If you've driven from San Diego to Phoenix, you know there's not much to look at. On a recent summer vacay, we were almost at the end of the road -- Maricopa Road, that is, en route to I-10 -- when we noticed a sign out the window. It was one of those Adopt-A-Highway signs, you know, the kind usually sponsored by the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society. Up 'til that point, Hooters was the oddest Adopt-A-Highway sponsorship we'd ever seen. But this one really made us wonder if we were hallucinating after too many hours on the road. The Church of Body Modification, chipping in for roadside cleanup? Aren't those folks too busy suspending themselves by their nipples and ramming hooks through their back flesh? Turns out they are too busy, according to Doug Nintzel, from the Arizona Department of Transportation. He confirms the Bod Modders sponsored a mile on Maricopa Road, just south of I-10, but says that our call prompted some checking, and that after more than a year, no one had heard from the Church. So ADOT "did a modification of our own," as the witty Nintzel puts it, and stripped the Church of Body Modification of its Adopt-A-Highway status.

Ouch, that smarts.

Don't get us wrong. We love our city. But we know our limitations. And let's face it, friends, Phoenix is not the nation's music capital. It's not the music capital of the Southwest. It's not even the music capital of Arizona, for crying out loud. That title goes to Tucson.

But no one mentioned this to Esquire magazine, which recently published a music guide including an article titled "Cities That Rock: A Guide to the 10 Best Cities for Seeing and Hearing Music." Clearly, the writer was trying to be counterintuitive, since Pittsburgh and Fresno also made the list. But we really had to chortle -- and then wonder if maybe we were missing something in our backyard -- when we found our own fair city at Number 9, below New Orleans and before San Francisco.

"The Phoenix and Tempe scene is like a desert flower in bloom," Esquire reports, referencing the Format and Necronauts as the bands to watch, and Stinkweeds and Modified Arts the places to buy music and hear it, respectively.

We love Stinkweeds and Modified, but do they catapult us above S.F.?

Who knows? Maybe we should start believing our own press.

Sloane McFarland is Phoenix's own renaissance man -- an artist who dabbles in real estate. Usually it's the other way around, but this young man truly applies his aesthetic to everything he does, and, whether he means to or not, is creating community in his hometown. He's best known as the landlord at Lux Coffeebar on Central Avenue; his slump-block complex also houses the sandwich shop Pane Bianco, and Passage, a boutique featuring locally produced fashion. McFarland is one of the guys behind Welcome Diner on Roosevelt Street, and now, we hear, he's branching out to Buckeye, putting artists in a strip mall and developing other properties, spreading the wealth west.

Thanks, Sloane, for helping us to fill the pages of Best of Phoenix. We can't wait to see what you do next.

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