A First Taste of First Friday
September 12, 2013 by David Midkiff
The month of August gave me my first taste of First Friday. Of the little I knew about the ins and outs of living Downtown prior to relocating, I had already heard and read plenty about First Friday before I had even crossed the state line. First Friday was also on the tip of every long-time Phoenician’s tongue when I had the chance to ask for recommendations.
Finally, on August 2nd, I had the chance to explore First Friday for myself. Though I do not have the memory or word count to detail everything I soaked in during my first experience, here are three venues especially worth wading through the crowd to see:
1. The Nash
With free admission on First Fridays, the Nash offered a relaxing environment even though it was a packed with locals. The venue is known for showcasing jazz music most nights, week in and week out. Of the many live acts playing in and around Roosevelt Row, the quintet featured in August performed an energetic set fueled by a strong percussion line and the frenetic dueling of trumpet and saxophone. There is plenty of seating in the venue, but it was standing room only that night.
2. Eye Lounge
Farther east down Roosevelt Street, Eye Lounge is divided into two rooms to showcase separate exhibits. On this particular Friday, the two rooms displayed two very different collections, including burned sketches of bird feathers and topographical maps by Alexandra Bowers. I could feel a distinct buzz about the place as soon as entered. The venue is small and well-lit but a little congested when nearing capacity. That night, groups intently surveyed each collection while sharing observations and opinions excitedly. In a venue like Eye Lounge, the artists and their displayed work were the center of attention.
3. Monorchid Gallery
Compared to Eye Lounge, Monorchid Gallery is a much larger space. The gallery, located on Roosevelt between Second and Third streets, dominates the back half of a larger building that houses private office spaces, chic minimalist conference rooms and Songbird Coffee and Tea House. Though large in space, the gallery aims to highlight one larger collection at a time. Both of the gallery curators were friendly and available during my stroll through the gallery. Though the gallery was filled with people, the open layout facilitates both art enthusiasts and groups looking for a place to chat.
My first taste of First Friday revealed an entirely different perspective on Downtown Phoenix. While Downtown is often a relatively quiet place for a city of this size, First Friday has all the energy and variety one should expect from a city’s urban core. There is a little of something for everyone, provided you’re ready to welcome it all. The variety of art exhibitions, live music acts, and street vendors make First Friday certainly worth a second, third, or fourth visit in the coming autumn.