On Friday nights, the Sky Lounge in downtown Phoenix turns into a virtual Buena Vista Social Club, where young and hip Latinos throughout the Valley lounge downstairs and gyrate upstairs.
Afro-Cuban salsa jammers Cascabel (that's "rattle" to you) liven the atmosphere for the drinkers -- and themselves -- with their unique blend (for Phoenix, anyway) of Latin jazz, samba and Gypsy swing. Their stage sits literally outside of the club, acting as a sort of musical barker to Washington Street cruisers.
Upstairs, the place is pure salsa nirvana. The balcony is great for breathers and the back bar is jammed with cool alter-Latinos. The room routinely rocks, but not until 1 a.m., when DJs spin nonstop Latin techno-pop and rock en español for a packed and sweaty dance floor. If there's no room, and that's usually a given, people just make their own dance floors wherever they are. People walk, stop to dance, then keep on cruising.
Until that after-hours scene explodes, the night belongs to salsa and chicks -- lots of them. They're the prize that longhaired Mexican rockeros and Pan American salseroscompete over for the honor of an electrifying dance.