When the Sun Goes Down, Valley Nightlife Lights Up

There are plenty of things to love about Phoenix after the sun goes down, like world-class DJs dropping crackalackin' cuts in abundance, swank music venues springing up outta nowhere, and time-saving gems like those zazzy golf carts in Scottsdale. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Lounge and Patio at Crescent Ballroom: Going to the Crescent (308 N. Second Ave., www.crescentphx.com) isn't so much about seeing concerts as it is about being seen. Since opening in last fall, the music venue has beckoned scenesters, bon vivants, and urbanites almost every night with its urbane aura. Its lounge provides a dimly lit setting to enjoy microbrews and premium booze from the bar, eats created by renowned local restaurateur Chris Bianco, and both free shows and DJ gigs almost every night of the week.

The Blunt Club's DJs: Pickster One and Element don't spin records during The Blunt Club (www.myspace.com/thebluntclub). They practically ruin 'em. Every Thursday, the venerated hip-hop weekly's resident selectas create ungodly screeching via scratching artistry inside Tempe's Yucca Tap. And whenever regular collaborators/cohorts Radar and Tricky T visit, the foursome puts on a turntablism clinic for a packed house. The Blunt Clubbers' skills are emblematic of the wealth of quality DJing throughout the Valley that's only now getting recognized. Dubsteppers like J-Paul and Sluggo have countless listens on Soundcloud, Death to the Throne's remixes get mad love online, and M2 came within a hair's breadth of winning Red Bull's national Thre3style competition. And we're barely scratching the surface.

The Rooftop at Bar Smith: When a cadre of veteran DJs and bartenders bought Bar Smith (130 E. Washington St., www.barsmithphoenix.com) in 2010, it frankly was the best thing that ever happened to the place. They ditched its menu, installed swank LED light displays, and had painters Thomas "Breeze" Marcus and Lalo Cota decorate the walls. The rooftop patio, however, remained untouched, probably because it's Bar Smith's best amenity, helping it rise above other joints along Washington Street's popular club scene.

The beer selection at Taste of Tops: The Woodchuck Amber Cider dazzles tastebuds with tartness, the Ten Commandments Lost Abbey is a pleasure going down the gullet, and the Duvel Golden Ale offers wafts of flowers and fruit. Having a drink at this establishment adjacent to Tops Liquors is more than just popping one open, as the hops-and-barley beverages at Taste of Tops (403 W. University Dr., Tempe, www.topsliquors.com) are liquid ambrosia. And there are lots of 'em. Boasting a bigger selection than most other alehouses (including stouts, blondes, lagers, and ciders from around the world), it offers a rotating selection of two-dozen microbrews and craft beers on draught and hundreds of bottles in three side-by-side refrigerated cases in the back. If only they offered loyalty punch cards.

Quincy Ross' after-hours parties: A wry and crooked smile tends to cross the features of Quincy Ross whenever he's asked for details about his next off-the-radar event. There's a slim chance the photographer and gadabout will drop dime on the next after-hours affair he's planning at some darkened downtown gallery. Or he'll just announce the details on his Facebook page a few hours before the party. Clear your schedule to ensure you're there, however, since it's typically a memorable mix of dope music, surreal shenanigans, and colorful characters. The crowd usually parties long after the sun comes over the horizon.

The White Rabbit at SideBar: The mixologists manning their posts at SideBar (1514 N. 7th Ave., www.sidebarphoenix.com) offer an especially the sweet treat known as The White Rabbit. The hazelnut verve of Frangelico is mixed in a martini glass with the savory cinnamon of real horchata and sugary white chocolate liqueur. For added oomph, vanilla sugar adorns the rim.

Scottsdale's golf carts: To put it mildly, the lack of parking in Scottsdale's nightlife district on weekend nights is a major aggravation. Add a chaotic throng of tipsy revelers, honking taxicabs, and countless cops, and the simple scenario of getting from your car door to the dance floor becomes one giant clusterfuck. Thankfully, swarms of street-legal golf carts zip about Old Town ferrying urbanites and helping them get up in the club faster. Carts come in all shapes and sizes — ranging from six-seaters ordinarily seen on the links to tricked-out rides resembling ragtop roadsters. Best of all, the rides are free (although drivers definitely appreciate a little something, you know, for the effort).

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.