For more than two decades, the Mason Jar was a fixture of Phoenix’s music scene. By the time it closed in 2005, the Mason Jar had welcomed thousands of performers, including one musician who won’t let go of the past. We’ll show you the efforts of that musician to put on a Mason Jar encore.
Ted Simons: For more than two decades the Mason Jar was a fixture of Phoenix’s music scene. By the time the Mason Jar closed in 2005 it had welcomed thousands of performers including one musician who refuses to let the past go. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Ed Kishell show us how that musician’s passion for The Mason Jar is leading to an encore of sorts.
Christina Estes: The sign along Indian School Road reads The Anvil. But for Glen Crimson, it will forever be his version of Cheers.
Glen Crimson: A lot of us were big fish in a little pond.
Christina Estes: He and the other fish are diving back in.
Glen Crimson: Cool.
Christina Estes: For one special night called Legends of the Mason Jar.
Glen Crimson: And this building, you know, only holds a couple hundred people. But when it was packed in here you just felt great.
Christina Estes: Crimson’s band, The Spiffs, played the Mason Jar when it opened in 1979, and he kept playing with his second band, The Urge.
Glen Crimson: In Phoenix if you’re a musician you’re pretty much forced to play cover songs. You had to play cover tunes, you had to play “My Girl” and “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Brick House” just like the record. Us musicians whose wanted to play originals, this was the only place to do it.
Danny Zelisko: The Mason Jar was around when, you know, in the 80s before a lot of bands became big. So when they were doing their first tours, they would come through and they would play this place.
Christina Estes: Promoter Danny Zelisko booked some of the acts and hung out there with the others.
Danny Zelisko: I remember being in the place with Bon Jovi, he didn’t play but we went to see somebody there. I remember being there one night with Tommy Lee, it’s the dump you go to, to go have a drink, check out the scene and see what’s going on.
Christina Estes: Nearly a quarter century later, Crimson still gets excited over the time the producer of The Cars showed up.
Glen Crimson: The Cars was the biggest band right then. The stage was right over there and he was sitting right there. This girl was with him and goes hey, Roy would like you to play an original if you could. So we started playing an original, and he walked out halfway through the song. Awesome!
Christina Estes: Local acts like The Jetsons, Blue Shoes and Schoolboys performed on the same stage as Megadeath, No Doubt and Nirvana. Zelisko described The Mason Jar as a hole in the wall but means it in the nicest way.
Danny Zelisko: It’s kind of like when people think of Wrigley Field. Everybody loves Wrigley Field. Any baseball player who is now used to Camden Yards and Diamondbacks Park, they have these luxurious, giant dressing rooms and lounge chairs and sauna beds. Wrigley Field is a hole but it’s my favorite park in the world.
Christina Estes: It’s that sentiment that drew Crimson back.
Glen Crimson: I have certainly played in this building more than any human alive.
Christina Estes: And he’s ready to do it again. That’s why he hit up bartender Kyle McDonel with the idea of a 80s rock band reunion.
Kyle McDonel: I referred him to the management, and said, well, pitch it to them and see what they say. And he did.
Glen Crimson: Well, I never heard of you, I know the Mason Jar was something in the day, but I don’t know anything about it. So we’re not interested. I left — I almost cried and called my guitar player – and I’m getting teary-eyed. So this building has a lot of history for me.
Christina Estes: Although he never experienced the Mason Jar, McDonald says seeing people visit and reminisce, has made him a fan.
Kyle McDonel: The way people act when they came in here, you could just tell, it was their childhood, they were young and having fun. They weren’t in a recession and worrying about who was President, it was about the music and I got it.
Christina Estes: So he worked with Crimson on a second pitch, and they got the green light.
Glen Crimson: We’re gonna play in this corner, we will set up staging here in this corner.
Christina Estes: As crimson worked with the anvil to turn back the clock, he’s hearing from a lot of older rockers.
Glen Crimson: “I just want to play there one more time.” “My family wants to see me play there one more time.” “I’ve talked to this guy, I remember we used to hate each other back in the day and now we’re just best friends and respect each other.” And it’s —
Danny Zelisko: That’s what the concert experience, that’s what it’s all about, that mass gather of humanity, whether it’s 100 people or 10,000 people. Everybody getting together and enjoying something in the same room at the same time is what it’s all about.
Glen Crimson: Whatever it’s called even 20 years from now, it’ll still be the Jar.
Ted Simons: The Mason Jar reunion will be tomorrow night at 23rd St and Indian School. We’re told that nine bands will perform along with a special guest appearance from Franco, the long-time owner of the club. That is it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.