Some people get ready for an earthquake or a tornado by stocking up on the essentials for survival extra food, batteries, and plenty of water. Serious death-metalers, on the other hand, spend their time preparing for Judgment Day by stocking up on the essentials of hardcore metal that rare Dying Fetus Purification Through Violence picture disc, the latest Cock and Ball Torture album, and plenty of cheap beer. You're not going to find this kind of hardcore metal by popping your brooding head into Tower Records, which is why Metal Devastation is the hardcore headquarters for all things apocalyptic, devilish and nasty. The self-proclaimed "most Satanic brutal store," Metal Devastation also has plenty of goodies like the latest issues of underground mags like Terrorizer and an extreme DVD selection that includes all four Traces of Death (think Faces of Death on crack) and all three Shocking Menus. Yummy. The beer you'll have to get someplace else.
Stinkweeds
If you're looking for the latest Britney Spears or Kelly Clarkson tracks, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you need indie ska, punk, reggae or anything alternative, Stinkweeds is the place to go. Owner Kimber Lanning personally trains the staff, and the turnover rate is low, so you can bet that the folks behind the counter will have the answers you need. Like The Clash? Employees recommend former front man Joe Strummer's latest disc. Looking for a rare Rolling Stones album? The cashier thumbs past a Stones placard in the large vinyl section, which features new releases and an ample selection of used originals. The store's focus is on vintage and catalogue-only music, but Lanning is also on top of the hottest fledgling bands plying CDs like Beirut's debut album Gulag Orkestar before the group hits big. Unfortunately, the Tempe Stinkweeds closed earlier this year so Lanning could devote more time to the independent business booster Arizona Chain Reaction, one of her other passions, but the Phoenix hub is still rockin' strong.
Zia Record Exchange
How much would you pay for that last Sheryl Crow CD you need to make your collection complete? $12? $15? How about $4.99? That's what we paid for one of her older discs on a recent trip to Tempe's Zia Record Exchange, the music mecca for starving artists and broke college students. The store carries thousands of used titles, from death metal to country, plus the hot new albums in each category. Fat Joe? Got it. Nine Inch Nails? Check. Vanilla Ice? Sadly (and not unexpectedly), there's a whole row of that one. Not only are the prices super cheap, but you don't even need money to make a purchase. Just bring a few CDs for trade (come on, we know you have some Weezer lying around gathering dust) and you can get store credit toward that killer Snow Patrol disc you've been dying for.
Eastside Records
DJ-friendly wax copy of the hip-hop Gorillaz check. Obscure Albert Ayler ESP 180-gram free jazz reissue check. Nigel Peppercock punk rock gatefold check. This is what a typical visit to Tempe's version of High Fidelity will look like for vinyl junkies and newbies alike. Since 1986, Eastside has carried aisles of dusty crates filled with new and used vinyl galore and a no-nonsense attitude to boot; just try to come up with a musician whose discography these audiophiles can't break down in the time it takes to flip over a record (you'll take home a complimentary dust bunny with your purchase, either way). The store's inventory bridges the analog/digital divide with a healthy supply of major and small-label CD releases while shelves of underground lit, band tees, a smattering of discounted turntables, and kooky action figures round out the merchandise like a sweet 33 1/3 rotation.
Nobody in the Valley can repair and rehab guitars and amps better, faster or with more character than Richard Beck. Beck has 25 years of experience in the guitar-repair game, and is known to musicians throughout the Valley as the only choice in skillful, high-quality guitar repair. The exclusive repair shop for artists such as Glen Campbell and members of the Meat Puppets, Beck's is everything one could ask for in the realm of guitar and amp repair. Throw in the engaging and penetrating personality of Richard Beck, and you'll know why Beck's Guitar Specialty Services is the absolute best guitar repair in the PHX.
It seems like people are content to buy their musical instruments with their groceries and electronics these days. With mega-stores now selling cheapie beginner packages for the Valley's dilettante musicians, indiscriminate shoppers spend their hard-earned cash for inferior product without thinking about warranties or a guarantee of service. For the rest of us who think it's important that the people selling the instruments actually know what they're talking about (or at the very least know the difference between a tenor and an alto sax), there's Metro Music Center, the longest-standing single location instrument store in Glendale. Metro services a diverse clientele everyone from the guitar-slinging emo kids to accordion-happy mariachis. A plus Metro Music features a staff of talented instructors who offer private lessons on every instrument from oboe and violin to guitar and piano let's see Costco try giving flute lessons!
Looking to take a pretty little filly back to the farm? Then gallop down to Gilbert's safe haven for neglected horses and feral cats. Founded in 1995 by animal activist Kimberly Meagher, whose board of directors includes ex-Monkees dreamboat Davy Jones, the ranch works year-round to prevent horse slaughter by saving hundreds of animals from neglect and premature death. If you don't have the space for a horse, but still want to help a frisky four-legged creature, consider making a donation to sponsor the ranch's Kitty City colony, where spayed and neutered feral cats live out their lives in safety. (Occasionally, a Kitty Citizen becomes rehabilitated enough to go home with a loving family.) Purchase horse- and feline-themed art at the Mudpony Art Gallerie, where 20 percent of the gallery's proceeds are donated to help the ranch. Horse sponsorship and the "bale a horse out" feeding program are also available to animal-loving urbanites.
Arizona Humane Society
If you've got a fervor for felines or want to get into some heavy petting, peep the plethora of pussycats available at either of the Arizona Humane Society's two Valley shelters and help satisfy your particular cat fancy. For anywhere from $35 to $75 (based on the kitty's age and the length of time it's stayed at the facility), you'll get your paws on a Felis catus that's been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and tested for feline leukemia. The pussy package also includes a free collar, ID tag, and follow-up examination, and is a better deal than you'd get from any of Maricopa County's animal shelters. The nonprofit organization even has a better selection to boot, offering up hundreds of kitties for adoption each week, with breeds ranging from plain old tabbies and tortoiseshells to exotics like Persian and Himalayan. Basically, the Arizona Humane Society is the cat's meow.
It's Friday evening and you've got a paycheck burning a hole in your pocket. Since you wanna hit some bars tonight, you're gonna need some cash in a flash, pal. Too bad all the banks closed hours ago, leaving the option of either sitting at home watching South Park reruns, or hitting up one of the countless check-cashing stores dotting nearly every street corner. Instead of dealing with sky-high fees and long lines with these neon-lighted moneychangers, head for the neighborhood store run by Todd and Bassam Radai. There's a greenback shack inside the shop where the brothers will gladly turn your check, be it personal, payroll, or tax-related, into a stack of simoleons for a 1 percent fee. The pair will even let you cash your weekly wage slip as late as 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. If you become a regular and your check's less than a C-note, they might even pay you out of their own wallets. Now that's service.
Okay, it's in Snottsdale (as compared with Allwhitetookee), but for those of us who like a good bookstore (Barnes & Noble, in this case), a good restaurant or two (Zinc, and North, among others), plenty of comfortable places to sit outside, and absolutely fabulous people-watching, this is a cool spot. The centerpiece of this 38-acre development is a quasi-Main Street and a beautifully landscaped Central Plaza, the latter of which features a fountain that sporadically spews thin jets of water from several spouts. The little kids love Kierland, and so do the parents, who sit blissfully beneath the large gazebo and gab by the hour with their lattes. And that ice cream joint adjacent to the plaza (Cold Stone Creamery) just may have nailed itself the best location in town.

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