Best Poolside Happy Hour 2013 | Lustre Rooftop Garden | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

The grind of late-afternoon traffic in downtown Phoenix ain't so bad, particularly if you're like us and are watching it from three stories above. And perched alongside a gorgeous swimming pool with an elegant crafted cocktail in our hand. It's the sort of lofty situation that's available while checking out the happy hour scene up at the Lustre Rooftop Garden every Monday through Friday. We're pretty high on this chichi outdoor lounge next to the third-floor pool at the Hotel Palomar, which delivers sweeping views of downtown and South Mountain, as well as sweet deals on food and libations that can be had from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During those hours, a trio of handcrafted signature cocktails, like the potent Tommy's Margarita and lusciously fruity Camellia Cooler, each go for $6 apiece. Ditto for glasses of Gazerra pinot grigio, Klinker Brick zinfandel, and red or white sangria, as well as pints of Lumberyard IPA. Lustre also shines with its always-enticing flatbreads, three of which (including a savory-yet-sweet pork belly, candied jalapeños, aged cheddar creation, and another selection with heirloom tomato and house-pulled mozzarella) — are also $6. Grab one and head for one of the cabanas near the pool, chill out to the indie and retro pop soundtrack, and relax while living the high life.

The Lost Leaf

Since 2007, the Lost Leaf has been the epicenter of downtown Phoenix's growth as a nightlife destination. For all intents and purposes, the rehabbed 1930s bungalow, with its gorgeous wood floors and exposed brick, is the unofficial hangout for downtown artists and musicians of a certain boho aesthetic. It's a good bet that if you run with either crowd, you'll see a familiar face just about any time you set foot in the place — even when it's not First Friday or Third Friday, when the Leaf is filled to near-capacity. The pristine selection of microbrews, import beers, and wine helps make the Lost Leaf the quintessential downtown gathering place, as does the rotating collection of local art on the walls and DJs who spin probably the most eclectic mix in town — that is, when downtown's post-punk and underground bands aren't performing in the cozy back alcove. As downtown's creative class continues to grow, The Lost Leaf continues to be the place to see and be seen.

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.

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 ( 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.

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