason Jar,” said Chilton in a press release (he didn’t return my calls). “It is great to be bringing a music venue back there.”
I, like many a child in Phoenix in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, fell in love with live music for the first time at The Mason Jar.
I became obsessed with Pennsylvania pop punk group Punchline in junior high and signed up for the band’s street team as soon as I discovered what that was. The first time the band ventured to Phoenix, I managed to snag a flyering job in exchange for two free tickets. The show was at the Mason Jar.
There was only one problem. It was on a school night and I’d never actually been to a show before.
My father and I came to an uneasy understanding. I could go to the show if my brother drove me and we were home by 10. Naive as I was, I thought that gave me plenty of time to at least see Punchline since they were set to play before the headliner Hellogoodbye.
Alas, it didn’t quite work out that way; best laid plans and such. I managed to listen to the first band’s (I think it was a shitty screamo outfit called A Thorn for Every Heart) lead singer wax philosophic for 15 minutes about how the members of his last band left him to play with Ashley Simpson.
It was probably the right choice. Following his mini diatribe, he spent the remainder of the set wailing uncontrollably about something or another and swinging from the low hanging infrastructure in the venue’s roof.
When it was finally over, they cleared the stage and Punchline began to set up. Thankfully, the band was pretty quick about it because the clock was ticking. I made it halfway through Punchline’s set before my brother tapped me on the shoulder indicating we had to leave.
Even though I only experienced three or four songs, I was hooked. The energy of it all just soaked into me and gave me a thrill I hadn’t experienced before in passive entertainment like movies and television. And, the venue had a lot to do with that. The cozy confines of The Mason Jar were the perfect place to feel a real connection with the band.
Punchline made that easy, too. The band intermixed stories with songs, telling everyone about eating burritos with their childhood heroes, The Gin Blossoms, before the show. It felt less like watching idols and more like watching friends do what they love.
Soon after that show, The Mason Jar closed in 2005. It hit me hard since it felt like the only place I could have that intimate experience because I didn’t have a license and lived in central Phoenix at a time when very few venues like that existed here (at least to my limited knowledge during those years).
My story isn’t unique. Since it opened in 1979, The Mason Jar undoubtedly hosted plenty of Phoenicians’ first (and second and third, et al) shows. That’s because it was the go-to venue in the Phoenix-metro for up and coming acts from a host of genres.
"To this day, people speak of “The Mason Jar,’” said Joe Lopez, former publisher of Loud Magazine and current co-publisher of Modern Times Magazine. “We remember the pole and low ceiling but most of all, all the great times we had" ‘God bless Franco.’”
For nearly 30 years, The Mason Jar hosted a diverse slate of local and national acts like Rage Against the Machine, Jane’s Addiction, Guns n’ Roses, Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World, The Black Keys and many more.
Brad Wandrey, bass player of Mesa-based indie rock band The Riveras, has fond memories of The Mason Jar as both a musician and a fan. In addition to playing the venue with the now defunct Dead Rose Orchestra, he also saw many acts at the venue.
“I played my last show there with Dead Rose Orchestra there and that’s definitely a significant memory for me,” said Wandrey. “As a fan, I got to see some cool shows, too. If I remember right, Death by Stereo played that Dead Rose show. I got to see Stretch Arm Strong there...I saw Himsa there and they killed.”
Whether you were a music nut or a casual fan, odds are you crossed paths with The Mason Jar at least once or twice before it closed in 2005.
"The Mason Jar was legendary in it own time,” said Lopez. “Everyone played there from BB King to Guns ‘n Roses. They were an important part of the Metal Movement."
The Rebel Lounge is not the The Mason Jar. Thanks to a renovated interior, new floor plan and updated sound system, Chilton’s venue will definitely have a personality of its own. That being said, the history musical history encapsulated by the building itself will surely be a major draw for fans.
And, if Chilton’s history as a booker is any indication, the building at 2303 E. Indian School Road will once again host a range of diverse, up and coming acts from Arizona and across the country.
“I have always booked a lot of new music of all types, from punk rock and metal to indie rock and country. Anyone who has paid attention to the shows I have been booking in Phoenix won’t be surprised by what they see at the Rebel. Hopefully people will see something new for the first time that they will fall in love with,” Chilton said.
The Rebel Lounge is not The Mason Jar, but it is shaping up to be a worthy successor to the dearly departed venue that meant so much to so many Phoenix music fans.
Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer living in Phoenix. Follow him @TheManofLetters.
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