While it's moved away from its mostly reggaeton format in the past year, Latino Vibe still airs NYC DJ Kazzanova's reggaeton mix in a prime Saturday spot (8 to 10 p.m.), and its own on-air talent — like the lovely Jackie Morales on weekdays and Raul RocDaHouse on weekends — still sometimes spin songs by the genre's breakout stars like Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderon, Pitbull, and Don Omar. "Club 95" has just been including more palatable pop and Top 40 hip-hop in its play lists lately — Nelly Furtado, Shakira, Eminem — and that's not a bad thing, even when we get to a Ricky Martin and Fat Joe collaboration. Because this is a station that's got spicy personality and isn't afraid to play the new Akon song right before some Kumbia All-Stars. They go with what works, but they also try new things —like DJ Ruben S. hosting Latin Ladies Night at Scorch Bar every Thursday, or posting an online community calendar directing listeners to stuff like Spanish tours of the Pueblo Grande Museum and the International Hispanic Games. At 95.1, the Vibe is bilingual and bicultural, but most importantly, it's fun and frisky.
They have big brown muscles, big brown mouths and big brown boobs. But most importantly, they have big brains and huge hearts. The hot, hipster crew from "El Break" is the best shot in the arm of political activism for the local Latino community since Chicanos por la Causa. This is a modern day crop of activistas who have their own rough-around-the edges/cutting-edge AM radio show on Sundays at La Buena Onda 1190. Luis Avila, Nuvia Enriquez, Laura Suarez, Obed Hurtado and others aren't afraid to launch a hunger strike to support the DREAM Act one week, and then throw a blow-out rock en español bash the next, with free-flowing spiked horchata. You can catch their show on Sundays. "El Break" is mainly in Spanish, but even if you are español-challenged, you'll get the vibe and drift from this smart, smart band of radio bandidos.
Albert Lineses III, better known as DJ AL3, has been dedicated to building a better Latin nightclub community since he began spinning mixes around the Valley in the early '90s. With the establishment of Ritmo Latino Entertainment in 2005, AL3 created an enterprise "for Latinos, by Latinos," which has grown to include the hottest weekend Latin dance nights in town. There's Caliente Chica (Fridays) at El Matador and Ritmo Saturdays at Coach & Willie's (both hosted by AL3). The latter night touts itself as a Rocky Point-style party, and with around 800 hot chicas and macho men packing the place, it's hard to argue against that. There's also Climax Sundays at Baby Dolls, where DJ Ruhkas takes over the boards while beautiful babes shake their buns. And while the Ritmo Latino DJs (including AL3) lay the Latin music on heavy, they don't stick to just one style; they're as likely to drop some old school Madonna or a new Sean Paul track as they are Gloria Estefan and reggaeton. But one of the coolest aspects of RLE is its Web site, which offers a slew of downloadable mixes in genres from hip-hop to R&B to house and, of course, Latin.

BEST LOCAL HOPE FOR A RONSTADT RETURN

Marisa Ronstadt

Her cousin Linda ain't got nothing on her. Marisa Ronstadt is making a name for herself in the music world. After spending years touring locally in Phoenix with different groups including Los Amigos, Pazport, and Straight Up, Ronstadt is starting to get recognized in La-La Land. The South Mountain High graduate grew up rooted by the rock and mariachi sounds of the music in her famous family, while being influenced by '80s pop, old school, and R&B.

She can sing it all. And she's really purty, too. The wildly popular band Quetzal took notice of this homegirl's big pipes and hooked her up with the group Monte Carlo 76, where Ronstadt now sings lead. Monte Carlo 76 will release their new album, Marisela, early next year and then, Ronstadt says, they'll hit the road for a tour.

And we might as well start the rumor mill early. The chisme from Marisa is that the Ronstadt family, led by Linda, could/maybe/might begin work on a project together soon and very soon. We just hope Marisa and the fam call it Brown Bayou. Or Canciones de mi Food City.

Garcia's Las Avenidas
Timur Guseynov
Mariachis at a Mexican food restaurant? Typical, right? The crooners at Garcia's Las Avenidas are anything but. Walk into this old-school Mexican restaurant on a Saturday night and you will hear the bittersweet harmonies of a live mariachi band wafting through the building. Starting at 6 p.m., the band makes the rounds, serenading tables that make requests. The family-owned restaurant serves some of the best Mexican food in town with a friendly, casual atmosphere. Pick your favorite dish — no matter what it is, you'll be satisfied — and enjoy the sweet sounds. Just like the food, the band is always amazing. Their perfectly tuned violins, guitars, viheula, and guitarrón pair with the beautifully harmonized voices to belt romantic Spanish lyrics of love and loss. Despite our best efforts to keep cool, we've definitely felt our skin prickle with chills on a number of occasions. And while it's possible to enjoy them from afar, it's definitely worth it to flag them to your table. They don't just churn and burn the tunes, it's an up-close, impassioned serenade. The repertoire is vast and we've never seen a request turned down. Whether it's the classic heartbreaker "El Son de la Negra" or the gringo favorite "La Bamba," there's no need to worry about repetition — we've never heard the same song twice. With the killer mariachi music, authentic food, stellar service and cozy atmosphere, you'll be ay-ay-aying before you know it.
To paraphrase the moniker of the great James Brown, Andy Herrera (a.k.a. Big Latin) is the hardest-working DJ in the Valley's Latin music scene. When he isn't busy handling promotions for locally owned label Nastyboy Records or bringing big name acts like DJ Kane to town, the stout spinster has spent the past five years working the wheels of steel at dope danceterias all around the PHX. Every Thursday, you can find Herrera over at Henry Jack's Place in Avondale dropping hip-hop and reggaeton, while on Fridays, he's working the turntables at Macayo's on Central, spinning Latin and hip-hop. To top it off, the Hispanic mixmaster serves up plenty of merengue, bachata, and reggaeton at Fuego Bar & Grill in Tolleson. Don't believe our hype? Peep Big Latin's MySpace page for proof of his work ethic, as well as pics of him posing with Def Jam impresario Russell Simmons and even Governor Janet Napolitano (we hear the guv's a big reggaeton fan).
Henry Jack's Place
Daddy Yankee gets some serious play on Friday nights at Henry Jack's Place, as does Don Omar, Pitbull, N.O.R.E., and Hector El Father. No, playa-hater, we ain't firing off a list of Latin Lotharios who've been hooking up at this Avondale nightspot. It's a rockin' rundown of the superstar reggaeton artists whose hits are getting spun on the turntables of resident DJ 2Swift. While the weekly dance fiesta usually starts off with the spinster warming up a throng of twentysomething barrio boys and babes with a combination of cumbias and old-school hip-hop, it only whets their appetites for a main course of reggaeton, as 2Swift slings up two straight hours of the popular Puerto Rican-born hybrid of reggae and dancehall with Latin hip-hop, from midnight until the joint closes. Occasionally, he's joined on the decks by fellow reggaeton mixmasters Luis Boy and DJ Ray, who help work the packed crowd into a frenetic fervor as they shake their moneymakers to jams like Ivy Queen's "Libertad" until last call.
Though the dilapidated exterior of Paco Paco makes it look as if it's fit for demolition, inside is a fiery Latin disco-dive that lures in P-Town peeps from across the GLBT spectrum every Friday because of its hot beats, stiff drinks, and unpretentious atmosphere. Bare-chested boys, luscious lesbians, transgender types, and other members of the swishy set reign supreme on a dance floor drenched in multicolored lights while DJ spins circuit music, as well as high-energy Latin house, electro, trance, cumbias, and other dance hits en español. Drag artist Sandra performs her fabbo lip-synched renditions of pop hits, and both ladies and trannies can get in free before 11 p.m. So don't bother waiting in line to get into that other gay Latin joint, when you can always work the scene at Paco Paco.
Club Zarape
Don't try ordering an apple-tini here. It's a gay bar, but not that kind. No fancy drinks, electronica or twinky go-go boys. At Club Zarape, the standard swill is a can of Tecate beer with a lime wedge and salt packet on top. The place, which looks like the piñata aisle at Food City with all the colored paper and Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, fills up on the weekends with norteño-style vaqueros who look like they are more ready to rope a steer than each other. But these men, and some leather-booted women, are here to dance the night away to salsa and rock en español and, of course, norteño, vaquero cowboy music. Big belt buckle to big belt buckle. Gaycowboycentral.com even lists the joint. Put on your boots and spurs and don't be surprised if you run into your tio or tata making the dance-floor rounds with a caballero named Miguel.
Cash Inn Country
It's not necessarily a cholo bar, but it may as well be with all the tank tops, spiky crew cuts and sagging-pantalones vaqueros at this joint. The Cash Inn is one of the best va-queer-o/a friendly bars in town. It's country, but to be cool, you don't have to be. While some girls who like girls can be spotted two-stepping in a little Saba's Western wear, others come dressed in their finest GAP or Buffalo Exchange haberdashery. The DJ spins a fun mix of Top 40, old school and country. The amazing thing is that the music is loud, but you can still carry on a conversation on and off the dance floor. No bar in the world has managed to accomplish that feat until now. The gals at the bar always make sure your designated driver gets extra cherries in his/her Diet Coke. And when all is said and done, if you aren't getting extra cherries at a fab lezzie hang-out . . . well, you know. But do Cash Inn on this one.

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