Why has the Blunt Club nabbed this award three years in a row? Because we just couldn't help it; there was no alternative. Blunt Club's arsenal of awesome includes a crew of P-town's hottest hip-hop DJs, including residents Mr. Hyder, Tricky T, Pickster One (Vinyl Rockers, Drunken Immortals), and DJ Daddy Rich (3rd Bass); stellar national underground guest acts like Tee Double, Radioinactive, and J. Boogie; and local rap artist Emerg McVay, a host who can spit it with the best. With all those aces, the Blunt Club's got a winning hip-hop hand that's hard to beat.

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON A FINAL FRIDAY

Mill's End Cafe

Mill's End Cafe and Creperie
For the past few years, the hype surrounding the Final Friday Art Walk in downtown Tempe has pretty much centered on one venue in particular, namely the art supply store Wet Paint. But now the kick-back cats over at Mill's End Cafe are giving those pigment-slinging peeps a run for their money, as the java joint has proven to be a pretty popular hangout during the monthly event. A sizable throng of dreadlocked scenesters, emo kids, and college-age cronies stop by the Mill Avenue coffee house to witness poetry slams, smoke flavored shishas from various hookahs, and partake in live music from local bands like Icy Core of Jupiter, and The Complainiacs, as well as new works from such artists as painters Tracy Perdue and Disposable Hero, photographer Sooz, and mixed-media maven LaTanya Ree. There are also plenty of the requisite caffeinated beverages on tap, which we're gonna need to give us the energy to hit all the other venues open on Final Friday.

BEST PLACE TO SPOT ARTISTS ON A NIGHT OTHER THAN FRIDAY

the untitled artist bowling league

Cosmic bowling is so last year. Now the hot thing on the lanes is to actually start your own league. Case in point: a group of Valley art types who started bowling just to hang out with friends, and are quickly expanding into several teams. It all started when Neil Borowitz, an exhibit designer at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art who used to work at the Heard Museum, wanted to get together with friends, including Melissa Martinez, who works at the Heard and used to be at SMoCA. Neil gathered some SMoCA folks, and Melissa brought the Heard people. ASU Art Museum and Roosevelt Row followed and now, the sky's the limit! "Honestly, we're very flexible," Melissa says. "It's not like a rigid team structure." Knowing those creative types, we're inclined to believe her. We hear they have some pretty interesting team names, too, but Melissa's not telling.
There are dozens of reggaeton nights around town, but Saturdays at Jackson's was the first (it started in 2002), and it's still the largest, drawing an eclectic crowd that sometimes includes celebrities like national reggaeton sensation Pitbull, and Wu-Tang Latino Records CEO Ray Acosta. Every week, hundreds of people flood the three dance floors at Jackson's to hear everything from hip-hop to salsa; most of the reggaeton action goes down in the main room, where various DJs spin everything from reggaeton hits like Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" to lesser-known songs by up-and-coming reggaeton artists like Mr. Phillips and Omawi Bling. The dance floor is usually packed with hip-shaking hotties by midnight, but if you can't find a spot on the dance floor, you can just do what everybody else does, and dance where you stand.
Folks who like to get their sweat on along to the deeper world beats of Brazilian, salsa, and merengue have been filling up the funky dance floor at downtown Mesa's Club Cabo. The "Afro" refers to Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian, and the baile is Portuguese for "dance party," and both merge when DJ Seduce tantalizes and marinates eardrums with an eclectic mix of deep soulful house, chill-out downtempo, and funky world beats. The weekly shout-out to lovers of world music happens each Thursday night.
Picture a bunch of shivering folks willingly waiting in line during the middle of the night, exchanging friendly banter and warm coffee. Now, strip away the consumer-obsessed IKEA feel and the Cabela's "real American" quality and you've got the bookworm diehards awaiting the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association (VNSA) book sale, held annually during the second weekend of February. The largest book sale west of the Mississippi features a 50,000-square-foot nerd oasis filled with more than 600,000 books, including $2 hardcovers and $1 paperbacks, as well as videos, CDs, audio tapes, records, maps, and puzzles. The warehouse is broken up into sections ranging from classics and cookbooks to history/war/politics and foreign language reads. The rare and unusual section where we've found a first printing of Tolstoy's War and Peace for $10, an out-of-print history of ASU from 1960, and bizarre literature such as 1920s white supremacy propaganda is definitely our favorite. Shopping carts are provided, but they go fast (usually in about 10 minutes), so it's a good idea to bring your own bags. If you don't want to brave the Saturday chaos, come back on Sunday, when most books are half-price. There is a fairground-parking fee, but admission to the sale is free, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofit human service agencies.
We know that Bob Marley preached a world filled with one love through spiritually uniting music, but sometimes other soul music pioneers like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and D'Angelo are seriously slept on. That's why Karlie Hustle, a mover-and-shaker in the soul and hip-hop scenes, created the Groove Candy Night weekly lounge night. The Power 98.3 DJ represents dusty grooves while keeping microphone yammering to a minimum. The backbone of the series is most definitely the DJs, including resident emcee DJ M2, who spins classics mixed with neo-soul, reggae, and hip-hop, from The Roots and Common to Erykah Badu and Goapele. Wrap your fingers around a cocktail, feel the love, and unwind to some groove therapy each Wednesday night.
The granddaddy of microcinema, No Festival Required, has brought underground films sans the censorship of distribution, festival rules, or economics to Modified Arts during each first Sunday evening for the past three years, and counting. The films run the artsy gamut of comedy, drama, documentary, and experimental works, whether it's during February's annual Arizona Statehood Show that showcases local filmmakers, the sublime Lunafest featuring all women directors, or the scathing rap short film of the U.S. administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina in "George Bush Don't Like Black People." The motion picture series is also featured during select Sunday afternoons at the Phoenix Art Museum. You won't have to navigate the commercial megaplex to enjoy a No Fes flick.
What happens when a human resources manager, a fitness director and an accountant read a lot? Lit chicks! Kim Novotny, the HR gal, gathered a couple of friends together a while back and created a Web site devoted to reviewing good books. Novotny lives in Anthem, but she and the other literate chicks dream of someday traveling to Chicago to tell Oprah all about their site! Whether that happens or not, we're just happy to read their smart, succinct, honest reviews with Top 10 lists including authors we, too, love, like John Irving, David Sedaris, and Harper Lee. We see they've got Martha Beck on there, too. A wise move, considering she, too, is from the Valley and writes for O Magazine. Maybe we'll see the lit chicks on TV yet.
Bobby C's Lounge & Grille
This swank soul food eatery and cocktail bar, with its African-themed paintings, sexy lighting, and heavy alcoholic pours, sets the ideal atmosphere for local musicians to jam out groove-oriented standards and originals in the cozy and crowded lounge. The music is geared toward straight-ahead aficionados and provides a great introduction to jazz newcomers. Players known to sit in include the infectious organist "Papa" John DeFrancesco (father of esteemed Hammond B-3 organist Joey), the fireballing percussionist Dowell Davis, and funky bass guitarist Mike Howard. If the high-energy sonic chops whet your appetite, sink your teeth into the catfish dinner entree, a honking fillet served with your choice of two sides such as collard greens, candied yams, and dirty rice. The restaurant also features a Sunday jazz brunch from noon to 2:30 p.m. and more beats until 4 p.m. before the free lounge jam burns down the house from 7 to 11 p.m.

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