It's 9 p.m. on a typical Saturday night, but it feels like New Year's at the Big Bang. Two dueling pianists are pounding out tunes. The crowd ― a mix of 20- to 40- somethings ― is loving it. Liz, Amanda, and I squeeze in at the last empty table. "I can feel my purse vibrating," shouts Liz, whose purse collection is a thing to be admired.
Tempe's pulsing Mill Avenue is playground to more than 58,000 Arizona State University students during the school year. If you're not one of them, Mill Avenue is probably not the first place you'd think of to while away a warm summer night. But the local music scene has matured in the last few years, the jangly pop of the 1990s giving way to jazz, rock, folk, and bluegrass. It draws a correspondingly more grown-up audience.