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10 Best Rock Bars of Phoenix

The Jealous Sound performs at The Rogue Bar.
The Jealous Sound performs at The Rogue Bar.
William Westfall

Listen up, rock fans: The next time you're stuck in the nosebleeds watching your favorite guitar god rule a six-string at an arena show, we've got something for y'all to ponder. And no, it's not that you should've been quicker on Ticketmaster's website.

Rock music, to riff on the words of noted punk scholar Iain Ellis, might best be enjoyed while up close and personal with a band and experiencing all the spilled beer, dripping sweat, noise, and energy that comes with such an experience. In other words, everything you wouldn't get to experience while sitting in the upper deck, viewing your favorite rock star through binoculars.

Elis, in his book, Brit Wits: A History of British Rock Humor, was referring specifically to the UK-based "pub rock" movement of the mid-1970s, when bands such as Eddie and the Hot Rods and Dr. Feelgood preferred gigs at "small bars for small crowds" that were more raw and real than overblown, overpriced, or overcrowded stadium concerts.

Sounds like something we can get behind, since we're more partial to smaller, more intimate gigs available via the many rock bars (a.k.a. gin joints, neighborhood taverns, or dives where rock and its multitude of subgenres take a particular focus) of the Valley.

Sure, we also dig epic concerts at the more cavernous arenas, theaters, and concert halls of the Valley, but it's the rock bar shows that have more of a potential for memorable times. After all, you tend to feel more personally involved with a band or artist when not sitting 25 rows away.

They also offer a chance to become early adopters of up-and-coming local acts, interact more with musicians, or maybe buy 'em a shot. At the very least, you're close enough to gank the setlist or grab a selfie with your favorite rocker.

We checked out the dives, dumps, and drinkeries around the Metro Phoenix rock bar scene and selected the 10 best places where rock 'n' roll and its many flavors are a big thing -- and the band's no more than five feet away.

Tempe Tavern
Tempe Tavern
Benjamin Leatherman

Tempe Tavern

Rock bars in Tempe have become an increasingly rare commodity, what with spots like Long Wong's, Stray Cat, Big Fish Pub, and The Sail Inn all going down for the count in the last year. Frankly, that makes us appreciate Tempe Tavern all the more, especially given that it hosts local rock in all its glory three to four nights a week -- ranging from the punks of LightSpeedGo and harder acts like Daughters of Fission to the more indie projects like Japhy's Descent and The Woodworks. The ample drink specials (such as $3 well cocktails and $2 PBR drafts every night), its quirky bottle cap and cobblestone décor, and the fact it's mere stumbling distance from a light-rail station are also big plusses.

/Rockbar Inc. along Craftsman Court in Scottsdale.
/Rockbar Inc. along Craftsman Court in Scottsdale.
Benjamin Leatherman

Rockbar Inc.

Dave Grohl, Perry Farrell, and Billy Idol can all be spotted nightly at Rockbar in Scottsdale. Not in the flesh, mind you, but rather in the form of poster-size photographs hanging above its leather VIP booths. As you might've guessed, rock is revered at this two-story Craftsman Court bar, which is why there's memorabilia and autographed drum heads everywhere, nonstop alternative and metal music videos on the TVs, and a tastefully sleazy and neon-filled aura worthy of a Sunset Strip club of yore. Everything's centered around the enormous elevated stage downstairs where hometown heroes like Howitzer, The Black Moods, The Dead Eyes of London, and Tuesday night resident Shawn Johnson go full-tilt boogie while their sounds spill onto the side patio and up into the rooftop lounge and waitresses in the Suicide Girl mold keep everyone well lubricated and in a mood to rock out.



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