In the name of DIY music, Crunch Time elevates the scene

Crunch Time is a local music collective trying to better the DIY music community

Starting a local music collective was always a goal for Kenneth Kite, but the struggle of finding committed members and maintaining a strong social media presence kept it a fantasy. 

It wasn't until after he and some friends threw a successful New Year’s Eve party — branded as “Crunch Fest” — complete with comedy sets between live music acts, did they realize the idea had been in talks for long enough. With a new year in sight, Crunch Time was born. 

Through the creation of YouTube videos, social media content and hosting house shows, the group shines a spotlight on underground artists who might otherwise go unnoticed.

Crunch Time consists of Kevrie Howard, Ben Schifano, and ASU alumni Tony Potts, Veda Dhanankula and Kite. They all share a love for the DIY music scene and want to better the community within it.

“There's not much going on in Tempe anymore," Potts said. "A lot of those places closed down. Some of the bands in the scene are being written up in the (Phoenix) New Times and stuff like that, so that's happening. There are a lot more people booking and less venues right now.”

Arizona has survived several shifts in the local music community. Once popular venues have closed doors or relocated. With local-friendly venues like The Lunchbox, Trunk Space, Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar, much of the scene has moved to downtown Phoenix.

“I always think that if someone were new to town and new to the community, they could watch our videos and be like, ‘Oh, this is someone to talk to about going to shows and playing there,’” Kite said. 

Somewhat combating this change of tides are popular Tempe house venues. Big Surf, The Sunroom and Tobacco Row are all considered “venues” in Tempe despite the fact that they are run out of the occupants' houses. Even before Crunch Time, Kite hosted shows at Tobacco Row for four years and currently holds at least one show a week in his Tempe home. 

Read more: Tempe's Tobacco Row invites the local music scene into its dining room

“People need an outlet. They are trying to do things creatively and get themselves out there and we can provide a platform for them," Howard said. "Then, they have an ability to do so and that gives them an additional boost." 

Now, complete with a stage that they discovered in an alley near Kite’s house and subsequently carried all the way back, Tobacco Row feels even more like a legitimate venue. 

Tobacco Row’s house shows and Crunch Time events occasionally come in contact but generally remain separate. Since Crunch Time releases such an array of content, locations constantly change. 

After Crunch Fest, the group took on their first official Crunch Time event: Brunch Fest. 

Held in March, a packed Tobacco Row was decked out in brunch themed gear. Attendees listened to acoustic performances by local musicians, had access to a pancake and waffle bar, drank mimosas and practiced yoga outside.  

More recently, Crunch Time hosted an official Planned Parenthood fundraiser show at Tobacco Row in July where they raised $438

With their goal to connect the arts and music communities in mind, they also held a comedy and poetry night on Sept. 14 and just this week announced their Haunted House Show on Nov. 1

Brunch Fest was the first event to be videoed, but the group further developed their social media presence soon after, producing more content for their YouTube, Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

First up was their take on First We Feast's popular show Hot Ones, called “Dry Heat,” where local artists like Andy Warpigs have answered questions while eating hot wings. Similarly, their bit called “What Happened Last Night?” shares the craziest stories DIY artists have witnessed in the scene.

Adding some music to the mix, their special “On The Roof,” consists of musicians playing acoustic covers on Howard and Potts’ roof. This series is currently up in the air, however, after they were busted filming six days in a row. 

“We can't film on our roof anymore. On our last shoot of the season that we had planned before it got too hot, our neighbors called our landlord about it,” Potts said. 

Crunch Time plans on filming from roof to roof now. 

Although Crunch Time officially started around March, the local demand to be involved was enough to warrant a submission sheet for artists interested in playing Tobacco Row or being featured in a video. 

“We were getting hit up a lot on Instagram,” Howard said. “We get that so frequently that we thought it would be easier if someone were to fill out a submission form. Then, we can just review it and it would help us a lot to sort through all the different messages people send us.”

In regards to their future, Howard said “the sky's the limit.” 

So far, they plan on holding more comedy-poetry nights, releasing the footage from their last comedy night on their YouTube channel, hosting more fundraisers and, for Potts and Kite, going on a month-long sailing retreat on Kite’s parents’ boat. 

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated which members were ASU alumni.


Reach the reporter at swindom@asu.edu and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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