BEST C&W NIGHTSPOT 2007 | Arizona Joe's | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Located at a dusty intersection just off the Old West Highway (natch), Arizona Joe's is a rollicking roadhouse where you can do some serious hootin' and a-hollerin' any night of the week. Country is king here, as an array of cowboy hats is stapled above the bar and the walls are lined with plenty of Western art and NASCAR memorabilia. Local groups like The Desert Skies Band and The Jeff Stevens Band serve up some pickin' and grinnin' here nightly, providing plenty of good ol' boy music, drinking songs, and Willie Nelson covers for the delight of the cowboy junkies in attendance. Trailer-park rats, trucker hat-wearing country bumpkins, and tattooed Kid Rock types come from miles around to boot-scoot across the dance floor, suck down bottles of Budweiser and Coors, or puff on Marlboros. It makes us want to throw on our snakeskin boots and amble on down for a taste of country comfort. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
Rhythm Room owner Bob Corritore isn't about to relinquish his title as "Mr. Phoenix Blues" just yet. While his club has been booking more rock acts in the past few years, he still manages to host every hot blues show in town, from the legendary (Joe Louis Walker, Mem Shannon, Sonny Rhodes) to the new guard (Black Diamond Heavies, Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Candye Kane). And the Rhythm Room still plays host to more Valley bluesicians than any other venue, with acts like Big Pete Pearson, Paris James, Hans Olson, and Sistah Blue regularly rockin' the stage. But the Rhythm Room is more than just a blues club — it's a Phoenix institution, where famous blues guitarists mingle alongside the club's regulars and all-star jams can last until 2 a.m. Despite the absence of "Arizona's Ambassador to the Blues," Chico Chism, who died in January at age 79, the Rhythm Room's fire is still burning, and like the posters of past performers that adorn the walls, the vibe in the small club is one of remembrance and celebration, a slice of nostalgia straddling the modern world.


The Blooze

Situated in a strip mall on the northeast side, The Blooze may not look like much, but once you walk in and get a feel for the place, you appreciate the kicked-back atmosphere. On weekends, local blues and rockabilly bands like Jailhouse Poets, The Dynoglides, Maricopa County Prison Band, and Shadowcasters set up on the modest stage and rock the joint, while patrons enjoy $1.25 domestic drafts. Occasionally, an out-of-town band like Cali's Brian Jay & The Last Call Boys will play the club, too, and since The Blooze is so hot on cars (they broadcast every NASCAR race), they welcome car enthusiasts — vintage vehicle clubs like Glendale's The Invaders are frequent visitors.
The same scrubs behind the defunct Emerald Lounge are trying to make a go of it with their recent purchase of this downtown bar. It's a slippery game they're playing — trying to be all shadowy and underground and indie, without forcing it. Authenticity cannot be faked, but the Ruby Roomers must be doing something right because their club is starting to catch on with local bands and DJs. Every time we've been there, the place is riddled with local musicians, checking out their peers' work or showing their musician pals some support. With a crowd like that, we'll be keeping our eye on this spot for sure.
It takes more than a glitzy exterior for a venue to be fly. It's what's inside that counts. That's why the stunning Mesa Arts Center, arguably one of the most stylish arts spots in the Southwest, places a premium on programming happening events like Sound in the Ground. The bimonthly Thursday-evening series plugs the opening of exhibits in the Mesa Contemporary Arts galleries by bringing in local musical acts that represent the displayed shows. Because the art lives on the edgier side, the musicians — ranging from high-energy rock/funk group Attack of the Giant Squid to Terminal 11's electronica freak-out — are geared toward the experimental and improvisational. The larger ensembles perform outside on the spacious courtyard while eclectic DJs entertain folks queuing at the wine and beer cash bar inside. That old racket about Mesa shutting down after sunset just isn't true when SinG is in full effect, cuz the party goes off 'til midnight.
While Long Wong's may have gone to the great music scene in the sky after getting the bulldozer treatment a few years back, the spirit of the legendary Tempe rock 'n' roll bar lives on at Club Mardi Gras & VooDoo Lounge. Hang out at this raucous roadhouse in south Scottsdale and it'll feel like you've been transported back to the glory days of Mill Avenue, as many a local music scenester from the mid-'90s onward grabs some stage time here. Every Wednesday, brothers Brent and Kylie Babb unleash their brand of experimental pop-rock followed by a weekly gig by Dave Speed of Truckers on Speed. On Sundays, see The Zen Lunatics holding a weekly "Rockaraoke Night," in which they perform live-band karaoke. Steve Larson and Dead Hot Workshop have frequented the place, as have former Long Wong's favorites The Sand Rubies, and Greyhound Soul. Now if only Roger Clyne would reform The Refreshments and stop by for a couple renditions of "Banditos," we could die happy.


Trunk Space

Your newest band just spent the past few weeks in mom and dad's garage rehearsing like crazy — and making the folks equally so — and now a location is needed to unleash your indie efforts upon the world (and we don't mean a street corner during First Fridays). Unfortunately, until you've got more of a refined sound and serious following, the Marquee is out of the question (or Modified Arts for that matter), so we recommend ringing up the Trunk Space, where owners JRC and Stephanie Carrico have something of a yen for embryonic musical outfits such as yours.

In the past year alone, the Grand Avenue art gallery and performance venue has given up debut gigs for some of the newest bands the Valley music scene has birthed, such as folk-pop guitar and cello duo Jon Gake, shoe-gazing rockers A Technicolor Yawn, the experimental sounds of Glochids, the acoustic pop quartet Foot Ox, and the psychedelic roots band Iji. Who knows, Steph and JRC may even let you hawk your band's homemade CD-Rs at their joint. Just be sure to give a cut to your parents to cover their migraine meds.

Dubbing itself "Arizona's Underground Hip-Hop Movement," Southwest RapStock is the brainchild of Sassy, a west-side promoter and vice president of local label Topp Notch Records. The monthly RapStock event is the culmination of Topp Notch's weekly "Hip-Hop Thursdays" event at J-heads, which packs dozens of Valley MCs onto the stage in a single night (always the first Thursday of the month). Each rapper performs about two songs, hoping to impress the crowd and potential talent scouts who may have dropped in unannounced. Local artists like Influence, Fetti Profoun, Big Yo, Loc Dawg, BobKatt, Thee Originals, The Hood Cartel, Candilicious, Golden, and J-Slugg have all honed their skills at RapStock, and the event just keeps getting bigger. Promoters are currently booking acts for the 12th RapStock show, and competition is getting fiercer, as the event has drawn the attention of Cali acts like G-Bundle and JT the Bigga Figga.
DJ Al Page is P-town's impresario of hip-hop. Since starting The Shop back in 2001 because no one was playing the true hip-hop he wanted to hear, the funky pool hall — the Hidden House, at Seventh Avenue and Osborn Road — where it all goes down has become the place for outstanding underground and above-ground DJs to flex their skills on the wheels of steel, and for old- and new-school heads to appreciate same. Friday nights are for Page's Friday Night Live spectaculars, featuring any number of MCs and DJs doing their thing. On Saturdays, resident she-jays Robyn and KGB rock the house, keeping it funky, fresh and as ill as an AZ rattlesnake. Also, you never know when Page himself will step to the decks and start mixing classics from a pre-nose-job Michael Jackson or Marvin Gaye with joints from Blackalicious or The Roots. Without Page, the PHX would largely be left with top-40 hip-hop nights sans soul or authenticity. We just hope the playa doesn't get a hair up his ass and move to Denver, San Diego, or some such shit. As long as he keeps spinnin', we'll keep attendin', drink in hand.
It's a fact of life in our overworked, career-driven climate that Mondays are usually not fun days. If the days of the week had to go to high school, Monday would be the socially inept kid with headgear and zits. But here in Phoenix, there's a killer little club that has given that day a new lease on life. At Bruno Mali's (the club right next door to the Hidden House), they party it up with "A Foreign Affair," a weekly Monday DJ night. Turns out, there are plenty of downtown kids who are singing a tune other than "I Don't Like Mondays," because the place is usually packed with attractive twentysomethings, ready to get down and dirty. This dark hole in the wall is decked out from floor to ceiling with paintings by local artists. If that's your thing, you'll surely dig Monday nights because among the spinning beats and dancing, there's usually an artist on hand, painting or drawing live.

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