Best Place to Practice for American Idol 2010 | Lucky Break at Lone Butte Casino | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
Got the pipes to be the next Kelly Clarkson or Lee DeWyze? Your vocal destiny awaits at Lone Butte Casino's Lucky Break singing competition, now in its fourth season. Savvy singers compete each week to advance to the grand finale, where one winner will receive $10,000 and a trip for two to Nashville or Las Vegas for a chance to audition for major record executives. Soloists who soar through the tryouts will find themselves in front of a panel of (thankfully) un-Simon-like judges for a show taping at the casino's Cascades Lounge, where their crooning conclusions are broadcast on KPHO every Saturday night.
This cheery CenPho sports bar is almost always packed with armchair athletes, people who want to watch the game on the place's 31 (count 'em!) TVs, eat a burger, and maybe play some trivia. But around 10 on Tuesday and Saturday nights, a different kind of group shows up en masse: the karaoke crowd. And hot damn! It's fun to watch. The singers are good but not too good, and (on Tuesdays at least) it's not hard to get a seat and a chance at the mic, should you be so inclined. Best of all: The peeps running this show are pros at subtly turning down the mic for singers who can't quite, um, sing. Hazelwoods is nice that way, both to the unfortunate warblers and our grateful ears.
What is box karaoke, you ask? Imagine you and your circle of friends had a private room for laying down some Journey or screaming out some Bowie. Now imagine a waitress on hand to bring you beer continuously. This, friends, is the box karaoke experience. Sure, you can go to those fancy karaoke boxes in Scottsdale, but the one at Korean BBQ in Mesa is far cheaper and available for reservations. Should you feel peckish between sets of Springsteen, step out of the box and grab a menu.
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.
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.
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.­­­­
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


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.

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