In accordance with NAFTA, KBAQ is prevented from broadcasting at too great a power lest its signal spill south into Mexico. Damned federal government, always keeping the little guy down.

In eight years, KBAQ has established itself as not only a topnotch classical station but also a formidable community resource for the lively arts. Enjoying a close working relationship with the Phoenix Symphony, and carrying a balanced diet of local and national acts (like the talk-performance show From the Top at 7 p.m. Sundays), KBAQ provides Valley listeners with the best contemporary performances of classical and chamber music. And this year the station took on a herculean challenge, mounting the "KBAQ 2001 Fall European Tour," a package tour of Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Berlin, with opera performances and gourmet meals included in the ticket price.

Despite the fact that Prague is so 1992, we applaud KBAQ's gumption.

These days, recognizing a radio band as the best rock station is a fairly backhanded compliment. With unsettling styles like teen pop, rap-rock and nu metal dominating playlists, it's a wonder most folks haven't completely abandoned the FM dial for AM talk formats or the safety of CD players and tape decks. Without anything even approaching a progressive station here in the Valley, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that we would bestow this honor on KOOL-FM, a station playing nothing but golden oldies. Tuning to 94.5, you're likely to find a song with a melody, and the closest thing you'll get to a boy band is the Box Tops. Instead of being forced to endure inane teen divas like Britney and Christina, KOOL at least boasts classic inane teen divas like Lesley Gore and Shelley Fabares. How does that grab you, darlin'?

These days, recognizing a radio band as the best rock station is a fairly backhanded compliment. With unsettling styles like teen pop, rap-rock and nu metal dominating playlists, it's a wonder most folks haven't completely abandoned the FM dial for AM talk formats or the safety of CD players and tape decks. Without anything even approaching a progressive station here in the Valley, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that we would bestow this honor on KOOL-FM, a station playing nothing but golden oldies. Tuning to 94.5, you're likely to find a song with a melody, and the closest thing you'll get to a boy band is the Box Tops. Instead of being forced to endure inane teen divas like Britney and Christina, KOOL at least boasts classic inane teen divas like Lesley Gore and Shelley Fabares. How does that grab you, darlin'?

No booze, no jukebox, no dress code, and no social-climbing clotheshorses. Just music, music, music. And lots of artwork on the walls.

Modified, a tiny performance space in a converted antique shop in the middle of a street with nothing else on it, is one of those great ideas that shouldn't have worked. But in two and a half years Modified has garnered nothing but critical hosannas, largely on the strength of its aggressively no-frills mandate. Patrons sit on benches, or at one of a half-dozen small tables, or cross-legged on the floor. Performers set up no more than a foot away from the nearest audience member. Performer and patron can't help but vibe off each other's energy, lending shows at Modified a rare intimacy. And while local bands still make up the bulk of Modified's roster, several nationally known acts (such as Austin's Knife in the Water) have enjoyed it so much they've come back for repeat performances.

Modified Arts
No booze, no jukebox, no dress code, and no social-climbing clotheshorses. Just music, music, music. And lots of artwork on the walls.

Modified, a tiny performance space in a converted antique shop in the middle of a street with nothing else on it, is one of those great ideas that shouldn't have worked. But in two and a half years Modified has garnered nothing but critical hosannas, largely on the strength of its aggressively no-frills mandate. Patrons sit on benches, or at one of a half-dozen small tables, or cross-legged on the floor. Performers set up no more than a foot away from the nearest audience member. Performer and patron can't help but vibe off each other's energy, lending shows at Modified a rare intimacy. And while local bands still make up the bulk of Modified's roster, several nationally known acts (such as Austin's Knife in the Water) have enjoyed it so much they've come back for repeat performances.

When the restaurant/art space Lucky Dragon closed up its ancient, Burgundy-soaked digs on University Drive, those of us whose aesthetic tastes run to the outré were saddened beyond the telling. But the LD's new incarnation on McClintock, while cleaner and better lit, has delivered on its promise to keep down-and-dirty local arts alive in the Valley. And it still makes a blazing kung pao chicken.

Apart from its more refined menu, the second incarnation sports intimate booths and spiffy cloth-draped tables aplenty -- easily three times the previous seating -- and a generous complement of funky hangings by amazing local artists. But the real draw is its showcase for area bands, from release parties to farewell shows, on the sizable stage. It won't be long before the Dragon enters Valley music history as a place to see and be seen.

The Trunk Space
When the restaurant/art space Lucky Dragon closed up its ancient, Burgundy-soaked digs on University Drive, those of us whose aesthetic tastes run to the outré were saddened beyond the telling. But the LD's new incarnation on McClintock, while cleaner and better lit, has delivered on its promise to keep down-and-dirty local arts alive in the Valley. And it still makes a blazing kung pao chicken.

Apart from its more refined menu, the second incarnation sports intimate booths and spiffy cloth-draped tables aplenty -- easily three times the previous seating -- and a generous complement of funky hangings by amazing local artists. But the real draw is its showcase for area bands, from release parties to farewell shows, on the sizable stage. It won't be long before the Dragon enters Valley music history as a place to see and be seen.

Frankly, this is a category that's probably past its retirement age. After all, it feels like it was a million years ago that the film Swingers was hip and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was cool. Even swing revivalist Brian Setzer seems to have reverted back to his rockabilly roots. Locally, Tempe's Bash on Ash hasn't given up the fight as it remains the place to jump, jive and wail. The club calendar boasts the best in national bands working the genre, and the Bash's Tuesday night swing jam is still going strong, offering dance lessons to novices and a huge floor for those who already know how to act like it's still VJ Day.

Frankly, this is a category that's probably past its retirement age. After all, it feels like it was a million years ago that the film Swingers was hip and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was cool. Even swing revivalist Brian Setzer seems to have reverted back to his rockabilly roots. Locally, Tempe's Bash on Ash hasn't given up the fight as it remains the place to jump, jive and wail. The club calendar boasts the best in national bands working the genre, and the Bash's Tuesday night swing jam is still going strong, offering dance lessons to novices and a huge floor for those who already know how to act like it's still VJ Day.

Most bands' idea of a mixed media show is wearing hand-painted tee shirts from their girlfriends, which is why the Hypnotwists' sensory assault never meets with a mixed reception. Holed up at the Emerald Lounge on Wednesday nights, the band has turned the place into one of those sweaty Swinging '60s nightclubs where Terence Stamp might walk in and meet Julie Christie. Of course, Terry and Julie wouldn't be caught dead here, but chances are they might turn up in a movie projected on the stage: The Hypnotwists seem to favor black-and-white movies where people shag standing up. What ties all the swirling colored lights together is the band's music, a blend of garage, surf and soundtracks that keeps folks on the dance floor even when breathing space is a limited commodity. People dancing at a local rock show? These guys have really built the better time machine.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of