Rusty Spur Saloon
Rusty Spur Saloon
Glitz is what Scottsdale does best, so we'd understand if you were a little skeptical of anything cowboy-style in Old Town. The Rusty Spur quickly puts to rest any fears you might have about authenticity. For starters, if Rusty Spur were the nightclub equivalent of a dude ranch, it'd probably start by expanding to have enough space to actually accommodate the huge weekend crowds, which sometimes squeeze in shoulder to shoulder and buckle to buckle. Nope. For better or worse, the tiny storefront that used to house a bank (the vault is still there, as we understand it) is all they've got. "Scottsdale's Last Real Cowboy Bar" has been open as a cafe since 1951 and got a liquor license in 1958. It's advertised as the oldest saloon in Scottsdale (Coach House, opened in 1959, makes a similar claim), and it's a place you can still hear stories of when cowboys offered their horses beer and reserved the liquor for themselves — just like the Willie Nelson song says. The bar still has live music seven nights a week including four weekly sets by the stellar Psychobilly Rodeo Band.
Buffalo Chip Saloon
Lauren Cusimano
Yep, that's a live bull. And, yep, that cowboy is about to ride him. Every Wednesday and Friday, that cowboy has eight seconds, but you have as long as you like to check out the house band, take a free dance lesson, or chomp on catfish and fries (but don't forget the $10 all-you-can-eat BBQ). More than 50 years ago, the Buffalo Chip was just was a feed-and-bait shop on the way to Horseshoe and Bartlett lakes. Today, the 6,000-square-foot saloon sits on five acres. The amateurs are in the bullpen on Wednesdays and the pros hit the saddle on Fridays. There's never a shortage of true cowboys and cowgirls around — and there's enough dust kicked up in the place that you might be able to get away with a few things.
Rogue West is a rockabilly fan's wet dream come true. The sleazy yet stylish West Valley punk dive has everything y'all could want in a bar, including $1 cans of cheapo beer, Sailor Jerry and skateboard artwork decorating the place, Bettie Page look-alikes as regulars, and free pool on two tables. Oh, and local rockabilly and psychobilly bands — including such scene veterans as Anthony Vincent and the Rhythm Dragons, Buried in Red, The Limit Club, and Koffin Kats — also perform every weekend, busting out with some upright bass and maybe even a few sneers. German act The Booze Bombs stop by once every few years, as well. And though he's more of a roots artist than a 'billy boy, Windy City singer-songwriter Jake La Botz is an occasional guest. So what are you waiting for, daddy-o? Hop in your hot rod and head on down.
Sail Inn
When a new Long Wong's and the old Sail Inn reopened within months of each other in Tempe, it was the more famous wing-serving club that got all the ink. But thus far, it's Sail Inn that has had a real impact on the city's live music scene. The redecorated and revitalized club books great acts, but it's the building itself that really excites us. Situated in a perfect spot just a few blocks off Mill — close enough for pre-gaming or post-show drinks but far enough to make parking relatively easy — it's a large and nicely appointed club with a mix of indoor and outdoor seating and two stages. The larger outdoor area is especially great and fills an important niche as an outdoor club for shows not quite big enough for the nearby Marquee but too large for other area clubs.­­­­
UB's Restaurant & Bar
At first blush, Russ Winn doesn't seem like the kinda person you'd expect to find running a metal venue. He's in his late 70s, is a former military man, and an easy-listening lover, to boot. Sit a spell with the septuagenarian, however, and you'll gain insight into how UB's owner is more than suited for the job: Winn's open-minded, possessing the patience of Job, a substantial sense of humor, and an eagerness to meet new people (even if said individuals look like rejects from a Kerrang! cover shoot). Best of all, he's tone-deaf. Two decades of Air Force service might've cost Russ some hearing, but it also equipped him to endure the sludgy sonic booms supplied by the bombastic bands booked at his Mesa bar and grill. Thanks to Tony Toledo and his militaristic-sounding promotions company, Mosh Pit Army, UB's has become a hot spot for heavy metal, hard rock, and even darker acts, both local and national. Names like Mushroomhead, Testament, Powerman 5000, and Goatwhore have played the place, and there's no sign of the metal mayhem ceasing anytime soon. Not that Russ is a fan of any of these heavy hitters, particularly practitioners of Cookie Monster-style vocals. "I don't get much outta the music because I like songs where you can hear the lyrics," he says. "It sounds like they're just clearing their throats."
For a while, we were torn up when the weekly Yacht Rock music series (which featured DJs spinning the smooth sounds of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers) permanently set sail. But then we discovered Bad Sneakers, a Steely Dan and Tower of Power cover band that, in a way, trumps those Yacht Rock days. The group, which tops out at 12 members when they're playing ToP tunes, features a funky five-piece horn section, three vocalists, guitar, bass, and keys. And, man, do these cats kill some white-boy rock/soul/funk, especially on Steely Dan favorites such as "Peg" and Tower of Power jams "Diggin' on James Brown" and "So Very Hard to Go." You can catch Bad Sneakers at places like The Rhythm Room or Warren's Jazz Bistro in Gilbert.

Best Place to Watch Tribute Bands

Skye

Skye
Courtesy of Skye
Scott Blackwell is almost a dead ringer for Tom Petty — from his lanky frame and stringy blond locks to his hangdog countenance and penchant for top hats. The similarities extend past outward appearances, as the 47-year-old Phoenician can not only strum his Telecaster just like Petty, but can also sing "Free Fallin'" and "You Don't Know How It Feels" in an equally folksy fashion. This musical mimicry has paid off well, as he and the other members of Petty tribute act Breakdown have landed regular gigs at Skye. They aren't the only faux superstars taking the stage at the Peoria performance venue and supper club, as it hosts tribute and cover bands aplenty. The sincerest form of flattery is on display almost every weekend inside the posh Platinum Room, with artists aping the moves and music of some of the world's most famous rock and pop acts, ranging from ABBA to Zeppelin. You can catch copycat crooner Todd Luxton doing his best Elvis impersonation on some Fridays, followed by a spectacular send-up of David Bowie the next night. Or maybe partake in back-to-back gigs from Denver's Under a Blood Red Sky (U2, duh) and Take It to the Limit (The Eagles). Long live mock 'n' roll, baby.
Gila River Arena
Andrew Marshall
Wrestlemania 26 was a tough act to follow — the WWE's premier event drew 72,219 fans to the University of Phoenix stadium, beating even the Super Bowl in attendance. But later that night, a Beatle managed to do it, also putting on the single best arena show of the year. Sir Paul McCartney had nearly 50 years of hits to draw from but also dug deep into his catalog, much to the delight of the many Macca-obsessive fans on hand to watch the 67-year-old kick off his tour. There were many memorable moments, but the thing we'll always remember is the beautiful black-and-white photos of saguaro cactus that ran on the backdrop during "The Long and Winding Road." The photos were taken around McCartney's ranch in Tucson, where his late wife Linda passed away from cancer. Another striking moment was "Something," which McCartney dedicated to George Harrison, strumming the chords on a ukulele given to him by his former bandmate. Those extra-special touches made for an incredible evening and even managed to top the steroid-and-pyrotechnic-fueled spectacle next door.
Orpheum Theatre
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Phoenix's historic Orpheum Theatre is used far too infrequently for concerts. Okay, so the city-owned theater's vending requirements make the booze lines way too long for concert promoters to make any real money staging rock shows there. When it actually happens, it's magical. Such was the case with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy's December solo show at the theater. Playing through much of his band's catalog while tossing in a few covers and rarities, Tweedy mesmerized us all the way through an amp-less and acoustic closing number that relied on the theater's stellar acoustics. Tweedy and his band play Phoenix far too infrequently, but this show, supposedly an excuse to visit his sister's family, more than made up for it.
Sail Inn
The large outdoor stage at the new and improved Sail Inn in Tempe was perfect for Tucson's Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta — not just because a big crowd turned up for his Saturday show in March, but because a large stage is needed to contain the classic Latin big band. Leader Mendoza, his right-hand man, Salvador Duran, and the eight other guys in the group are too big — and too good — to be playing shows this size for long. Witnessing the band's flavorful mambo in person, with such intimacy, was magical, especially as the snappily dressed crowd took in a performance by fire dancers in the venue's parking lot.

Best Of Phoenix®

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