On the Changes at Modified Arts

September 28, 2009

Kimber Lanning Parting Ways With Modified Arts” – Up On The Sun.

I wish I could say I was more surprised when Kimber called me this morning to tell me about the changes she had planed for Modified. It has been a long time coming. While I am definitely saddened by the news I am not shocked. I don’t think that 11 years ago anyone would have thought that her small volunteer run arts space would last as long as it has or be the home of so many memories for so many people or would have given a home to so many great bands and talented artists over the years.

I remember in ’99 when I was just 16 I saw a band called The Anniversary open up for the Get Up Kids at The Nile, I had no idea who they were before that. A few weeks later they played again at the recently opened Modified, when it was half the size and before it was “Modified Arts.” I think this may have been the first sold out show there and it was certainly the first time I had come downtown for a show. I remember someone in the band had their mom on tour with them selling their merch. The idea that a band that GOOD could play a show so intimate and personal was a huge revelation to me, one that has had a huge impact on my life. Just a few months later I was setting up my own shows at Modified with line ups I wanted to see.

In the almost 10 years since then I have seen some of the best shows I have ever seen on that stage, many bands few will remember One Line Drawing, The Fire Bird Band, Tristeza, but also band that everyone would know now but would not have know then, Jimmy Eat World, The Decemberists, Of Montreal, Rilo Kiley, Architecture In Helsinki, to name only a few. If someone were to book a festival today with just the bands that had played at Modified in the past it could rival Lalapalooza or Cochella. If you ever wanted to know who would be playing those festivals in a year you would have a good guess just looking at Modifieds calendar today. No club in Phoenix over that time has consistently booked the same high caliber of talent as Modified has been able too.

In the 9 years I have been promoting shows in Phoenix many of the events I am most proud of having produced were at Modified; Hella, Two Gallants and The Cold War Kids, Rocky Votolato, The Jealous Sound, Motion City Soundtrack, Crystal Antlers (on Election Night 2008), Polar Bear Club and more Limbeck shows than I can count. It’s odd to think that when I produce events like these in the future they wont be at Modified.

With the success and growth of downtown one fear many of us have had is that as it grows it might lose some of its character, that new businesses coming in might lack the personality that has caused this growth in the first place. With the size and scope of all the other projects Kimber works on daily it was only a mater of time until she would have to leave the labor intensive Modified. With Kim and Adam taking over and leading Modified in a new direction I am relieved to know that Kimber has found a way to step down from Modified while ensuring that it will be in great hands and the spirit of it will go on unchanged, although I never doubted Kimber would find a way to leave on terms like these.

I know there will be many misconceptions and rumors about these changes, some I have already heard and read. People will falsely speculate that this has something to do with economics. Anyone who thinks that finances had anything to do with this never understood what Modified was about from the beginning. Modified is just as profitable today as it ever was, that is to say that it is just as unprofitable as it was when it was opened 11 years ago. Other people will think it is some sign of Kimber being less involved in the music and art scenes in Phoenix, that some how she loosing interest in it, that she is “leaving the biz.” This could not be further from the truth. If anything it is the opposite. I wish I understood half of the projects she is working on at any given time to improve our community. I think it is great she will have more time for all the big important projects she works on that I don’t fully grasp with out having to worry about the details of Modified. I am excited to see what else is up her sleeves.

It is amazing how much this little art space in what was once a bad part of town has come to mean to so many people, myself included, and to the city as a whole. And even more amazing still is what a small piece Modified is on the large list of what Kimber has does for the art community, the music scene and the businesses environment of Phoenix. It is truly remarkable and impressive.

I have been so proud of the very small part I have played in this great space. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next chapter that Kim and Adam are going to create for this space will look like. I am so glad it’s spirit will live on even as it changes. I hope I can find even some small way to help them and the future of Modified Arts.