Phoenix's independent source of
local news and culture
The rarity of live-music shows taking place in Valley homes isn't so much about a lack of interest as it is a by-product of our desert ecology. You see, the impenetrable Sonoran Desert prevents many dwellings from boasting a basement, so noise from amplified bands tends to leak into neighbors' bedrooms and, we imagine, peeve the neighborhood. That's why The Tribe House is so special: There's a friggin' basement, which showcases a wide range of hip-hop, singer-songwriters, noise ensembles, and local grindcore. Though the home's forever-rotating core of residents books some talented groups, they aren't too on-the-ball with publicizing the last-minute, donation-based concerts, so check area coffee shops for fliers or MySpace/Facebook for event postings.
It's been 13 years since Senbad (a.k.a. Sean Badger) first burst upon the Phoenix DJ scene, and a lot has transpired in that time: Nights have come and gone, killer clubs like Freedom in Tempe and Next in Scottsdale were born only to (sadly) die, and the musical tastes of ever-fickle crowds have constantly changed. (Remember big beat, anyone? How about electroclash?) Meanwhile, this 30-something "house music souldier" has remained a constant, slinging out the sounds alongside longtime partner Pete "Supermix" Salaz at venues across the Valley. Their long-running shindig Solstice, which also features hip-hop mavens Benjamin Cutswell and Element, is in its third year at Bar Smith, and their ample patronage shows no signs of abating. Keep battling on, Badger.
In 2007, Jimmy Martin-Nelson was toiling away as Kid Vicious behind the turntables at Scottsdale spots like Dirty Pretty and Pussycat — just another DJ working the monotonous club scene grind. Spin that Kanye remix, pimp that bottle service deal. Rinse, lather, repeat. Fast-forward to today: The 20-something is now known as Death to the Throne and is arguably a bigger name than his electrojock brethren Jared Alan and Epidemic, as he's been endlessly lauded, from Brazil to Belgium, on the blogosphere. How did he go from DJ drone to superstar spinster? When he wasn't at his regular job dealing with danceterias in Old Town Scottsdale, Martin-Nelson was at home crafting his wicked-sounding bootleg electro and disco-punk remixes of M.I.A. and Kings of Leon songs and dispatching them to tastemaking EDM sites on the Intarwebz. Online audiophiles began taking notice, as did the Web sites for Vibe Magazine and Rolling Stone, the latter of which summed up what he does as taking "a bunch of your favorite songs, and makes them better." Word.
The stylish Homme Lounge sets itself apart from other Valley gay bars by hosting an array of events for all kinds of people. In addition to the stereotypical house and electro dance nights with rippled, shirtless men, the club's also home to the monthly goth/industrial Sadisco* events, a weekly hip-hop night called "So Paid" on Thursdays, and the metrosexual hipster weekly "Party Foul!" on Fridays. Celebrated local DJs such as Kevin M.O.B., Tricky T, and Craig Citizen spin hot tunes while patrons enjoy cold drinks, and the scene is so diverse that newbies often wander in and party into the wee hours before even realizing they're in a "gay" bar. Gotcha! Go ahead and get down. Really. It's okay. Nobody's watching but that hungry-looking bear.
We're not saying all lesbians are lushes, but good drink specials can go a long way in attracting hordes of hot gay women. zGirl Club's got specials almost every night of the week, including two-for-one well and domestic bottles on Tuesdays and $2.50 pitchers on Thursdays. And despite its modest dance floor, the club always manages to get booties moving, with a little help from the turntable stylings of veteran DJ Domenica, who spins everything from hip-hop to electro-dance mash-ups. There's also karaoke on Thursdays and the occasional speed-dating event. The drink specials are good for those, too.
A humble confession: When we discovered this place, we rushed back to the office to see what we had written about it. Nothing in the archives. Well, friends, The Roadrunner Lounge shall not be ignored ever again, because it's soooo good. This rundown piece of you-know-what on Hayden Road north of Osborn Road is just steps away from Carlsbad Tavern, next to a curious Dutch-Chinese market, and across the street from a (for real) Starbucks. Things are definitely disconcerting from the outside — it seems as though the windowless joint is a mob front — but enter the decently lit spot in order to throw some darts, shoot billiards, and drink down a cheapo cocktail that's never shy on liquor. If enough word is to get out, the Roadrunner could very well be the next spot where south Scottsdale hipsters flock, though we prefer it to be our own greedy little secret.
The name of the game here is chillaxing, which patrons seem to do in spades. Although this Scottsdale nightspot sits only a few blocks from the Scottsdale club hubbub of places like Axis/Radius and Pussycat Lounge, it feels like the usual crowd of d-bags and trouts is miles and miles away. The Crown Room is almost atypical of Old Town in that the staff and doorman don't seem to care whether you're not wearing Christian Audigier. They'll serve you just the same. There's a DJ, of course, but the mixes tend to be more downtempo. The drinks? Kinda pricey, but at least you don't have to fight your way through bodies stacked 10 deep around the bar to get them.
Of all its many amenities (30-foot-long martini bar, handcrafted artisan cocktails, posh Mid-Century Modern furnishings), the main benefit of spending an evening at this lobbyside salon at the W is the nonstop cast of characters who parade by you. There's the ditzy chickadee with the fake-bake tan who's had a little too much to drink and can't seem to navigate walking down the stairs from the second-floor pool area in stilettos. Following her is the herd of spiky-haired, collar-popping bro-zillas who are running game on every piece of trim in sight. And we swear we saw DJ Jazzy Jeff (of Fresh Prince fame) checking in. We kid you not. But if being a looky-loo loses its flavor, the den-like lounge is stocked with a library of art and travel books.
Don't make the mistake of hightailing it home after dinner at Lon's, a longtime favorite restaurant of ours. Instead, saunter onto one of the patios around the old joint and curl up (alone or with a loved one) on a comfortable chair or couch. Now, experience one of Arizona's warmest, coziest, and most romantic settings. Perhaps (on certain nights) a friendly, acoustic guitar-playing minstrel will serenade you. For sure, you'll soon be mesmerized by the smells of the desert, the crackling of dry mesquite in the fireplaces. We know we don't have to tell you not to forget a nice after-dinner drink. By the time you actually do step into your car, you may feel as if you've been on a mini-vacation — right here in town. Every night at Lon's is a special event.