After Midnight

A guide to the graveyard shift

Talk about the heat of the night.

The prevailing wisdom here in the Valley has long been that come 2 a.m., when bartenders turn off the taps and drop-kick drunks out the door, our banging burg transforms into a ghost town. It's doubly so in summertime, as even the most hard-core culture commandos either get the hell out of the PHX 'til September or hunker in their air-conditioned bunkers at all hours of the day.

In reality, some of the hottest local nightspots stay open during the coolest hours of the day, from midnight to 6 a.m. And we ain't just talking about the drive-through at Filiberto's, either. While after-hours are mostly limited to the weekends, when there's greater turnout, one can still depart the domicile past the witching hour and dance, dine and debauch 'til the cock crows.

Night time is a tight time.
Night time is a tight time.

But while you're living your own personal episode of Insomniac, steer clear of danger, night ranger, by parking as close to each venue as possible, and recruit a friend or two for the trip (since plenty of ne'er-do-wells will be roaming the streets as well). Many places are 21-and-over, so bring ID (some joints also allow the 18-and-over set to enter after 2 a.m.). Consider ditching the workout wear for something more stylish, as a few hot spots have dress codes.

One such upscale establishment is the fiery Latino discotheque Club Dwntwn (702 North Central Avenue, 602-258-8343), with two crowded rooms of hip-hoppers dancing to reggaeton on Fridays until 3 a.m., and salsa and merengue spun by DJs Mixman, Roberto Dominguez and César III on Saturdays right up to 5 a.m. Cover is $10 both nights. Next door is Palazzo (710 North Central Avenue, 602-229-1150) and the Friday-night freak fest known as Tranzylvania, with goth groupies straight from a Marilyn Manson mixer turning out until 4 a.m. and dropping $7 at the door to hang with Matrix wanna-bes writhing to dark trance.

And if you're into costumed clubgoers, there are plenty of duded-up Marlboro Marys at the swishy shit-kicker bar Charlie's (727 West Camelback Road, 602-265-0224), packing "that lil' ole bitty pissant country place" on Fridays and Saturdays, coughing up $3 for a techno-filled hoedown ending at 4 a.m.

The catty cowboys of Charlie's can't hold a candle to the heat of Hot Pink!, the legendary Friday-night mainstay at Karamba (1724 East McDowell Road, 602-254-0231), with hipster hotties and bare-chested beefcakes dancing on raised platforms. DJs such as Nimh, Colt and Sleazy Sean work the wheels of steel blasting out New Wave, Britpop and electroclash until 4 a.m. Cover is $5.

Another popular destination is the Sky Lounge (132 East Washington Street, 602-229-1110), with denizens of the darkened dance floor grooving to salsa fusion during Ritmo Latino on Fridays until 3 a.m., with a $10 cover. Energy 92.7 turntablists Rod Carrillo and Lysa D -- as well as guest DJs -- drop the needle on everything from house to breakbeats the following night for Flux, which boasts an $8 admission and runs to 4 a.m.

The DJ diva also runs the show at Mythos (2515 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, 480-947-6896), pumping out high-energy Top 40 and hip-hop alongside fellow turntablists until 2 a.m. on Fridays at the Mediterranean eatery (kitchen's open 'til 4 a.m.). For a measly $5, college kids and Snottsdale brats come to dance, puff on hookahs and nosh on moderately priced Greek cuisine until closing.

Instead of spending serious sack time searching for surreptitious speakeasies after last call, head to Mainstay Art Space (412 East Garfield Street, 602-253-0422) for one of Craigg Turner's impromptu art lounge extravaganzas. Assisted by brothers Isaac and Gabriel Fortoul, Turner presents boffo bashes on First and Third Fridays, Saturdays After, or whenever the mood strikes him, charging $3 for the privilege of rocking 'til the break of dawn.

He's even down with culture cohorts Scot McKenzie and Justin McBee, who present everything from butoh dancing to Belgian industrial noise artists at their gallery/performance venue .anti_space (815 West Madison Street, 602-256-2684). Their digs usually stay open until 4 a.m. on First Fridays and special events, and cover charges vary.

If a java jolt is in order, Counter Culture Café (2330 East McDowell Road, 602-231-0762) offers up cappuccino and other coffee-house fare at all hours, in addition to featuring the free fete Frak until 5 a.m. on Saturdays with techno from the likes of Joe Bear and Pablo Gomez and Brahman, who man the cans, as well as live music and more DJ domination all night during First Fridays.

And when the after-hours eats at 5 & Diner or Gay Denny's become tepid, check out Nick's 24/7 Pizza (6855 North 16th Street, 602-279-6200), living up to its moniker with tasty Italian comfort food and gourmet pies (like the "Greek Classic" with feta, ham, green olives and artichoke hearts) and providing a popular hangout for Hot Topic-clad teens. Similarly somnambulistic samplings are available at ghetto-fabulous grub house Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles (10 West Yuma Street, 602-340-1304), as well as the artful Asian eatery Fate (905 North Fourth Street, 602-254-6424), open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, respectively.

Followers of more lurid lifestyles also have the option of fulfilling their midsummer night's wet dream at the Valley's many titty bars, adult bookstores, bathhouses and swingers' clubs. But if you'd rather have a "happy ending" of a more wholesome sort, cruise to the top of South Mountain (10919 South Central Avenue, 602-495-0222) at 5:30 a.m. for a spectacular panoramic sunrise, while chanting the mantra of the late Warren Zevon, who once declared, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

 
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