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.
Chyro Arts Venue
Why do we miss Chyro Arts? One, the proximity of a music venue to Scottsdale's wonderful British Open Pub. Two, those comfy couches lining the walls. Three, shows like Titus Andronicus' appearance in March. Fresh off stellar reviews from Pitchfork and other taste-making blogs, the hotly tipped New Jersey lo-fi folk-punk act came in for a Monday-night show, playing most of their newest record, The Monitor, which may or may not be a concept album about the Civil War. For a band with obvious punk influences, Titus managed to keep a steady pace throughout the show, and didn't do anything showy. It made for a memorable evening at the now-closed venue.
Ye Olde Bike Saviours
Benjamin Leatherman
YOBS, as the cool kids call it, hosts anything that's way-off-the-radar underground. We're talking riot grrrl from Austin, acoustic acts from the Bay Area, and an earplug-worthy, dark-metal ensemble called Stress Ape. The home's residents, including local drummer/record store employee/music snob John Ryan Nelson, book shows for out-of-towners, and the bills usually include locals such as H.O.A., Ovariesy (pronounced "over-easy"), and French Quarter.

Best Place to Get Up Close and Personal with the Band

Palo Verde Lounge

Palo Verde Lounge
Jacob Tyler Dunn
The beloved PV has long been known by punkers and other scuzz-rock fans as one of the best rocker-friendly drinking dives in the Valley. And when no-BS owner Chuck unplugs the jukebox, pushes the pool table to the back of the tiny bar, sets up a cheap PA, and starts slinging $2 PBRs, the "Dirty Verde" becomes the next best thing to a rock 'n' roll house party. Packed tight and inches away from the band, fans shake along to the music and hold their beers high, while loud-ass amps rattle their bodies and the singer's sweat flies in their faces.

Best Place to Find an Underground Hardcore Show

The Slurp

The Slurp, located in a hush-hush warehouse around McClintock and University drives, is a beautiful wreck: pieces of debris all over the concrete floor, a pile of music gear and random junk in one corner, and, leaning against one wall, 10-foot-high pieces of particle board painted with, well, let's just say interesting designs. Combine that with out-of-town bands playing hardcore, screamo, black metal, or anything that insinuates impending death, and dark-music fans have a pretty rad place to publicly hate their lives. You can even climb a dodgy ladder to an even dodgier perch for an elevated view of acts such as Portland's Transient, Florida's Dark Castle, locals like The Tightholes or Pigeon Religion, or the Navajo Nation-based Sinking in Shit.
Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman
Six years ago, longtime downtowners Bradford and Andy McPants started a weekly underground DJ night at Bikini Lounge. They had no way of knowing the beast they were creating. After various incarnations and resident DJs, today's artsy dance party is 602'sdays, and you're not going to find anything else like it in the Valley. Folks like Djentrification, Meaty Ogre, and Salchi von Papi spin and mash up sonic oddities such as rare Afrobeat, Turkish psych, and Thai funk. Throughout the year, the shindig will go thematic, meaning you'll have to pick out the confetti from your PBR pitcher during Mardi Gras or duck from the Super Soaker-aided, fake-blood attack around Halloween.

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