BEST HUMAN JUKEBOX 2007 | DJ HFE at Bikini Lounge | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Benjamin Leatherman
This fast-paced world of today? We are not entirely down with it. Take last year, when Bikini's jukebox was replaced by some digitized interwebby thing mere days before its (perhaps no longer deserved) Best Jukebox award went to press. But this artsy-skeevy-tiki bar is a delicate ecosystem. Knowing this, its proprietors maintain some balance by designating a surly, savvy Homo sapiens to finesse the weekend's sounds (at an event called Sophisticated Boom Boom — though if you're really sophisticated, you'll remember when it was called Scratchy Rekkid Night). DJ HFE (Hooray For Everything, a.k.a. Shane Kennedy) makes moment-by-moment selections from a rangy, quirky play list just about every Thursday (when people tend to sit, drink, and mumble), and most Fridays and Saturdays (when it can get a little dancy and/or crowded up in there). HFE considers requests — you can even bring your own — but his mood is law. You'll learn a little more about music and your community. Or you'll just have fun.
Brigett's Last Laugh isn't much different from any other neighborhood bar in the Valley, except it's the reigning karaoke capital. Seven nights a week, DarkHorse Productions lets customers croon favorite tunes by everybody from Alanis Morissette to Judas Priest, and almost everybody gets in on the action. Brigett, the owner, can often be seen dancing along to the music or singing her version of Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" while regulars rush to sign up for their favorite songs. Some of the singers are actually pretty good (one regular does a rendition of Tommy James' "Mony Mony" that always brings down the house), while others are clearly there to see how badly they can butcher a song for comic effect. The karaoke carries on from 8 p.m. until close on some nights, but there's plenty for patrons to do if they won't brave the mic — the bar's got a full kitchen that serves up greasy grub, there are two pool tables, and a lot full of high-end Harley-Davidsons outside.
Lauren Cusimano
Time Out may look like just another strip mall dive bar, but make no mistake: The pool tables are the main attraction. Well, the pool tables and the incredibly strong, incredibly cheap drinks. Banners from pool tourneys past line the wall, and the bar hosts amateur tournaments on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Most people who play are very good, so if you're an amateur (read: if you suck) you may want to steer clear of the billiards, at least during the bar's peak hours. There's plenty — darts, pinball, jukebox, random neighborhood weirdoes — to keep you entertained while you wait for a table, but pool is the main focus here. The crowd is laid-back (unless you're blocking a shot) — mostly skateboarders, blue-collar types, and Tempe locals. Plus, the bar staff is friendly and heavy-handed. On Sunday night, one of the place's most popular evenings, pool is free. So, if you're a serious shark, get there early or prepare to spend some time waiting for an open spot.
Benjamin Leatherman
We once invited an English gal pal to the G&D. She took one look and went all wiggy on us. Mumbled something about Liverpool, started gulping down Guinness, and passed out in the loo. We took this as a sign that she liked the place, which turned out to be true. Moral of the story: If you can get a Brit to throw up in your toilet, you're doing something right. This venerable pub and restaurant can't seem to do anything wrong, from the Union Jack it flies from the roof to the last yummy bite of the 100 percent authentic shepherd's pie. G&D also stocks lots of hard-to-find suds and is one of the few places in town where fans of real football can get their fill. And with its back room full of pool tables and dart games, it makes for an abso-bloody-lutely great place to just arse about.
This Tempe joint has the ultimate credential for an Irish bar: It knows how to pour the perfect Guinness. Ice cold, with a delightful head of froth, it's got us ready to belt out, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" — and, thank God, the good-looking crowd of college kids and professionals mingling on the patio is usually happy to join in.
With a maximum capacity of 2,600, Celebrity Theatre may not be the biggest concert venue in the Valley, but therein lies the charm. No seat is farther than 75 feet from the stage, making this venue the only one in Phoenix where the phrase "not a bad seat in the house" really holds true. Because of the enclosed space and the circular seating around the stage, the acoustics are excellent — which may be one reason the venue still draws national acts like Heart, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and Bow Wow, despite bigger venues in town with more advertising muscle. And Celebrity Theatre's unique setup (like the revolving stage) often provides concertgoers with a more personalized experience, as some performers are always compelled to comment on the setup from the stage. Return performer Lucinda Williams has remarked about the "weird" half-round setup that always has her directly facing the stage exit the past three times she's played the venue. Or Cyndi Lauper, who found herself performing on the stage in 2003 while it was rotating and proclaimed, "Stop the stage! I feel like I'm gonna throw up."
In addition to being one of the few all-ages rock clubs in town, The Clubhouse has the distinction of hosting some of the hottest bands in the PHX on a regular basis — Authority Zero, Casket Life, Greeley Estates, The Format, The Heartless, and The Earps have all played that stage, many as opening acts for national performers. And the venue seems to have a knack for booking national acts that are about to blow up into the year's biggest buzz bands — artists like Sage Francis, Isis, Matisyahu, and Menomena. The CMV doesn't shy away from the unknown, either, as it's played host to numerous Battles of the Bands, from the Zippo Hot Tour competition to the 101.5 Free FM showcase to the Emergenza local showcase competition, where Valley rockers like Cold Fusion, e(v)olocity, and Storm Within have gone for the glory. The acoustics in the place are great, and yes, there is a bar for those 21 and older. The only drawback is that you can't take your al-kee-hall past the bar, and the entire area in front of the stage is a no-booze zone.
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.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of