For most Valley rock clubs, local rock bands are occasional openers for national acts. When the Emerald books a national act, it's some out-of-town band you've never heard of, hoping the bill's local acts attract enough people so they make their gas money back. Local bands drive the Emerald's weekly roster, and with its no-cover-charge policy, it's a great place to check out a new band and not get soaked by greedy promoters and parking garages. And while you once may have needed the extra beer cash to deaden the pain of loud bands incapable of dialing into their own sound, the latest P.A. system upgrade has made a vast improvement.
Its Wednesday night blasts with house band the Hypno-Twists make the Emerald the best place to go out in the middle of the week, while the rest of the week has featured such great local bands as the Liars Club, Beat Angels, the Getaways, Seven Storey, Korova Milk Bar, Lovers of Guts, Sonic Thrills, Velveteen Dream and Meatwhistle, plus other diverting local entertainment like DJ's Tato Soul Trax on Tuesdays, Jim Cherry's Gullaballoo variety show on Sundays and art displays during the week.
He's got the moves that drive the blue-haired ladies wild. He's got the look: tinted sunglasses, a permy pompadour, and an oak-tree-style sports coat nicely tapered at the waist, his sleeves rolled up a third of the way. And his voice is like butter; each song from the tape machine he makes his cheese-filled own. He is a performer; he is in command. Think Phoenix's own Tom Jones. Plus, he has an array of brass instruments he busts out once in awhile, adding that perfectly classy accent.
His work could almost be called "accidental performance art," and he could be the analog precursor to the digital remix. As the night goes on, he finds just the right tape to transition from one song to the next, using his dual decks like a DJ spinning.
Valad is the man of the hour, every hour he's up there. And if you're really lucky, you might get a shout-out from the stage.
It's great to have a station with an appreciation for the classics -- Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Bad Company -- that also includes modern and alternative rock like the Cult, U2, Creed, Counting Crows and Korn, all while keeping to a bare minimum the cookie-monster rock that gives other stations their identities.
On Sundays at 10 p.m., KDKB airs the best example of specialty programming on radio, Little Steven's Underground Garage. This weekly two-hour show restores the roll to rock and is hosted by E Street guitarist and Sopranos resident grimacer Steve Van Zandt. Not only does Van Zandt retain the machine-gun verbal bazooka of yesteryear's DJs, he does American radio in general a public service by playing the Standells and the 13th Floor Elevators coast-to-coast. And for weekend warriors who still get a rush from Rush and a jolt from AC/DC, the station plays 16-song music marathons that ensure no tuneouts. Raawwwwk -- it's not just for stadiums anymore.
Since there's no longer a reliable radio signal for picking up old country (unless you cover your body in tinfoil and point it in the direction of Austin), we recommend you try KUET-AM, the nostalgia station that broadcasts "timeless classics" out of Black Canyon City. KUET's broadcast day includes all the fundamentals of country, from back when country was cool -- Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Glen Campbell, B.J. Thomas, Marty Robbins and Patsy Cline. It's worth slogging through the Platters, Percy Faith and Barry Manilow just to hear the occasional Roger Miller or Bobby Bare hit.
When this old-pop-is-really-new-country controversy gets out, it'll turn country-music radio on its ear. In the meantime, you can trace where new country got its roots dyed with Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Eddie Rabbitt and John Denver. Until Arizona gets a radio format that meets David Allan Coe's checklist for what makes a great country song, KUET is the best bet for hearing at least one song per hour about drinking, trucks, trains, prison or mama.
Knot Radio was started by Chris Richardson as an adjunct to his Knot Known Records label. In one stroke, he has given Tempe the credible college rock station it's been lacking for ages; it provides an outlet for local rock groups who've all been shunted off the commercial airwaves and gives them global exposure. Specialty shows range from Chris Horak's Punk, Ska, Oi, Surf, and Hardcore Show to the Blimey! It's BritPop! Show by some cat named Eddie to DJ John's Heathen World, which gives us a history of indie music of the past, present and future. Factor in other eclectic shows that feature jazz, exotica and bootlegs that somehow fall outside the RIAA's regulation, and you have alternatives that no other alternative radio station can provide because it has to play Third Eye Blind for the kajillionth time.
Knot Radio averages about 1,500 listeners a day. Lord knows how many of them are local, but one thing's for certain: They're getting freeform radio at its finest with a click of the mouse.
So what's there to miss about Top 40 anyway? Hearing new music? You hear chart heat-seekers regularly; even songs in rapid repeat rotation, like Nelly's "Hot in Here," get a face-lift every go-round, especially when turntable wizards like DJ Shy are live in the mix for the "Powerworkout" from noon to 2 p.m. You want countdowns? JX3 rattles off the "Power 7 at 7." You miss crazed on-air personalities with funny nicknames? You've got MG, Mad Dog, Danielle and Gringo Suave manning the Morning Madhouse in the a.m., naughty Da Nutz carrying on in afternoon drive time, and Melissa the Midnite Mamacita playing slow jams into the dawn. And how about a station that has guest host Nuff Ced (NBA Superstar Cedric Ceballos) holding court whenever the mood strikes him? Long-distance dedications? Call 602-260-6923, and they are "Down 4 U."
tie: Troon North Golf Club
10320 East Dynamite, Scottsdale
Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale
17020 North Hayden, Scottsdale
BEST CITY HIKING TRAIL
BEST CITY PARK
Encanto Park and Recreation Area
2605 North 15th Avenue
BEST KIDS' FREE FUN SPOT
Tempe Town Lake
BEST KIDS' FUN-FOR-A-PRICE SPOT
9445 North Metro Parkway East
BEST PLACE TO SPEND THE DAY WITH YOUR DOG
Any dog park