Summer Clubbin'

Ten nightspots that manage to keep patrons and bands cool

7. The Emerald Lounge, 1514 North Seventh Avenue, Phoenix, 602-256-9705
People who say "dive bar" like it's a bad thing shouldn't go to the Emerald. Good, now that they're gone, there's plenty of us left who enjoy the Emerald's dark surroundings (the band room is almost womblike in its dimness), secondhand smoke, cheap drinks and free shows, more than any other in the Valley. On the completely different meter, there's weekly house specialties like Love Lounge piano bar on Mondays and Soul Trax improvisational jazz and spoken word on Tuesdays. Renovations are promising to change this familiar haunt somewhat, but for now the coolest place for a sweaty summer head to angle lies underneath the vent just outside the ladies' room.

8. Last Exit, 1425 West Southern Avenue, Tempe, 480-557-6656
For those sentimental for Long Wong's on Mill Avenue, several Tempe bars inherited that club's etched-in-stone schedule of regular acts, but the fully A/C-circulated Last Exit seems to have come closest to replicating Wong's recurring roster and its outdoor full-smoking patio, going one better with misters, the closest some of you monks will get to a wet tee shirt night. Misters, quite simply, are the summer performer's best friend, right up there with moist towelette, and sycophantic hand wench.

9. Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602-265-4842
Hands down the most comfortable place to hear low-down dirty blues as well as R&B, funk and sometimes plain ol' rock. The RR is always kept at a temperature that won't make you sweat like an itinerant harp blower, and the recently added patio is misted for your protection. I once saw legendary Lee Hazlewood do a birthday show there, the only time the familiar air conditioner hum was cut so his low drawl could be heard above it. And the only thing that made my blood rise was someone asking when he was gonna do that "God Bless the USA" song. Which would've been really funny if you people still remembered who Lee Greenwood was.

10. Havasu Underground, 2146 North McCulloch Boulevard, Lake Havasu City, 928-680-8020
Why are bands from And the Hero Fails to Calabrese making a three-hour trek to Lake Havasu? Okay, maybe to see the nearby relocated London Bridge, but mostly to play this club, owned by Voodoo Glow Skulls singer Frankie Casillas. Tres Ikner of the Prescott-based band Dutch Holly discovered this fledgling scene through Myspace.com and found, "You've got a whole lotta kids really into music basically stuck in Lake Havasu. You couldn't ask for a rock-starved better all-ages crowd unless you played the town in Footloose."

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