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More than any station in town, KUPD knows its demo. It knows that station loyalists don't want their parents to like the music they listen to. So KUPD cranks it up to 11 with the kind of heavy-rock flamboyance that's been making parental ears bleed since Iron Butterfly got lost in a gadda da vida.
KUPD serves up a mix of the modern (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age), the classic (Metallica) and the all-but-forgotten (Faith No More) in equal measure, but the common denominators are volume and attitude. It's unapologetically unhip fare that scores a direct hit with the suburban, teenage, air-guitar virtuoso in all of us.
Readers' Choice for Best Rock Station: KUPD-FM 97.9
In 2000, Nirvana and Lollapalooza are both history, and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder is about as relevant to today's youth as Eddie Cantor. Not surprisingly, the alt-rock format has taken a pounding in many markets. But KEDJ, also known as "The Edge," has survived it all: Kurt Cobain's suicide, the teen-pap meltdown of MTV and even a 1999 sale that saw New York-based conglomerate Big City Radio take over the station.
The Edge has survived by adapting to the changing definitions of "alternative," loading up on the rap-metal dementia of Limp Bizkit and Korn, while maintaining a soft spot for three-chord pop-punksters like Blink 182, the Offspring and Green Day. In a city that loves to moan about its lack of a college radio station, KEDJ remains the best bet for guitar-based music that fits in the wide demographic slot between prepubescent and postmenopausal.
Readers' Choice: KEDJ-FM 106.3/100.3
Every Sunday afternoon, KJZZ becomes the voice of the Delta juke joints, combining syndicated blues programming with Those Lowdown Blues, an unmatched blast of 12-bar nirvana provided by Rhythm Room honcho Bob Corritore. Corritore is a Chicago native who's not only befriended many blues titans, but has also established himself as a Hightone Records artist with his solid harmonica work.
Between Lantana and Corritore, there is no better source for these distinct but complementary American musical genres.
Readers' Choice: KYOT-FM 95.5
But KBAQ stepped into the breach, ably carrying the Valley's classical burden on its thin 3,000-watt signal. Careful but not conservative, KBAQ has mixed the gems of the 18th-century Viennese masters with smart nods to the modernists. It's also supported the local scene with frequent broadcasts of local chamber-music concerts and a splashy 1998 tribute to the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra on its 50th anniversary.
Best of all, this is one station where the DJs -- sorry, "music selectionists" -- don't sound like they're trying to shout you into submission or sell you a used car.
Readers' Choice: KBAQ-FM 89.5
But these days Valley listeners can get a taste of hard-core honky-tonk and tears-in-your-beer goodness, thanks to KXKQ-FM, Safford's "Kat Country." Admittedly, the station's playlist does include a handful of "new country" acts. But with two out of every three songs passing the true twang test, KXKQ is a saving grace to those who think country should sound more like Merle than Mariah.
The station's signal isn't flawless, and tends to fade depending on your location, but the sonic selection more than compensates for a bit of static. And, yee-haw! When was the last time you heard Johnny Paycheck and Buck Owens on the FM dial?
Readers' Choice: KNIX-FM 102.5
Admittedly, the station's playlist never veers off into adventurous or eclectic territory, but it does provide local airwaves with meat-and-potatoes offerings from mainstream (and just outside the mainstream) rappers and harder-edged R&B performers. And the station's ever-improving weekend specialty programming and mix showcases point to an even more promising future.
Readers' Choice: KKFR-FM 92.3
And what better place in Phoenix to witness those on Hunter's slippery slope than at the Mason Jar, that cinder-block pit stop en route to Cut-out Bin Hell? L.A. Guns with bald spots and beer guts, Warrant with jowl wattles, and a crispy, croaky Kris Kristofferson are but a few of the dozens and dozens of onetime gold and platinum acts that have tottered across the beer-soaked carpet of The Jar's pitifully small stage.
We can only imagine the internal monologue running through Dale Bozzio's head a few years ago as her tour van pulled into what appeared to be a beer joint parking lot, only to discover MISSING PERSONS (missing more than a few letters) on the club's marquee. Once inside the club's dark, dank, lager-scented confines, Bozzio might well have shaken her pink mane in disbelief. "Boy, I've played some toilets in my day, but jeeez . . ."
Hey, when you're flush with success, there's only one way to go.
As the music swells, all languages are silenced, and just beneath the pounding crescendo you can sense -- could it be, the fetal heartbeat of a world-class city?
Nice fantasy, isn't it?
But on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8 to 11, Charlie's Espresso turns fantasy into reality. Just up the street from Tempe's Town Lake, a weekly array of talent featuring international stars such as Liu, who won third place at the 1999 Vladimir Horowitz piano competition in Moscow, appears on Charlie's shaded courtyard.
Tango/flamenco dancers, French horn virtuosos, lute and violin soloists and operatic vocalists also perform for the culturally enlightened and fiscally frugal. There is no cover charge for Charlie's fete to high-end culture. Just bring an open mind, a taste for really great coffee and an imaginative heart.
Charlie's is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
The club favors all styles of the blues, from jump and swing to the harder sounds of Chicago and the Delta. Yet the Rhythm Room has not neglected its roots side, either, featuring regular appearances by top jazz acts and a regular weekly night, headlined by some of the finest national and local talents in country and rockabilly.
Although the venue will have a new address by 2001, if its past track record is any indication, the Rhythm Room will remain the Valley's preeminent palace for heritage music.
Readers' Choice: Rhythm Room
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive