Jimmy Eat World doesn't have to go it alone in the national spotlight now that Reubens Accomplice is riding high on its excellent second album, The Bull, The Balloon, and The Family. Produced by J.E.W.'s Jim Adkins and released on Western Tread -- the fledgling label owned by Adkins and Valley promoter Charlie Levy -- this album has the satisfying pop hooks, catchy melodies and emo sincerity to make it an indie-rock classic. A major bonus is that these rising stars still play gigs at intimate local venues, so you can see them live for the full effect. Readers' Choice: Shallow Water

The first time we saw The MadCaPs, we did a double-take. This three-piece garage band was slowly cruising Roosevelt Street on a First Friday, performing out of the back of a pickup truck and turning heads the whole way. When they pulled into the parking lot of a nearby gallery, the impromptu concert attracted not only a bunch of art-walking onlookers, but a surreal congregation of fire dancers, a clown playing saxophone, and a kooky little grandma who wasn't afraid to dance up front. The MadCaPs do come to a standstill, from time to time -- you can catch them at places like the Emerald Lounge -- but we prefer to catch them on the street.
As even the most non-hatin' hip-hop head will admit, the only people supporting live hip-hop in town are the rappers who take their own turns on the stage. That said, Blunt Club Thursdays at the Priceless Inn in Tempe host more local rappers -- not to mention DJs, break-dancers and graffiti artists -- than anyplace else in town. Hosted by the affable Emerge McVay of Bionic Jive (our cover boy), the Blunt Club recently celebrated its second anniversary of showcasing all the four elements of hip-hop culture in one divey strip mall bar. True, the events rarely draw an audience beyond its own performance roster. But hey, if there are enough aspiring hip-hop artists in town to fill a club regularly, that's a scene in itself that deserves attention.

Marquee Theatre
Bellyache all you want about the beer prices or paying to park. When the legendary Nita's Hideaway closed its doors late last year, the Marquee came to the rescue. Without the Marquee, you have to wonder if we would've seen so many noteworthy national headliners, including The Strokes, Sonic Youth, Kanye West, and Motörhead. After all, it's pretty much the only venue in town with a capacity of 1,000 people. Lately, the Marquee's been hosting smaller shows as well, with featured local bands, free parking and earlier set times to accommodate the all-ages crowd. Take one look at the home page of Lucky Man Productions, which owns and operates the theater, and it's clear that there's plenty more good music to come. Readers' Choice: Celebrity Theatre

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano
We'll always be nostalgic for the mighty Long Wong's on Mill, the demise of which, earlier this year, left us scratching our heads about the future of local music. But it didn't take long for us to learn that the Tempe scene didn't die, it just found a new home at the Yucca. Rock and roots bands like the Pistoleros, Gloritone, the Zen Lunatics, and Ghetto Cowgirl -- all popular Long Wong's alumni -- play here regularly, and there's no cover charge. Live music almost every night of the week certainly puts patrons in a good mood, but the cheap drinks undoubtedly add to the Yucca's friendly atmosphere. Readers' Choice: Mason Jar

Arcosanti
With apologies to those goodhearted kids who make up the local music scene, the real place to go for truly experimental tuneage isn't even in the Valley itself. Be warned, getting a mate or two to accompany you on the hourlong drive north to Paolo Soleri's hippie-dippy haven, perched on a windswept hillside, is almost as frustrating as trying to explain which particular genre the musicians who frequent the place fit into. For instance, the exotic percussion reverberations of Italian "musicologist" Andrea Centazzo were hard to describe to friends, other than "it kind of sounds like the score to American Beauty." But once we got them to tag along to the open-air, starry-skied amphitheater, they were taken by the atmosphere and the freeform, unconventional harmonies. We skipped the CDs for sale (how can you re-create transcendence in a Toyota?), because now that we've rinsed out our brainpans, we're ready to crank up some Authority Zero or New Romantics on our way back down to Phoenix.

Memory Lane Records
The kid is croupy and the boss is bitching and the mortgage is due, and, oh, for the good old days when the most important thing in your life was the release of the new Supertramp album. Which today is a very old Supertramp album, but which you can still buy (and maybe even a sealed copy!) at Memory Lane, our favorite link to our musical past. We travel back to puberty and beyond with every trip to Tempe's 20-year-old treasure trove of old vinyl albums and singles, where just recently we scored a dead-mint copy of Jerry Vale's Arrivederci, Roma (because we were feeling sort of '60s Euro-nerd), a clean reissue of Taboo: The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman (to quench our thirst for something '50s loungey), and an autographed copy of Wham!'s Make It Big because, well, we wanted an aural reminder of simpler times.

We always find our thrill, and a big hunk of our past, at Memory Lane, where the friendly, helpful staff never laughs at our oddball choices -- not even the time we bought three REO Speedwagon platters.

While many of the nation's fed-up rock radio listeners have been fleeing to satellite pay stations to escape commercials and obnoxious DJ banter, the Valley's classic-album-rock fans continue to get treated to the equivalent of Sirius' "deep cuts" channel, The Vault, without the $12.95-a-month subscription fee. Thanks to a mysterious radio station owner named Ted Tucker who, near as we can tell, likes sharing his personal collection of long-forgotten tracks from the golden era of "free-form" FM radio over one of several station bands he owns, KCDX is now, amazingly, in its third year of broadcasting wowzers by the likes of Procol Harum, The Band, and Traffic -- with the occasional Billy Joel or Men at Work megahit tossed in -- 100 percent commercial-free.

Recently, the station launched a sparse three-page Web site that keeps track of the songs just played and allows listeners to make requests via e-mail, but still reveals nothing about the station. No one knows how long it'll last, but for now, KCDX is like listening in on your favorite hippie uncle's quirky iPod library. Readers' Choice: KUPD-FM 97.9

A National Public Radio affiliate by day, KJZZ transforms into a chilled-out jazz station at the workweek witching hour of 7 p.m. Dominating the night is "Acoustic Jazz," a mix of jazz classics and newer traditional tracks, with silky-voiced local diva Blaise Lantana hosting the earlier segment and Paul Anderson, Michele Robins, Steve Conrad and Phil Pollard taking over in later slots. There's no time for the blues until the weekend, but two locally produced shows, Drew Verbis' Blues and Beyond, and Rhythm Room impresario Bob Corritore's Those Lowdown Blues (now in its 20th year), are always worth the wait. Readers' Choice: KJZZ-FM 91.5

Even if The Edge didn't use "Independent Radio" as its catch phrase, we'd still be able to hear it in the station's pleasantly unpredictable programming. We love it when radio catches us off guard -- a rare thing these days -- and Edge DJs aren't afraid to spin something by the Supersuckers or Echo and the Bunnymen along with the standard playlist faves ranging from pop-punk to alt-rock to neo-New Wave. Extra credit goes to the weeknight "Local Frequency" show, which gives much-deserved exposure to emerging Valley bands like Thousand Yard Stare, Girl Kicks Boy, and Before Braille. Readers' Choice: KEDJ-FM 103.9

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