Rodney Hu: Owner of Yucca Tap Room, Arizona Distilling Company

Rodney Hu, owner of Yucca Tap Room and Arizona Distilling Company, photographed at Yucca Tap Room, by Nicki Escudero

Rodney Hu, owner of Yucca Tap Room and Arizona Distilling Company, photographed at Yucca Tap Room, by Nicki Escudero

Rodney Hu
twitter.com/YuccaTapRoom

Rodney Hu is responsible for some of the Valley’s biggest gems: one of the longest-standing live music venues, Yucca Tap Room, and purveyor of fine local spirits, Arizona Distilling Company. The 39-year-old Tempe resident is proud to be a native Arizonan, which is why he put so much passion into his businesses that show off the state’s talent.

Hu works tirelessly on his ventures and is gearing up for Yucca’s 42nd anniversary, to be celebrated this fall. He’s successfully combined his businesses by serving up Arizona Distilling Company spirits at Yucca, including Copper City Bourbon, Arizona Distilling Co.’s Desert Dry Gin and Arizona Distilling Co. Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey.

Sip on one next time you’re at Yucca, which features live music every night. Keep reading to find out what drives Hu’s work ethic and why he loves being in Arizona after all this time.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m a native. I was born in Phoenix, went to high school at Marcos de Niza and received my degree in finance from ASU. I moved to New York City and worked at a couple different investment banks – I also did sales and trading before moving back to Arizona about 11 years ago. Continue reading

Anthony Desamito: Stand-Up Comedian

Anthony Desamito, Phoenix-based stand-up comedian, photographed at Monkey Pants in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Anthony Desamito, Phoenix-based stand-up comedian, photographed at Monkey Pants in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Anthony Desamito
twitter.com/AnthonyDesamito

Anthony Desamito is instantly lovable. The local comic and 26-year-old Tempe resident is constantly smiling during his sets, making people crack up with his tales of messed-up romances and hysterical views on life. The Mexico-raised comedian has steadily grown his audience since he got his stand-up start four years ago, having performed at the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival 2014 and Phoenix Comicon 2014. He was also a finalist in the first annual Arizona’s Funniest Comedian 2014.

Desamito, who by day is a videographer at ASU in the School of Engineering and teaches video at ASU in the School of Art, is polishing his material for two big upcoming shows: the first, his birthday show, is Thursday, August 28 at Monkey Pants in Tempe. The free show starts at 8:30 p.m. and also marks Desamito’s four-year comedy anniversary. He’s also performing at the Queer Queens of Qomedy show Thursday, September 18 at the Tempe Improv, opening for the Poppy Champlin.

Desamito is a busy guy: he plays a gay comic in a college town on Serious About Comedy, premiering September 9 on Trends TV throughout U.S. colleges. He also writes and performs in The Freakin’ A’s, a YouTube video sketch comedy group, and performs funny videos on his own channel. He regularly performs longform improv with groups Funnel Cake and Brunettes On the Run at the The Torch Theatre, and he’s also a writer for satire news magazine, Grown Up Recess.

Read on for why he got involved with stand-up comedy, and to watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I lived in Mexico until I was 8 years old. I was born in El Centro, California, right on the border of Mexicali, Baja California in Mexico. I was basically an anchor baby. My mom had me here in the U.S., and when I was 8 years old and able to say “American citizen” and walk across the border, we moved to Yuma.

I was culture shocked. I was like, “Wait, white people? I thought these were only on TV.” I didn’t know my name was Anthony — I thought it was Antonio. The doctor named me Anthony so I could fit in better here when I moved here. After Yuma, I moved to Flagstaff to go to Coconino Community College. I got some scholarships to ASU and moved here in 2010, and graduated two years ago with a degree in intermedia digital art and video. Continue reading

Nicole Royse: Painter and Curator at Willo North Gallery

Nicole Royse, painter, curator at Willo North Gallery and assistant curator at Shade Projects at monOrchid, photographed with her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Royse, painter, curator at Willo North Gallery and Shade Projects at monOrchid, photographed with her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Royse
twitter.com/NicoleRoyseArt

Nicole Royse doesn’t just have an eye for what works in an art space as curator at Willo North Gallery and Shade Projects at the monOrchid in Phoenix. As a painter herself of abstract, flower and layer art, the 31-year-old Chandler resident has been a part of more than 60 exhibitions in Arizona and California. She’s currently showing her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler and five15 Arts Gallery in Phoenix.

She’s gearing up for three fun shows for this Friday’s Third Friday Art Walk, where she’ll be making appearances at all of them. Willo North Gallery features a solo exhibition of Daniel Shepherd, a collage artist working with re-purposed materials, whose 6-9 p.m. reception includes a meet-and-greet with the artist, music, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

At the monOrhcid, the final round of the THERMAL PHX art competition and exhibition is open to the public, also from 6-10 p.m. She has another painting, Twilight, at five15 Arts Gallery through August 30, with an artist reception Friday from 6-10 p.m. You may also check out Royse’s works Rapture and Vivacious at Vision Gallery through August 29 in its Flourish: Artworks Inspired by Our Gardens exhibit.

Read writing on the arts by Royse in local publications, including LocalRevibe Magazine, YabYum Music & Arts and East Valley Magazine. She also has her own blog featuring local art events, as well as a gallery rundown every first and third Friday.

Learn her thoughts on the local arts scene, and watch a video of her talking about her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved here in high school with my grandparents, when my grandmother was transferred here with her company. I fell in love and was married at 19, and my husband is born and raised here. We both graduated from ASU, where I got my art history degree with a business and marketing background, and we stayed in the area to be near our families, as well as raise our family.

I was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Orange County, California. Continue reading

Simon Nicolia: Co-Owner of Forever Tango

Simon Nicolia, co-owner of Forever Tango in Phoenix, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Simon Nicolia, co-owner of Forever Tango in Phoenix, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Simon Nicolia
twitter.com/TangoForCouples

Argentina-born Simon Nicolia has been dancing traditional Argentine dances for two dozen years. In Arizona, he’s spreading his love for tango as co-owner, with his wife, Tiffanie Nicolia, of Forever Tango, weekly classes held at 5th Row Dance Studios in downtown Phoenix. The 31-year-old Phoenix resident, who has been teaching private tango classes for couples, and Tiffanie lead students through passionate moves, helping all ages and experience levels during private and group classes Friday and Saturday nights.

Get more information about the classes here, and keep reading to see why Nicolia wanted to teach tango in the Valley, as well as watch him name his favorite reasons for living here.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Argentina. My family and I moved to Utah when I was 16. I moved from Utah to Arizona in February for my job as a program coordinator in the non-profit sector. I’m very excited to be here and get to know the people and enjoy the good weather. Continue reading