Best Happy Hour, Tempe 2012 | Canteen Modern Tequila Bar | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

Tacos, tacos, and more tacos — that's what's on the menu at this popular Tempe hangout. Snag a seat on the restaurant/tequila bar's wrap-around patio for prime people-watching and killer margaritas. From 4 to 6:30 p.m., the appropriately named "Halfy Hour" offers everything on the beer and tequila menus for half price, as well as house margaritas, well drinks, and a decent-size selection of food. Skip the fish tacos and go straight for the pibil pork variety — and don't forget the chips and salsa.

If you look up the word "swanky" in a dictionary (a big book of word definitions), there is a good chance that a picture of Mabel's on Main's sleek and inviting interior will be front and center. The lounge pays homage to its classic gentlemen's club roots with heavy chandeliers, leather wingback chairs, wood-paneled walls, and roomy booths. From 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, the lounge offers its whole menu at half-price. That means everything, including tangy mac and cheese for $4, a gourmet grilled cheese with prosciutto for $5, and any of its signature cocktails. And don't be scared of the happy hour clientele. The atmosphere is a bit more chill than the posh late-night scene.

Jennifer Goldberg

If you've ever been to a weeknight show at the Yucca, you've no doubt seen Venus Salin behind the bar. Slaving away, pouring PBRs and craft beers, she serves not only as bartender but also as the front-of-house manager, turning off the jukebox when bands are ready to play and dispensing drink tokens to musicians who doubtless are scheming for free beer. It's a hard job, no doubt, but you wouldn't know it watching Venus, whose smooth moves and effortless smile make it seem as if she's been doing it forever — though her youthful looks certainly don't betray that she has.

Punk rock is a cyclical beast. It tends to blow up big once every decade, only to slink back into the shadows and reinvent itself before emerging once again. The same could be said for the Valley's punk scene, which has endured its fair shares of ebb and flow over the past 30-odd years as bands break up and bars close, only to be replaced by fresh faces or different venues. To wit: While punkers suffered through the loss of such landmark bars as Jugheads or Rogue West in recent years, they've recently embraced the Eastside Tap as a frequent destination. Probably because it has the hallmarks of a great punk spot: a divey feel, PBR and Hamm's on tap or in cans, and a diverse jukebox loaded up with everything from psychobilly to ska. More important, owner Johnny Tabeek has started bringing in local bands that rock a rebellious vibe, whether it's the three-chord vulgarity of Dirty Hairy and Gunrunners, the rockabilly strains of 13 to the Gallows, or the outlaw alt-country of Adam Lee Cogswell. Fittingly, the joint is just down the street from the old Jugheads, which means punks will be in familiar territory when visiting the Eastside Tap.

Jason P. Woodbury

At Meat Market Garment Factory, it's business up front, party in the back. We're not suggesting that Ben Funke or Cory Martinez, the fashionable young couple who run this small DIY venue, proudly sport Kentucky Waterfalls. We simply are describing how things are set up here. The anterior portion of this under-the-radar space, located in a Tempe office park, is devoted to storing stock for their Mill Avenue clothing shop Meat Market Vintage, while the rear is where underground punk, hardcore, and indie rock shows are staged. Despite being in the same ilk as other lo-fi industrial storage venues like the dank (and now-shuttered) Yellow Canary Dancehall, MMGF has some charm and actual décor to it, including retro-style salon hairdryers serving as seating and a variety of quirky-looking sweaters and shirts hanging from the ceiling rafters. And then there's the old neon signage from defunct punker haven Eastside Records, which Funke (a longtime member of the local music scene) somehow got his hands on and placed along one wall. It adds an extra bit of punk legitimacy to the proceedings.

Mesa bar Hollywood Alley is a longstanding fixture in the Phoenix scene, known as a home to hip-hop, punk, garage, and, notably, metal. In recent years, a specific brand of powerful and crushing Phoenix metal has found a home at the venue, with bands like Daughters of Fission, TwinGiant, Enirva, and Hogjaw lugging heavy amps into the bar to blast the down-tuned stuff. It's not bonehead metal, the scene that gathers at the Alley — it's something else, something knottier and more complicated, but not lost up its own rear end or lacking soul. The Alley's been around forever, and if it's home to this kind of stuff, we hope it never goes away.

You can't ask for much more. On a cool evening (Saturday, January 21, to be exact) Wilco performed at beautiful Gammage Auditorium. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the pink wedding cake of a structure is, arguably, not the best when it comes to acoustics. Didn't matter this night. Carefully blending disparate elements of country rock, experimental German art music, driving pop, and blue-eyed soul, songwriter Jeff Tweedy and his band had the sold-out audience swooning. The stage was gorgeous, bathed in blue light with orange accents on hanging papier-mâché cut-outs. The set was perfect, featuring crowd favorites like "Hotel Arizona" and the ecsatic "Impossible Germany." It's one of those shows you lie and say you were at even if you weren't. In a word, legendary.

It almost feels like cheating: Joel Marquard's spectacular Through and Through Gospel review performance on Saturday, July 14, was a local music triumph, uniting members of some of the Valley's best bands — Gospel Claws, What Laura Says, Where Dead Voices Gather, Ladylike, Yellow Minute, and more — for an eight-song set that felt almost as much like church (in a good way) as it did a club show. Not to mention that most of the aforementioned bands played beforehand, making the show feel almost like a festival, a sort of precursor to Crescent's Dias de la Crescent two-day event in the fall. Marquard's makeshift gospel hymns were given a powerful lift by the all-star Phoenix cast, and the whole thing was made even more special by its exclusivity: Marquard doesn't plan on trying to re-create it. And how could he?

The idea of a band doing a 50-song set is enough to make even the most ardent concert-goer a little nervous. Fifty songs? Can any band maintain the level of energy and spirit to make that work? Factor in the band members' median age, 70, and those doubts are even more compounded. But despite all the unlikelihoods, The Beach Boys' 50th Anniversary concert at Grand Canyon University Arena wasn't just passable. It was tremendous. With all surviving original members, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, and David Marks, the boys nailed every song they took on — even the dreaded and rightfully reviled "Kokomo." The show was a rare thing in the world of anniversary and nostalgia cash grabs: a bona fide retrospective look at one of the pop music's greatest bands, a powerful stroll through their catalog, and, above all, a tremendously enjoyable show.

Live Nation

We're generally the kind of people who like to see more intimate shows, but you know, you can't see Bob Dylan at the Yucca, can you? (Come to think of it, that would be pretty awesome.) Luckily, the unique layout of Comerica Theatre makes big shows feel, well, a little less "arena-ish." Hosting a wide range of acts, from comedian Louis C.K. to classic rockers Guns N' Roses to Alice Cooper's annual Christmas Pudding soiree, Comerica's comfortable auditorium features nothing but good seats and is refreshingly air-conditioned. We'll take club shows any day of the week, but if we're sitting down, we want to do it here.

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