Everybody who loves music has a story about when their obsession took hold, and Dana Armstrong, known in Valley clubs as DJ Dana, has an unusual one.
“I became obsessed with thrift store (record) shopping, and I guess my musical taste began to evolve,” says Armstrong, 30, who hosts Valley Fever, spinning a mixture of classic country, “outlaw” country and country rock as well as welcoming live local country artists every Sunday night at Tempe’s Yucca Tap Room.
“Thrift store records enabled me to collect and investigate all kinds of bands and artists for next to nothing. My records have been a huge resource for me, from making fliers to duplicating haircuts,” she says. “You can't get that from a free mp3 download.”
Armstrong was into alternative rock music as a youngster, but returned to outlaw country, a favorite music of her father’s (who used to watch Waylon Jennings play at former Valley honky-tonk JD's in the early ’60s).
“I think that the music you're exposed to as a young kid has such a permanent impact on you, whether you want it to or not,” says Armstrong, who lists Jennings as her favorite country artist. “Most people probably feel sentimental toward popular music from their childhoods, and my generation grew up in a relatively carefree and happy time. I think that's why it's fun to escape back to it — who doesn't enjoy highways, gypsies, whiskey, having sunshine on their shoulders and taking it easy?”
The appreciative Sunday night regulars who slip onto bar stools at the Yucca Tap Room for Valley Fever nurse longneck beers while Armstrong plays everything from the Marshall Tucker Band to Hank Williams (Sr. and Jr.) to George Jones, bringing back the golden age of country.
“The idea behind Valley Fever is to re-create what Arizona bars used to be like 25 or more years ago,” says Armstrong, who can also be seen spinning tracks between sets of Valley alt-country favorites Bindle Stiffs and Flathead.
“Phoenix has changed so much and so fast, and those of us who have been here awhile know how different it has become. Most of what made it unique has been paved over. Yucca Tap Room provides a perfect setting for getting back the old desert Arizona spirit.”
>> DJ Dana performs 10 p.m. Sundays at Yucca Tap Room, 29 W. Southern Ave., Tempe. Free. (480) 967-4777.