It's like clockwork. Around 9 p.m. on any given Friday or Saturday, Scottsdale's vast population (221,000 and change, last we checked) starts swelling by several thousand as the 21-to-35 crowd begins its weekly invasion of the city's downtown entertainment district. Stake out a spot on the outdoor patio at The Firehouse, conveniently located along one of the main drags into the bar-heavy 'hood, and witness this teeming World War Z-style horde of drink-buying, thrill-seeking nightcrawlers marching by the place. It's a nonstop cavalcade of capricious behavior, starring well-coifed club kittens teetering over to Red Revolver in stilettos, inked-up muscleheads ready to rock at Martini Ranch, or the shutter-shade brigade bound to some EDM fest at either Maya or El Hefe. And things get even more entertaining as the evening wears on and the booze wears off, especially inside the chaotic and energetic milieu of The Firehouse. Patrons go wild up until 4 a.m. at the after-hours hotspot, and you're guaranteed to see at least one instance of a sparring dummy being accosted by drunken bros, mock swordplay using baton-like glowsticks, or maybe even the odd food fight. Sure beats gawking at one of those sidewalk fistfights that tend to break out after last call.

ROAR's 2010 EP, I Can't Handle Change, is perfectly self-contained not just as music but as music-writing; it's frustratingly hard to avoid cliché autopilot when talking about it. It sounds like nothing so much as an earnest reimagining of Phil Spector's hermetic maximalism, and — voilà — Phil Spector is on the cover. The careful melodies and harmonies gradually draw your attention, until — just in time — a barbershop quartet materializes for the a cappella "Baby-bride Rag." It feels labored over in a way that generates comparisons to Brian Wilson at his anxious, unpleasable best, and — of course — the title track reaches its climax in a rousing chorus of "Nothing I do is ever good enough!" Add in 2012's follow-up EP, I'm Not Here to Make Friends, and it's a little easier to say original things, if only because fewer people have heard it — recent live performances have pointed up their spirit-animal connection to Ronnie Spector with dresses and long wigs. The full-length album, which everyone will hear, is a work in progress. A few times a week, lately, on ROAR's Tumblr, a fan will ask about it, and frontman/lead-Spector Owen Evans will apologize for the delays. We haven't heard the material; if we had to guess, it's almost certainly good enough already. But we'll wait.

The members of Cowboys N Hell are modest, above all things: When we asked them who the best tribute band in town was, earlier this year, they suggested the White Zombie aficionados in Grindhouse, on the grounds that they "get every titty in the house shaking, every time they play." We didn't do the titty math for Cowboys N Hell, but the logic is pretty simple: Phoenix loves metal, Dimebag Darrell isn't around to play these Pantera songs anymore, and the members of Cowboys N Hell are. Like Beatlemania, they aren't competing with the genuine article — they're giving people who won't have a chance to see the real thing access to a suitably raucous facsimile, one that re-creates an atmosphere instead of just reverse-engineering the relevant studio recordings.

Given his ultra-packed schedule of weekly club shots, warehouse parties, production work, and remix sessions, Steven Chung does the work of two DJs. And, depending on when and where you catch the Scottsdale scene veteran performing, that sometimes is literally the case. Over the past few years, Chung has pulled sort of a Tyler Durden thing with two distinctive alter DJ egos, each with its own look, attitude, and particular tastes in house music. There's his original identity as DJ Tranzit, a rowdy party monster who spins more mainstream and club-friendly progressive and electro tracks heavy on big room sound. And then the yang to his yin is Juheun ("joo-hoon"), a brooding loner and avatar for Chung's artistic leanings and interest in more complex and intelligent grooves of a darker bent. It certainly makes Chung one of the more unique, if not downright complicated, DJs in the local scene. Interestingly enough, each side of this yin-and-yang situation also has its own distribution deal going on with different EDM labels, like when Tranzit was signed by influential house superstar Bad Boy Bill earlier this year to release his Strike EP.

Despite the turmoil and discord implied by their moniker, things are rather harmonious with the DJ duo of Thomas James and Anthony Mastamonk. And we're referring to the utter listenability of the intricate and electro-infused mixes and bootlegs they create, as well as their interpersonal relations. "We don't really ever clash much on things," Mastamonk says. Well, there are the differing opinions on hair care (Mastamonk flies a six-inch Mohawk while James prefers far less product) and certain EDM subgenres. "Thomas specializes in more filthy electro-house. He's got an amazing ear for it," Mastamonk says. "I started as a hip-hop DJ. Even in my sets now, which are mostly electro, trap, and house, I still have something of that flavor." It doesn't distract the duo from working its collective magic in the studio and performing 2x4 sets at Scottsdale clubs like El Hefe and American Junkie or such Tempe spots as Gringo-Star Street Bar and Zum. James focuses on combining complex effects with filtering in order to amp up the energy, while his partner adds keyboard work and other instrumental elements. As a result, it's made their remixes of such artists as Afrojack and LazerDisk Party Sex spectacular to hear and has scored Collective Chaos thousands of collective Facebook likes and Soundcloud clicks.

Bikini Lounge
Benjamin Leatherman

It's Saturday night and you're in the mood to dance. You're tired of EDM and cover charges. You don't want to listen to Top 40s or old school hip-hop. Basically, you have two options now — stay at home and shimmy in your mirror to a Spotify playlist you made or head down to Bikini Lounge off Grand and 15th avenues and get crazy to DJ Boris' unique mix of genres and styles. Post punk, surf rock, French pop, oldies, and even some Mexican jams like Selena and "El Noa Noa" are all on regular rotation, making it easier to do the twist (a fun dance) than grind on folk (a scary dance). Plus, the drinks are dive bar cheap, with pitchers of PBR being only $3.50, and if you need a break from shaking your thang, you can always play pool for a couple songs.

Mark Peskin is a gigantic nerd, and proud of it, too. Like any successful geekazoid, the 34-year-old has parlayed his niche passion into getting paid. As DJ Apollynon, Peskin gets to combine his longstanding love affair with retro goth, industrial, and other doomy throwback genres at nightclubs and local fetish fetes with a particular yen for colorful cosplay. And he's just as old-school rivethead as the classic songs he's spinning. More than a decade ago, Apollynon dropped Covenant, Nitzer Ebb, and Sisters of Mercy while adorned in spikes, towering Doc Martens, and goofy goggles at the Nile Theater's and Boston's notorious industrial nights in 2000 and 2001. These days, however, his getups may be a bit more dork-oriented (read: Cobra Commander or a pink sex robot) but his sounds have remained just as sinister. Every Saturday, Apollynon and girlfriend, Sidney Slaughter (a.k.a. DJ Angel Toxin), crank out relentlessly gloomy audio at their popular City of Madness night at Club 24. And no one seems to bat an eyelash if he's wearing a unicorn mask at the time, probably because they're sporting some freaky-deaky duds themselves.

Somewhere up in the hinterlands of North Scottsdale, Martin Stääf is likely very busy crafting some of arguably the world's finest (and most brutal) dubstep tracks. The 34-year-old electronic musician and DJ, better known by his nom de guerre Liquid Stranger, is big on blending insane amounts of thuggish bass into his fierce mixes that he posts to his Soundcloud page (www.soundcloud.com/liquid-stranger) and burns out sub-woofers at gigs throughout North America and around the world. Inside his studio, Stääf conjures what he jokingly refers to on Facebook as "dubstep sorcery," hewn from such disparate audio elements as sci-fi clips, reggae, big band music, and probably the belches of Satan himself. Though he's sort of a reclusive fellow, Stääf hasn't completely shied away from the local EDM scene. He's performed a few times at local dubstep night UK Thursdays, as well as at the Monarch Theatre and defunct District 8 Warehouse, and he's collaborated with local producer Nick "Sluggo" Suddarth. One of their jointly produced tracks, "Stalkers VIP," is filled with wicked wub-wub, and listening to it recalls how Stääf's mother once famously described his music as akin to being "boiled alive by a primitive headhunter tribe in the Amazon." We kind of feel the same way, except we're loving every second of it.

Whatchu know about M2? Mention his name to other local DJs and you'll get nothing but mad respect for the esteemed platter jock (real name: Michael McDowell) and his meticulous mixing, cutting, scratching, and selecting talents. Ditto for folks from the Valley's hip-hop community and pretty much anyone else who's heard him dominate the decks on Power 98.3 during its mix shows or attended his club nights at the Roxy in Scottsdale and elsewhere.

"M2 is one of those guys that took the time to learn the ins and outs of hip-hop culture, the music, and everything else about it. So he knows his shit," says Fact 135 of his fellow DJ. "And he's so well-rounded on all levels of DJing, whether it's the skill, the knowledge, the history. He's so versatile its ridiculous." Yup, M2 is much beloved, even outside of the Valley. The Source gave him major props a few years back by including him in a list of the top 30 radio DJs in the nation. He also came damn close to winning the Red Bull Thre3style Nationals in 2011. And when M2 worked a guest mix session on influential L.A. station Power 106 last summer, its was widely lauded by the listening audience. While we're glad that SoCal got a taste of M2's skills, we're more than a little selfish and want to keep him all up on our airwaves.

David "CIK" Sankey has an aversion to the local club scene. The 36-year-old DJ is more likely to be found doing his thing at warehouses, event spaces, or off-the-radar dance fests in the desert. And what about the danceterias of Scottsdale or elsewhere? Eh, not so much. Frankly, he's more into either gigging for gigantic European crowds or Valley ravers, both of which are more receptive to his EDM genres of choice (industrial hardcore, gabber, darkcore, and industrial techno) and approach to crafting soundscapes. "Mixes are generally my way of telling a story or taking someone on an auditory journey," Sankey says. In 2010 and 2012, for instance, he took more than 80,000 people on such a jaunt at the high-profile Ground Zero Festival in the Netherlands. Closer to home, Sankey, who runs influential DJ collective Arizona Hardcore, has played massives like Nocturnal Wonderland in California and Bang! in Philadelphia. He also has built a reputation as one of the more prominent and die-hard performers in the local rave scene, having worked more than 500 underground parties in the past 17 years. His Phoenix audiences may never get as big as those across the pond, a fact he doesn't seem to mind. "A lot of the local DJs are okay with being a superstar in the state of Arizona," Sankey says. "That was never my goal."

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of