Best All-Ages Club 2011 | Afterlife | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
There isn't a liquor license plastered on the wall at Afterlife in Scottsdale, which means there aren't any patrons getting plastered inside the club, either. Hence, owner Aron Mezo doesn't offer any primo bottle service, chic cocktails, or cheap-ass drink nights. While the lack of liquor sales definitely cuts into his bottom line every month, there are two upsides to the situation: The club can stay open long past last call, and — more importantly — the 18-and-up crowd beats its way to Afterlife's door. Barely legal boys and babes are in abundance at the after-hours dance hall, where the lack of booze doesn't equate to boredom. To wit: Step into the often-crowded Liquid Room and you'll see dancers covered in glow paint staging sultry shower shows while a blaring soundtrack of Top 40 cuts plays over the loudspeakers. Or step out onto the patio, where games of the casino and arcade variety are available. Upstairs in the Fire Room, a fiery red glow lights up the dirty dance moves of go-go girls, while the downstairs den offers hookahs, hit-spinning DJs, and an energy drink bar.
We really love The Sail Inn. It's got a great location, just off Mill. Oh, and friendly bouncers, stiff drinks, and, of course, great bands. Though the place skews a little hippie, between the indoor and outdoor stages they book just about everything other than death metal. There's plenty of parking, lots of little nooks to have a conversation, and it's easy to walk to other bars before or after the show. Also, they often have entertainment, like fire twirlers, in the parking lot. Does this sound like a long list of semi-related things that we like about the place? Well, umm, yeah, it sorta is. But it's the total package — did we mention the restrooms are pretty nice and they sometimes have vendors selling food at bigger weekend shows? — that makes The Sail Inn the best overall rock club in town. Wait 'til they book a band you really like and tell us you disagree.
Billed as a "club within a club," the Shaker Room is located on the top floor of Old Town's Martini Ranch. Bathed in cool red lights, the whole room feels like a VIP exclusive, with plush booths, subtle anime-inspired art, and dancing poles. (Don't worry, there's a chic glass bar stocked with enough liquor to potentially convince you to actually dance on the poles, too.) The whole thing centers on the venue's monster dance floor, which gets invaded with moving Scottsdale socialites as DJ Exxxclusive busts out Top 40 and rock mixes for the crowds.
Nathan and Elizabeth Smalley grew up in the wrong decade. Though the 30-something couple's birthdates place them firmly within Generation X, one gets the sense that they shoulda been members of "The Greatest Generation" that lived in the 1940s. They both dig vintage threads from those days, consider Benny Goodman and Paul Whiteman some of their favorite musicians, and possess more swing dance moves than your average Fred Astaire Dance Studio instructor. They know how to do the Lindy, the Charleston, the East Coast Swing, and the jitterbug, and they impart their knowledge every Monday evening at the Ghost Lounge inside the vintage Hotel San Carlos, natch. Local rockabilly and swing bands like the Kings of Pleasure and the Heymakers provide the soundtrack during the weekly swing night, while the Smalleys provide the dance steps. Are you feeling fleet-footed, ace? Lessons begin at 6 p.m. Call 602-770-3184.

Editor's Note: This Best of award has been changed from its original version.

Lauren Cusimano
Held on the second Saturday of every month, Obscura is a mix of '80s new wave, indie, and Britpop spun by DJ Roya. This grooving monthly dance party also is an opportunity to snap up giveaways during CD-release parties. If you've got the need to move and shake it, then this is the night to get out and sweat to the music of the '80s. There also are drink specials to help you shake off any reservations you may have about dancing. Get over it and get moving — DJ Roya of Obscura will help you do just that.
Here's a fun game to try sometime: Hang out among the throng of clubgoers gathered on the sidewalk along Washington Street's block-long nightlife district on a typical Friday evening and see if you can spot the hipsters. It ain't hard to miss 'em, as they stand out from the Latino-heavy crowd with their ironic T-shirts, porkpie hats, and shabby-chic threads while making a beeline from the nearby light-rail station to the front door of Bar Smith. Hipster impresario William Fucking Reed's putting on the Valley's marquee indie dance night, and there's little time to waste. Hepcat DJs like 2ToneDisco, Goldsmith, and Juan Carlos Lenz are in residence on the roof, unleashing electro-house, moombahton, and club bangers. Meanwhile, sleaze rock and punk gets dished out downstairs, and there are weekly live gigs by some of the biggest indie bands in Phoenix — including Peachcake, What Laura Says, and Mr. Meeble. It's little wonder, then, that Filter Magazine calls it "one of the hippest places in Phoenix to be." True dat.
Jennifer Goldberg
After nine years of pumping out the jams, Blunt Club is as strong as ever, thanks to local artist Dumperfoo and resident DJs Pickster and Element. The Thursday-night tradition got its humble start in the dark confines of the now-defunct Priceless Inn and, after a couple moves, is currently enjoying its second year at Tempe's premier nightclub, the Yucca Tap Room. Every week, the Blunt Club team brings you the best local and national hip-hop, reggae, dubstep, funk and electro acts. Combine that with some sweet live art, cheap drinks, and an insanely diverse crowd, and it's no surprise Blunt Club is the place to be on a Thursday night.
Revenge may be sweet, but redemption is even better. A decade ago, the property that houses Trinity was home to CBNC, a similarly fly hip-hop hotspot that packed in patrons and hosted celebs like Busta Rhymes and Britney Spears. It also had a notorious reputation, as onetime Sun Devil football star Loren Wade gunned down a fellow ASU teammate in the parking lot in 2005. Even worse, CBNC's owners were eventually linked to a large crime ring. All that infamy is ancient history, however, as the space has gotten a new lease on life as Trinity. It's still a prime place for high-volume hip-hop parties, offering three distinct rooms with separate bars and dance floors, as well as a half-dozen VIP areas. Trinity's thunderous sound system pounds out plenty of beats, including mixes of glammy R&B, high-energy street rap, old-school jams, and hot reggae riddims. The typical crowd here skews toward urban club types and stylishly refined folks opening their wallets for premium bottles of champagne. In addition to the bubbly, tequila shots and mixed drinks with generous amounts of vodka are some of the preferred fuels for those engaging in nighttime fun.
Word to the wise: Don't ever refer to Dusty Hickman as a DJ. The 34-year-old turntable artist, who performs under the moniker Pickster One, is far more talented than the ordinary rank-and-file selectas working the Valley's nightlife scene. First off, his skills at scratching (a lost art, in our humble opinion) are of the highest order. Then there are his prodigious talents at making mixes, particularly those of the hip-hop variety. Download any of the many mixtapes from his website and enjoy the audio ecstasy of Hickman's song selection and mash-up techniques, as he seamlessly grafts together modern-day masterpieces from Jay-Z and Afroman with old-school favorites by KRS-One and Kool Herc. Speaking of old school, Hickman's just that, having worked practically every club in the Valley and serving as long-running resident at such nights as Blunt Club and the Kill Mill for more than 15 years. He also proves you can teach an old dawg new tricks, as he's been working such latter-day genres as moombahton and electro into his sets. And, as always, he does it with style.
Nick Suddarth always looks pretty beat, but there's a very good reason for it. The local dubstep producer doesn't get much sleep these days, because he's always in demand. Whenever he isn't in his Surprise recording studio crafting face-melting tracks to post on his Facebook page, the 20-something is hella busy gearing up to jet off to club gigs all across the country. One week, he'll hit up cities on the West Coast, only to head off to the Deep South the next. Suffice it to say, Sluggo has been blowing up fiercely over the past two years, due in large part to the growing popularity of dubstep in the United States and the quality of his tracks. Suddarth's unique flavor of the bass-heavy, British-born genre is particularly dark, mixing heavy glitches and influences from two-step garage and jungle with brutal grinding rhythms. Sluggo's planning on keeping up his hectic schedule for as long as possible, especially since dubstep has been touted as the breakout dance music genre of 2011. Thank heavens for Red Bull.

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