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Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino

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Today is the grand opening of the newest restaurant at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

Chop Block & Brew has dining and a lounge. The design was influenced by an art and design committee appointed by Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel.

submitted photo

“The Community’s history and culture is depicted in the architecture, artwork and colors throughout the restaurant,” said Robert Livingston, general manager and regional president of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, with gourmet burgers, steaks, prime rib and seafood. The full bar has more than 30 draft and bottled craft beers, cocktails and premium whiskey and scotch.

Livingston said the restaurant “offers the perfect blend of an upscale dining experience with the first-class customer service our valued guests have come to expect here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin.”

One of its signatures is a wood-burning mesquite grill.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin is part of Caesar’s Entertainment. The casino continues its multimillion-dollar expansion. That expansion has already included the opening of a parking garage, Oak & Fork restaurant and a pedestrian bridge to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. It will soon include a spa and conference center and 200 more hotel rooms.

“We take pride in offering our guests a comfortable and inviting entertainment experience,” Livingston said.

At 3,454 square feet, Chop Block & Brew has seating for 159. It features Native American-inspired artwork and design elements that highlight the culture and traditions of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Chop Block & Brew service schedule:

Restaurant Hours:
Lunch
Thursday through Sunday: Noon-3 p.m.

Dinner
Sunday through Thursday: 4-9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 4-10 p.m.

Lounge Hours:
Sunday through Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – midnight

5K Poker Run

Maricopa’s activities this week include the 2nd Saturday Maricopa Market, a Kindergarten Roundup and important meetings. Below, Jason Crow of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino invites the community to watch the annual 5K Poker Run on Saturday and see the continuing progress of the casino/hotel expansion project. For details on these events or to add your own, see InMaricopa.com/calendar.

MONDAY

Seniors play Pinochle at 8:30 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Senior Bowling is at 10 a.m. at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, 16000 N. Maricopa Road.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) meet at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Behavioral Health Services, 21300 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 103.

TUESDAY

Seniors play Pinochle at 8:30 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Seniors play Canasta at 1 p.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Celebrate Recovery Coffee & Karaoke is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

Lions Club Meeting is at 5 p.m. at Copper Sky Police Substation, 17985 N. Greythorne Drive.

Kindergarten Roundup is at 5:30 p.m. elementary schools of Maricopa Unified School District.

Strength & Hope Al-Anon Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave.

WEDNESDAY

Creative Sisterhood meets at 9 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Babytime is at 9:30 a.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Grief Journey is at 2 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Harrah’s Club 777 Toastmasters meet at 3 p.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road.

S.M.A.R.T. Kids meet at 3:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Maricopa Police Explorer Post Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

AWANA is at 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Maricopa, 18705 N. John Wayne Parkway.

MUSD Governing Board Meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Maricopa Unified School District, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

THURSDAY

Seniors play Pinochle at 8:30 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Seniors play Farkel at 9 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Seniors play Canasta at 1 p.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Family Story Time is at 4 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.

Acoustic Open Mic is at 7 p.m. at Raceway Bar & Grill, 49237 W. Papago Road.

FRIDAY

Seniors play Pinochle at 8:30 a.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd.

Strength & Hope Al-Anon Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave.

SATURDAY

2nd Saturday Maricopa Market is at 8 a.m. at Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19265 N. Porter Road.

5K Poker Run is at 8:30 a.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road.

Sequoia Pathway Prom Night is at 6 p.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado, 42660 W Rancho El Dorado.

SUNDAY

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

Terrance & Michael put on a performance to win Battle of the Bras. Photo by Mason Callejas

Male employees at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino put on a show in the annual Battle of the Bras for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Departments again competed to create the most popular, outlandish and hilarious brassieres, using staff from each department as models. Even Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel got into the act as employees created elaborate choreography. For the second year, Terrance & Michael walked away with top prize.

Christine Todd

Christine Todd of Maricopa has been promoted to business process improvement (BPI) site leader at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. The BPI program works to eliminate waste and variability within everyday processes.

Todd brings more than a decade of casino operations experience. Prior to her promotion, she worked and demonstrated strong leadership as the Harrah’s Development System (HDS) associate, a program designed to provide employment opportunities for members of the Ak-Chin Indian Community into key areas of the casino entertainment industry.

“Christine has been an invaluable asset to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, demonstrating her devotion to better our workplace that extends well past her job description,” said Robert Livingston, regional president and general manager. “In addition to her successes with the HDS program, Christine led the property to back-to-back first place finishes within Caesars’ companywide Breast Cancer Awareness Challenge and a record-breaking United Way campaign in 2016.”

Todd recently received a Caesars Award of Excellence.


This item appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has been awarded second place in the Caesars Entertainment CodeGreen Challenge. This marks the third consecutive CodeGreen award for the casino.

CodeGreen was initiated by Caesars Entertainment in 2008 and is an organization-wide strategy to drive environmental awareness and engagement, as well as performance across the business. Each Caesars’ location creates a plan targeting the goals they wish to achieve throughout the year, which culminates during the month of April.

“We are so happy to have yet again placed in the Caesars Entertainment CodeGreen Challenge,” said April Stovall, surveillance and facilities manager and Harrah’s property CodeGreen leader. “The competition is always neck-and-neck, but I firmly believe that our efforts stood out. We had more than two-thirds of our 750 team members participate during the challenge in an effort to make Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and the surrounding community the greenest of all.”

One of Harrah’s Ak-Chin’s big projects this year was to ensure that the planned demolition of its bingo hall didn’t create waste. In order to reach this goal, team members coordinated the donation of tables and chairs, recycling more than 51,000 pounds of items.

In addition to this project, Harrah’s put on a number of volunteer-driven programs to increase awareness of the importance of going green. On property CodeGreen initiatives included:

·         Hosting an environmentally conscious “Earth Hour” event where the casino  turned off non-essential exterior lights and invited the community out to learn more about light pollution

·         Coordinating an Adopt-a-Highway cleanup with  more than 40 volunteers participating

·         Collecting 3,503 pieces of clothing during its clothing drive, all of which they donated to local nonprofit, Against Abuse, Inc.

·         Hosting a huge Earth Day celebration in partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community. This event included sharing a CodeGreen breakfast and educating people on all things green. The casino took first place in the booth display contest by drawing attendees in with its bicycle-powered slot machine.

 

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Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Employees at its Adopt-A-Highway Cleanup event. Submitted photo
For the fifth year in a row, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino employees  participated in a local CodeGreen Adopt-A-Highway Cleanup event, which took place on Friday, April 21. The event had more than 40 volunteers that came out to clean up their community.
This CodeGreen event is one of the many ways Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and its employees give back to the community during its CodeGreen Challenge month, an initiative established by Caesars Entertainment in 2008. CodeGreen is an organization-wide strategy to drive environmental awareness and engagement, as well as performance across the business.
“I am so proud of the turnout that we had at our Adopt-A-Highway Cleanup event,” said April Stovall, surveillance and facilities manager, Harrah’s property CodeGreen leader. “I’m especially pleased with the number of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino employees we had there. The entire casino as a whole has been generating incredible participation numbers during this year’s CodeGreen Challenge. We have an amazing staff here who support Harrah’s brand and its initiatives by showing up at events like this one.”
In addition to the Adopt-A-Highway event, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has recently participate in Earth Hour, held both a plastic bag and clothing drive, hosted a paper shredding event and celebrated Earth Day at the casino on April 21.

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Peter Noone with Herman's Hermits. Photo by Michelle Chance

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By Michelle Chance

There was no “hush” heard over the crowd during Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone’s performance inside the lounge at Ak-Chin Casino Friday night.

In fact, fans who packed the venue sang and swayed along with the group, who rose to fame during the British Invasion era of the 1960s.

The band opened with the 1964 hit “I’m Into Something Good” and followed through with other popular songs from their set list.

Noone, who is nearing 70, took the stage with exuberance, energy and an unyielding sense of humor.  The show played like an improvised Broadway performance, with the front man calling out his hits on the fly.

It’s no surprise then that he constructs his show in much the same way as he built his career.

“I think Herman’s Hermits were the first punk band – and people laugh when I say that – only because we did not have a plan. We never made a plan,” Noone said.

A pop music rebel icon in his mind, Noone’s free spirit reflects in his spontaneous set list no matter if he’s playing in Maricopa or in the Far East.

Noone said the group regularly covers “Love Potion No. 9” during every show because of an interesting situation that arose on tour in China.

Herman’s Hermits was advertised to play the hit, which was not originally recorded by the group.

“We said ‘We don’t know Love Potion No.9. That’s not us.’ And they said ‘Yes, it is you.’”

So the band was forced to learn the song and perform it to the crowd that night.

“I will say jokingly that that was the only song that they liked that we did and it wasn’t even us,” he said.

It’s been in the rotation ever since.

But to the local crowd Friday night, Noone and his Hermits played plenty of his well-known hits, too, including “A Kind of Hush” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”

“I mean when I say ‘There’s a Kind of Hush All Over the World’ I’m more touched by the audience’s performance. You know I go ‘There’s a Kind of Hush’ and they’ll go ‘All Over the World’ and they’re straight into the song. They’re in it,” he said.

In the ‘60s, Herman’s Hermits invaded America’s music billboards with many top hits.

Before their success in the U.S. though, Noone’s band played in small venues in England where it all began.

Inside Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, Noone says he played under much different conditions than he performs in today.

“To other old-fart rockers like me, I go ‘You know, the end here is a lot better than the beginning,’” he said.

The Cavern Club functioned in a small space underground. Loud music, people dancing, smoking and sweating contributed to condensation that formed on the ceiling which hung just slightly above Noone’s head.

“You can see there’s a lot of squinting going on – because you would be like in your third song and the nicotine condensation would land on your hair and you knew as you perspired that nicotine drop of nasty stuff and sweat would eventually find its way to your eye and then you would be blinded for the rest of the show and have this magical, smiling look on your face,” Noone recalled.

But Noone’s not-so-glamorous origin story is one he and other rock ‘n’ rollers still cherish.

“We even enjoyed that,” he said, adding, “When you talk to people who played the Cavern they go ‘Oh yeah, it was great, wasn’t it?’ ‘Well what about the nicotine droplets?’ ‘Yeah, but you know the Cavern was great.’”

Those were different times. And Noone said it’s an era in his life that was possible because of a certain kind of attitude that’s different from today.

“It was just a strange period to be in, and the word that best describes the ‘60s – especially the early ‘60s – was a massive amount of enthusiasm,” Noone said.

Enthusiasm lived on inside the lounge, and Noone said he plans to keep eliciting that same response from crowds for at least the next 10 years.

Peter Noone in concert. Photo by Randy Miramontez

By Michelle Chance

Maricopans are “Into Something Good” Friday when Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone perform a free concert in the Lounge inside Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

The group, famous for hits like No Milk Today and Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter will take the stage two times on Friday with shows at 8 and 10 p.m.

Noone and his Hermits will perform the band’s hits, as well as a variety of classics ranging from The Rolling Stones to Perry Como.

This will be the group’s third time playing in Maricopa. Noone said he and a bandmate remember the venue for its lively wildlife.

“I remember me and the drummer being fascinated by all these little animals that live there right next to the casino,” he recalled.

Maricopa is one stop among many for the group as their tour hits locations around the United States for the majority of the year.

Noone said it won’t stop any time soon.

“I think we’ve got 10 good years (left),” he said.

However, Noone said he often jokes about when that retirement timeline actually begins.

“It’s a 10- year plan from today,” he added, laughing.

The group experienced most of its commercial success in the mid-1960s at the height of the British Invasion music movement in America.

Footage of screaming, crying teens often accompany concert film of the era’s bands like The Beatles and The Animals.

And although Noone said the same hysteria once showed by his then-teenaged fans has calmed through the years, enthusiasm is still always present at shows.

“There is nothing better for an enthusiastic band than to have a load of enthusiastic people all around,” he said.

Doors for the show open at 7 and 9 p.m.

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Photo by Mason Callejas

For the month leading up to Earth Day, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has kicked off its annual CodeGreen Challenge and is hosting environmentally-conscience events. Saturday, the casino observed “Earth Hour” by turning off non-essential exterior lights.

April 1-3, Harrah’s plans a plastic bag drive, encouraging guests and employees to bring in plastic bags that will be recycled in conjunction with the local Bashas’ store.

April 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be a shredding event. Guests and employees can bring in any document to be shredded and recycled.

April 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Harrah’s and the Ak-Chin Indian Community will participate in an adopt-a-highway event. The casino will have an “energy” booth at ACIC Earth Day event.

April 22 is Earth Day, Harrah’s Ak-Chin will give away a Nissan Leaf to Total Rewards member.

 

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Battle of the Bras at Harrah's Ak-Chin was another crazy night of self-expression and raising awareness of breast cancer. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Mason Callejas

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino hosted its annual Battle of the Bras on Oct. 22 in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Male employees from various departments within the casino/resort as well as the Ultra-Star Multi-tainment Center participated in a fashion show in front of a lively crowd of supporters around the resort’s pool.

Participants had their own motivation for joining the contest, but overwhelmingly the men cited a direct connection with the aliment. Many contestants had experience with cancer in their families or among their friends. Otis Washington is one such contestant and though he’s seen it affect his family, that night he was in part up on the catwalk for one of his coworkers.

“I’ve lost a couple people to breast cancer and other forms of cancer as well, and this here is for our friend Terry,” Washington said as he patted his pink and white brazier. “She’s a co-worker that’s going through it right now.”

According to the American Cancer Society breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women, of which it will kill about 40,000 this year alone.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is a supporter of many organizations that fund research or provide resources to people in need. Locally they contribute to the Against Abuse shelter for victims of domestic violence, Girls on the Run and the United Way.

The overall winners were “Chip & Dale dancers” from the beverage department.

Sharon Crane

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino promoted Sharon Crane to Casino host and Total Rewards manager. In her new position, Crane will oversee operations and staff for Total Rewards and the Casino Hosts.

Crane has been with Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino more than nine years and in that time has received multiple promotions and been recognized for her outstanding service including receiving the 2014 Chairman’s Award Property Winner for diversity. She has twice received supervisor of the quarter. Prior to joining Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, Crane worked at JP Morgan Chase Card Services for 19 years.

“Sharon’s leadership here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has been recognized with the Chairman’s Award and we are proud to see her expand her role,” said General Manager Robert Livingston. “Her leadership will allow our guests to continue having the exceptional experiences that they have come to expect from Harrah’s Ak-Chin.”

Crane lives in Maricopa.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino employees with Adrianna Erickson, program coordinator at Girls on the Run –Maricopa County & Pinal County, Keith McGlaughlin, president of United Way of Pinal County and Mannie Bowler, executive director of United Way of Pinal County. Submitted photo

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino donated $1,000 to the United Way of Pinal County, $1,000 to Girls on the Run – Maricopa County and Pinal County and $1,000 to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation from a portion of the proceeds raised from the 5K Poker Run, held in April.

“We are so grateful to Harrah’s Ak Chin Casino for their generous support,” said Meagan Kukowski, executive director for Girls on the Run – Maricopa County and Pinal County. “This donation will enable us to educate and empower more girls in need, teaching them to be the authors of their own stories and inspiring them to activate their limitless potential.”

The 5K Poker Run was organized by Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and included a 5K run, poolside poker promotion and a pool party with live entertainment, free food and drinks.

“The leadership in these nonprofit organizations are doing wonderful work in the community and all of the Harrah’s employees couldn’t be happier to be involved,” said Michael Kintner, director of marketing and operations for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. “Being able to donate to these nonprofit organizations was the ideal way for us to get involved with the local community and support worthy causes.”

Juno-award winning country singer Terri Clark performs at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

Multi-platinum-winning country artist Terri Clark commanded the stage Saturday night in front of a lively crowd inside Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino lounge.

During an interview before the concert, Clark said she will be announcing a Canadian tour in April, and although she said she could not give many details surrounding it, she did say the tour would be “extensive.”

“I’m going to be going places I’ve never been before,” Clark said, jokingly adding, “Places I’m not sure anybody has been before.”

Although Clark has had a successful career spanning nearly 20 years, she said she prefers playing smaller shows.

“I like to play places where not everybody gets a big show or a national act because they are the most responsive crowds and they appreciate you being there,” Clark said.

Along with a Canadian and European tour, Clark said working with a producer sometime this year to record an EP album could be in her future as well. The only obstacle in the process, according to Clark, is finding or writing the songs that stay true to who she is.

“If I were recording stuff that I didn’t believe in, I don’t think the audience would believe it either,” Clark said.

For more information and to hear more music by country music star Terri Clark, visit: www.terriclark.com.

Check out the many fun, interesting and educational things to do in Maricopa this week. For details on these and other events, or to add your own, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

SUNDAY

Mark Gray will perform a Gospel Concert at 11 a.m. at Faith Baptist Church along with his wife Mary.

Guy Pennacchio will perform a Sinatra tribute for Valentine’s Day in The Lounge at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino from noon to 4 p.m.

Apperson Duo will perform for diners in The Range and The Buffet at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino on Valentine’s Day.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is in the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce office at 7 p.m.

MONDAY

President’s Day (federal and state offices, financial institutions and schools closed)

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is in Maricopa Community Church at 7 p.m.

TUESDAY

Wired: A Social Media Networking Event for business owners is from 8 to 9 a.m. at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship. RSVP requested

Secrets of the mLOAN will be hosted by intern Bryce Crosbie at noon at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship.

Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library starts at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library. Meet every Tuesday for refreshments and conversation and get acquainted with the library. All ages welcome.

City Council Work Session is at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Council will discuss Rotary Park and the Comet transit system.

City Council Regular Session is at 7 p.m. at City Hall and includes a public hearing on a federal grant for the transit system.

THURSDAY

Copa Shorts Film Festival info session is a college wide introduction to the planned film fest of short subjects in Maricopa. Shelley Gillespie will be on Central Arizona College campus networks, including in B113 locally.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 .m. at Ak-Chin Social Services.

SATURDAY

Copa Color Run & Food Truck Fun Fest is from 2 to 5 p.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park. This is a 5K race/1.5 mile walk where athletes from all ages participate, making their way through several color stations where they will be covered from head to toe in a rainbow of colored powder.

Between the Covers Quilt & Nostalgia Show is from 4 to 8 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library with a quilt display, quilting demonstrations and the Jan Sandwich show.

Salt N Pepa perform in Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s free concert series in the amphitheater at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center starting at 8 p.m.

Opening for Blue Oyster Cult in free concert

Roger Earl is Foghat's long-time drummer. Photo by Kenny Janosik

Foghat will open for Blue Oyster Cult at the UltraStar Amphitheater as part of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s free concert series. Gates open at 6 p.m., Foghat will be on stage at 6:30 p.m., and Blue Oyster Cult will follow at 8 p.m. Lawn seating available on a first come first serve basis.

When Foghat formed in London in 1971, Richard Nixon was president and the No. 1 song in the country was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. Over the next nine years, Foghat would produce hits such as “Stone Blue” and “Slow Ride” that would immortalize them for a generation.

“Life is good,” Foghat drummer Roger Earl said. “I’m one of the lucky few who get to make a living doing something I truly love.”

Starting with their debut album “Foghat” in 1972, the band would release 18 albums over the next 40 years. Their most recent album, “Last Train Home,” was released in 2010, but a new album is expected to hit stores this June.

The music industry and the band have gone through many changes, but through it all Foghat has simply kept playing.

“The industry has changed enormously,” Earl said. “Everything from buying CDs to the way you record has changed. But change is good. If nothing ever changed, it would be boring.”

Over the years, Foghat has seen 17 people participate in the band. Original member Dave Peverett (Lonesome Dave) and Rod Price have passed away. Bass player Craig MacGregor is currently on hiatus while he battles lung cancer. Throughout all the ups and downs, people filled the void to keep Foghat going.

Foghat-2015-Press-Photo-(2)“As long as you keep the drummer, I think you’re all right,” Earl quipped. “We’ve always had friends available to step in. It was hard when we lost Dave. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on. But Charlie (Huhn) really impressed us when we went to see Humble Pie play, and he’s been our singer since.”

The rock star lifestyle has slowed for the band members in recent years. The days of touring all year and never sleeping are over, but the show still goes on.

According to Earl, Foghat now plays 50 to 65 shows a year, and they stop at Harrah’s casinos around the country.

“We’ve played a number of Harrah’s casinos throughout the years,” Earl said. “We play the casinos and they treat you well. We don’t have to try to sleep on planes between shows anymore. It’s nice.”

Earl isn’t sure how many more years he will play or how long the Foghat legacy will live on. For now, he is happy having the ability to do what he loves.

“My time simply hasn’t come yet,” Earl joked. “Life is good.”

https://www.youtube.com/user/FOGHATMUSIC/featured

Jesse Valenzuela was one of the earliest members of Gin Blossoms. Photo by Jeff Harris

If Jesse Valenzuela refers to Gin Blossoms in both present tense and past tense, it is understandable. The band, forged in Tempe in the late 1980s, is on its second incarnation.

Gin Blossoms will perform in the amphitheater at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Dec. 19 at 1:30 p.m. as part of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s concert series.

“It’s close to home. It’ll be fun,” Valenzuela said. “We’ll play all the hits.”

Guitarist, singer and songwriter, Valenzuela is one of the group’s founders. The band still tends to be labeled alternative rock, though Valenzuela just calls it pop-rock.

“I don’t care what they call us really, but I never felt like we were in line with alternative rockers,” he said. “I thought we sounded more like the Eagles than the Screaming Trees.”

He attributes the misplaced genre to their record label trying to hitch the band’s wagon to the shooting star of the alt rock industry of the early ‘90s.

The band broke through in 1992 with the album New Miserable Experience. It sold 4 million copies. In 1996, their follow-up album, Congratulations I’m Sorry, also went platinum and was their highest charting album at No. 10.

Jesse Valenzuela. Submitted photo
Jesse Valenzuela. Submitted photo

Gin Blossoms broke up in 1997. Band members went on to other projects. Valenzuela released a solo album, Tunes Young People Will Enjoy. As the industry has changed, he found success in getting music into movies and television.

Though he moved to Los Angeles 25 years ago because he couldn’t find an avenue in Phoenix to play music full time, he said, “It’s a different world and you don’t necessarily have to live in LA to pursue that sort of career.”

Gin Blossoms regrouped in 2002. Their album Major Lodge Victory came 10 years after their previous release. In 2010, the band released No Chocolate Cake.

Nearly six years later, the band will begin working on music for a new album in 2016, allowing Valenzuela to shift into future tense. “I don’t know what it will be like,” he said. “It’s not as if we have to sell records anymore. We can just have some fun and explore.”

Dealing with so many personalities, experiences and backgrounds can make that process challenging.

“It’s just a matter of being around together for almost 30 years,” he said. “There’s been a lot of change, you know, and tragedies big and small. And the music kind of stays in the same realm. We’re going to make a new record here and hopefully there will be a few left turns.”

Valenzuela said his musical influences were too many to mention but pointed out Johnson was a young jazz enthusiast and has a serious LP collection of jazz. Lead singer Robin Wilson, meanwhile, does not want any drastic changes.

“If you try to throw a jazz chord into a pop song, it can rub some people the wrong way,” Valenzuela said. “It can be conflicting if you’re trying to push 115 beats on eighth notes into a pop song. But in the conflict, there can be magic.”

Mostly, Gin Blossoms is trying to ride the line between sticking with what has always worked and progressing as a band.

“The guys are very cautious,” Valenzuela said. “Robin likes to remain true to what he perceives as the Gin Blossom sound. He doesn’t want to play anything necessarily too left field. But I don’t know. I think it might be fun to do that.”

The industry no longer survives on album sales. For Gin Blossoms it’s a matter of adapting.

“I’ve spent plenty of my career pursuing the song that would go viral,” Valenzuela said. “Back in the day it was going on the radio, now it’s going viral. Whatever you’re going to do it’s not really an economic pursuit.”

If You Go …
Who: Gin Blossoms
Where: UltraStar Multi-tainment Center Amphitheatre
When: Dec. 19, 1:30 p.m. (gates open at 12:30 p.m.)
How much: Free
Info: Caesars.com/Harrahs-Ak-Chin/Shows

 Gin Blossoms’ (from left) Scott Johnson, Bill Leen, Robin Wilson and Jesse Valenzuela will play a free show at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Dec. 19 as part of the Harrah’s Ak-Chin concert series. Saki Photography

Gin Blossoms’ (from left) Scott Johnson, Bill Leen, Robin Wilson and Jesse Valenzuela will play a free show at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Dec. 19 as part of the Harrah’s Ak-Chin concert series. Saki Photography

This story appeared in the December issue of InMaricopa News.