Best Of :: Fiesta
Have you been to a music festival recently? Stifling crowds, terrible sight lines, muffled outdoor sound? Unless you're willing to get there early and forgo bathroom breaks and proper hydration, it's almost impossible to get a good view. Once you pass into your third decade of existence, the prospect becomes mighty unappetizing.
Enter Viva PHX, Stateside Presents' nontraditional take on a music festival. (Full disclosure: New Times is a sponsor.) Modeled around South by Southwest, the 2016 version brought more than 70 bands to 17 venues downtown. The sheer number and density of the music festival participants is impressive in itself, but what's more notable is the transformative effect the festival has on downtown. Streets that are normally quiet on a Saturday night overflow with people making their way from venue to venue. For one night, downtown Phoenix turns into a pedestrian-friendly musical mecca, and the energy is contagious and undeniable.
It's inevitable. When you roll up to Cake on a weekend night, there's going to be a line, and probably a long one at that. It's understandable, given the club's 350-person capacity and hotspot status. But before you start plotting a Plan B, cool your Prada heels for a bit and wait patiently. Gaining a golden ticket inside is worth the hassle, considering all the high-style digs and lowbrow thrills that await you. Gleaming with style and panache, Cake embraces Scottsdale's penchant for hedonism and excess with gusto. Boasting the vibe of a French chateau circa 1700 with its leatherette booths, gilded fixtures, and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the club is filled with a libertine atmosphere where drinking and decadence is the order of the day. There's also dancing, which is aided by the beats coming from the top-shelf Funktion-One sound system, widely considered one of the best in the world. The high-definition screens that adorn the walls and play videos of scantily clad ladies grinding on each other help drive home Cake's sultry verve even further, and make one want to return for another night out.
It's simple. If you want to see and be seen after dark in Scottsdale, you typically head to Maya Day & Nightclub, one of the entertainment district's more prominent and well-trafficked spots. And when you want to be seen inside Maya, you head for its expansive dance floor. After all, it's the centerpiece of the entire club, and all eyes are on you. Surrounded by tiers of VIP seating and situated in front of the DJ booth, everyone's gaze, including the evening's guest DJ, tends to drift toward the activity unfolding on the dance floor, one of the largest in Scottsdale. Glowing LED rings and banks of colored spotlights flash overhead, dancing light across all the bodies in motion as Maya's largely female clientele (and the dudes who admire 'em) get down, get their mojo working, or engage in other nighttime social rites.
The Crescent Ballroom proved to all that Charlie Levy knew what he was doing when it comes to the whole "running a kick-ass venue" thing, but his follow-up joint, the subterranean Valley Bar, might be an even better example of his vibe. It's not just cool because it's literally underground; Valley Bar books artists like Thundercat and Foy Vance — not household names, but hot acts among those in the know. And the speakeasy-vibe has inspired some of Phoenix's finest cultural explorations, hosting comedian Anwar Newton's Literally the Worst Show Ever showcase, New Wave dance night The Factory, and our favorite, New Times' Bar Flies (you know it). Valley Bar's a stalwart example that Phoenicians are an experimental and excitable bunch. If you build it, they will come.
Clad in Union Jack flags and welcoming bikers, punks, and various other counterculture-leaning drinkers, TT Roadhouse on 68th Street is about as unpretentious as it gets. Boasting cheap beers, craft brews, and signature Blue Ribbon medchiladas (with a jalapeño floating atop the beer and tomato juice) the joint wears its British pub roots proudly, and embraces the U.K. side of punk with a jukebox stocked with punk and ska. Wood-paneled and dark, TT Roadhouse certainly isn't the most high-energy place in Scottsdale, but who would prefer that to a cool, chill punk bar where the bartenders seem to be having as much fun as you and one of the tables reads "Reserved — go fuck yourself"?
Covered in stickers and a thin layer of grime, the Palo Verde Lounge isn't a nice bar pretending to be a dive; it's a legitimate, bona fide dingy watering hole. And if you've got no qualms with that, you're in for a good time. Local thrash and metal types like to frequent the place, but so do old-school Tempe lifers, the kind of guys who could tell you a story or two about the way the dusty town used to be. Sometimes bands host shows there, though there's no stage and they end taking up most of the real estate that isn't occupied by pool tables, but that's all part of the fun. You get in, belly up, and go for whatever ride the "Dirty Verde" is going to offer.