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.
Philthy Phil's
Some clubs have bikini-clad girls dancing on pedestals. Others book touring DJs who are "big in London." And most are decked out with mirrored walls and flashing lights. But none of that guarantees a great dance night. That's why we love Ransom, on Fridays at Philthy Phil's. You won't see any of those cheap tricks at this authentic dive bar. And with a teeny dance floor, it only takes about 10 people to fill it — you'll never feel alone or awkward.
The Lost Leaf
The Lost Leaf
Name a crappier feeling than this: The bar's closing and you're 12 fluid ounces away from being slightly more than "just buzzed." One solution is to spend a night drinking brewskis at The Lost Leaf. Then, when you're about to get booted after last call, order a bottle/multiple receptacles of beer, keep it capped, get home safely, and enjoy the beverage at home. The downtown spot, open 365 days a year, has a license that allows takeout beer purchases — so, as long as you don't do something stupid, like shotgun a Chimay in The Lost Leaf's front yard, you'll be all good.
Word from the wise: It'd be a shrewd move to become a fan of The Quincy on Facebook or to start following the underground venue's tweets. That's the only way to find when the next over-the-top after-hours affair is happening at The "Q." Hidden in a ramshackle strip mall down the street from Rainbow Donuts, it functions as the studio and gallery of funky photographer Quincy Ross. But it transforms into a secretive seraglio of sinful fun on weekend nights, most of which don't even get going until after midnight. But if you're eager to attend the next big bash, be warned: Getting inside typically involves traipsing down a pitch-black alley leading to the back door. Better download that flashlight app for your iPhone.

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