Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2009


  • + Ahwatukee
  • + Anthem
  • + Apache Junction
  • + Avondale
  • + Buckeye
  • + California
  • + Carefree
  • + Cave Creek
  • + Central Phoenix
  • + Central Scottsdale
  • + Chandler
  • + East Phoenix
  • + El Mirage
  • + Fountain Hills
  • + Gilbert
  • + Glendale
  • + Goodyear
  • + Higley
  • + Laveen
  • + Litchfield Park
  • + Mesa
  • + Nevada
  • + New River
  • + North Phoenix
  • + North Scottsdale
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside the Valley
  • + Palo Verde
  • + Paradise Valley
  • + Peoria
  • + Queen Creek
  • + South Phoenix
  • + South Scottsdale
  • + Sun City
  • + Surprise
  • + Tempe
  • + Tolleson
  • + Unknown
  • + Waddell
  • + West Phoenix
  • + Youngtown
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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Salesman for a Good Cause

Nate Anderson radiates the kind of innate charm and cool confidence that only a natural-born salesman could posses.

It's to be expected, considering that the 27-year-old Ohio native grew up in a family filled with charismatic entrepreneurs. The lanky redhead is also a genuinely easygoing cat, whose social rapport and smooth-talking swagger probably proved invaluable after he moved to Phoenix in 2005 and became a successful real estate broker who pulls in six figures. (Shelley Levene from Glengarry Glen Ross, he is not.) But after this career path proved to be emotionally unrewarding, however, Anderson dropped out of the property-pimping trade.

He's never looked back, however, especially after figuring out his true calling in life: getting musical instruments into the hands of students. In 2008, he created the non-profit Ear Candy to help subsidize and establish music education for local K-12 schools in need. (There's more than a few of those, as Arizona ranks near the bottom in the nation in arts funding).

As a lifelong gourmandizer of music, Anderson (who received eight years of childhood piano training and visits dozens of big-name concert festivals every year) combined this passion with his penchant for social entrepreneurism and began orchestrating fundraising shows and massive instrument drives across Phoenix. It's resulted in two straight years of frantic 16-hour work days, filled with soliciting donations and networking with record label executives, local politicians, venue owners, and chart-topping musicians.

Anderson's also recruited a variety of local bands, including Kinch and Black Carl, for Ear Candy events, both as a means of providing exposure, as well as an attempt to unify Phoenix's segmented (read: cliquish) music scene for a single cause. Best of all, the money and instruments collected go to the institutions in need throughout the Valley.

His hard work, silver tongue, and boundless connections have resulted in some sweet victories so far: He's collected and distributed more than 300 instruments in the past year alone (ranging from bass guitars to accordions), partnered with the likes of Eric Clapton and Jerry Riopelle, and booked popular indie act Harlem Shakes at an Ear Candy gig at Tempe's Sail Inn over the summer.

Anderson is confident Ear Candy's efforts will prove so successful that he'll eventually launch spin-offs in cities from Brooklyn to Boise, and maybe even around the world. Sounds pretty sweet, Nate.

Best of Phoenix 2009 In Photos

Best Urban Legend

Though nobody knows her real name, "Cake Lady," as downtowners have affectionately dubbed her, continues to contribute to central Phoenix lore. In short, there's a woman about town who occasionally shows up at gatherings (a music performance, an art exhibit) looking for free stuff, especially cake. The consensus is that she reads New Times (a smart woman, indeed) and then calls ahead to inquire about the possibility of free goodies. She's been spotted only a couple of times, including years ago at a birthday party at the now-defunct Paper Heart, where she briefly showed up, then dashed out the door with a bunch of cake to go. Hey, Cake Lady, share some next time!

Best Phoenix Season

Yes, you're reading that right. No, we're not heat-addled.

Summer in Phoenix rules.

We first noticed this seeming contraction one day several years ago when all the traffic on Indian School Road dried up. Poof! It was like a scene from I Am Legend or Vanilla Sky. And it made us ponder the other positives of a season in which temps can hit the 120s in the shade and you can get a third-degree burn on your butt just by getting in your car.

The sunsets. The storms. The long light of evenings. The short lines at our favorite hangs. The full-moon hikes. The abundant parking at Piestewa Peak. The pool parties. The misters. The cheap resort rates. The free Sunday-afternoon films at the Phoenix Art Museum.

More than specific pleasures, though, our late-blooming appreciation of Phoenix summer has to do with the sense of inclusion we feel from Memorial Day through late September. For 120-odd days, it's our town — not the fifth-largest city in America. It feels like a community.

It's hot, but it's home.

Best June

It was weird, right? This year, summer didn't really start 'til July. Sure, we had a hot day here and there, but any true Phoenician knows to brace for the heat starting in, oh, March. Not so in 2009, and June was particularly balmy. If you don't believe us, check out the stats: We haven't had this many days under 100 in the month of June (only 13!) since 1927. Which only made July the cruelest month — when, as if on cue, the temperature soared.

Best Map

Here at New Times, we know maps. We've spent countless hours trying to assemble them for our own various purposes. That's why we have such an appreciation for the Small Wonders map, published by Local First Arizona, designed to promote local businesses in both central/downtown Phoenix and Tempe. Consider this our thank you note for the labor of love it took to create these fold-out, easy-to-use, eye-pleasing guides to our favorite stuff in the city. It was surely no small feat to produce them.

Best Billion-Dollar View

Depending on whom you ask, the year-old Metro light rail may or may not be the most over-hyped project in Phoenix history. But no matter what you think of the billion-dollar (and counting!) project, you have to admit the view of the Phoenix skyline from the bridge going over Tempe Town Lake is pretty amazing, especially at dusk. From the confines of the always overpacked or nearly empty train car, you get a glimpse of Phoenix at its best. The downtown towers reach ever higher, their steady ascent seemingly fueled by the mysterious desert waters around you, but they never quite catch their backdrop, South Mountain. As the copper-colored star fades into the purplish haze of an Arizona sunset, even the most curmudgeonly rail-hater has to be impressed by the beautiful scene framed through the windows of this ambitious transportation project.


Best Salesman for a Good Cause: Nate Anderson


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