After their customary three-year hiatus following 2010's Invented, the Mesa natives announced their eighth album and an Arizona tour in rapid succession in April. The album, Damage, was prototypically Jimmy Eat World; the tour was a little unusual. Bypassing Phoenix and Tucson entirely, Jim Adkins and company scheduled much smaller shows in not-quite-hotspots like Yuma, Wickenburg, Sierra Vista, and Casa Grande. The result was a run of up-close, sold-out shows that were as small as any the band has played since Clarity made them cult heroes in the late '90s. We were there on May 9, for the Casa Grande show, and aside from betraying their big-city upbringing — locals offered some helpful pronunciation tips for "Grande" — they haven't lost their small-show touch. That performance's encore ended with a fan jumping up and down on stage. At a bigger venue, that'll get you kicked out before the guitar solo in "The Middle." In Casa Grande, it earned him a high-five.

This has been a good year for Taylor Swift: The jokes about her various exes were finally played out, last year's Red continued to sprout hits, and she emerged, with that album's capital-e Extravaganza, as one of the most compelling arena acts of her generation. The category isn't labeled Best Arena Show Ever!!!, but it's close enough — in late May, a swarm of astoundingly polite, well-dressed, self-confident 9-year-old girls swarmed around Westgate's mock downtown, making perfect eye contact and feeling empowered. And, granted, making signs covered in high-contrast glitter. Taylor Swift's brand of hyper-produced, absurdly expensive arena show hasn't launched as many culture-studies Ph.D.'s as Lady Gaga's, but it's even more likely to feature an extended dance synthesis of dubstep, parkour, and the fashions of medieval Europe. And the kids it brings out are a little more likely to make you feel like the world is going to be a better — if also a more unnecessarily giddy — place when they grow up.

The Western

We've heard The Western's ambiance described as "honky-tonk bar and restaurant without the Disney-esque trappings" of a honky-tonk bar and restaurant, which is exactly how it'll charm you: If you're the kind of person for whom boots will always feel a little like a Halloween costume, The Western just might make you comfortable. Brainchild of Charlie Levy and Tucker Woodbury, who previously teamed up for Crescent Ballroom, The Western offers a rootsy, unpolished antidote to glitzier Americana with regular, free sets from local stalwarts like Sara Robinson. Like Levy's other venue, it's a great place to hang out that also happens to be an excellent venue — national acts aren't the focus, but they do and will show up when they fit the theme. What makes it such a pleasant place to be is that you won't feel like you also have to fit the theme.

Maya Dayclub

In Scottsdale, no one ever seems to stay satisfied with much of anything for too long. Hence the constant state of reinvention in the entertainment district, where the clubs gods have giveth and taketh away much in the past few years. They've been especially busy along Saddlebag Trail just south of Camelback Road, which has become Scottsdale's current "it" area. As its name portends, the 27,300-square-foot megaclub was designed to host the sort of around-the-clock affairs that kick off in the daytime and keep rolling after dark and long into the night. And that's exactly what's been happening since it opened in April.

In many respects, Maya's is Scottsdale's version of the high-style beach clubs of Sin City, with its similarly swank amenities geared toward the party crowd. The massive pool and patio area, which is centered on the outdoor DJ booth and LED screen and ringed with daybeds, bars, and cabanas, was busy with weekend swim fetes throughout the summer. Steve Aoki played the place (natch), as did Calvin Harris, Thomas Gold, and Fatboy Slim (who made his first-ever appearance in Arizona). And its 9,700-square-foot indoor nightclub has been filled to capacity most of the nights it's been open, probably because of the blockbuster level of DJ talent that has been brought in by prominent Scottsdale promoter Steve Levine. Suffice it to say, if you haven't already visited Maya yet, you probably will soon.

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

That 99 percent of all the shows going off at the Yucca are free would be nearly enough reason to give this longtime Tempe bar such an honor. But even if owner Rodney Hu charged us a cover, we'd be hard-pressed to find a better all-around place to see music in the Valley, because it seems that just about every night is a party at the Yucca. When gritty local acts of all stripes — power pop, post-punk, metal, garage rock, country rock — aren't providing the soundtrack to a typical booze-fueled night at the Yucca, you'll find numerous underground touring bands setting up and throwing down. With cheap beers, no-hassle entry and exit, respectable bar grub, a dedicated smoking patio, and not-so-elegantly wasted clientele, no other rock bar in the Valley offers a more consistently affordable and memorable night out seeing bands than the Yucca.

Rips Ales & Cocktails
Lauren Cusimano

True story: The late outlaw country artist Waylon Jennings once filled the cozy interior of Rips with his dulcet croonings during a performance at the 16th Street bar way back in the day. Ditto for fellow legends Willie Nelson and Charley Pride, both of whom also performed inside the joint when local country singer Jimmy Aims ran it from the '70s through the early '90s. Such footnotes from Rips' storied past, documented in a few photos of the aforementioned superstars gracing the walls, help give the place an O.G. pedigree whenever hosting the down-home sounds of rockabilly. Besides its usual slate of punk bands and New Wave dance nights, weekends at the bar over the past few years have showcased acts from Arizona and elsewhere specializing in the uptempo hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, and old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, which was born in the 1950s, the same decade Rips opened. In just the past year alone, you could've caught the country-influenced grooves of locals like Trailer Queen or The Jamie Waldron Trio, as well as the psychobilly flair of The Limit Club, hellacious sister act The Devil's Daughters, the Latin-tinged swing of Curse of the Pink Hearse, or gigs by such out-of-towners as Utah's Mad Max and the Wild Ones. Local selector DJ Organic also is keen on spinning up retro rockabilly platters during his all-vinyl night Rumble! every Wednesday, which is typically attended by all manner of hepcats and kittens. We're almost certain somewhere, the spirit of Jennings (himself a noted fan of 'billy bands) is looking down on the place and snapping his fingers along with the beat.

Ice House Tavern
Lauren Cusimano

Affectionately known as "the hockey bar" by those in the know, this low-key Arcadia drinking spot gleefully defies any conventional notions of punk rock. And that is exactly why it is the punkest bar around. For starters, it's very tidy. It's also not really that loud, thanks to a carpeted, low-ceilinged room, and patrons are more likely to politely sit and watch at one of the high-top bistro tables than form any kind of mosh pit. And then are the big-screen TVs behind the bar, always tuned to sports. And, most of all, there's the 50-foot window overlooking the adjacent Arcadia Ice Arena, where burly hockey-playing dudes are hip-checking each other or families are gliding around the ice for open skate while noise merchants like Man Hands, Odds + Sods, JJCnV, and Shovel are kicking out the jams. It's the oddest juxtaposition of disciplines in the Valley and just one reason area punkers like to set up shows here. Some other reasons? How about decent drink prices, super-easy parking, a big smoking patio, and a jukebox stuffed only with local artists' CDs. Here's hoping "the hockey bar" doesn't put its weekend punk shows on ice anytime soon.

Just like 50 Cent, we ain't gonna lie — Club Red/Red Owl is the go-to venue for hip-hop in the Valley. Fact. Not only for the sheer number of shows it hosts, but also the wide diversity of gifted lyricists and rhyme-spitters slinging game from its mics and stages. The double-sided Tempe club has had live hip-hop on lock in recent years, whether it's intimate performances with underground MCs like Busdriver, showcases loaded with burgeoning local rappers, or gigs headlined by such superstars as E-40 and Talib Kweli.

And one of the reasons promoters, performers, and headz keep coming back to the club — besides its versatility and ace sound system — is booker Mattx Bentley. The affable 36-year-old former promoter, who also manages The Insects and runs Valley label 1090 Records, is well versed in hip-hop and respected in the scene. He's also connected with promoters — ranging from Sean Healy Presents and Universatile Music — and such hip-hop stars as Jean Gray and Pharoahe Monch, both of whom Bentley's brought to the club, sometimes literally. He has had to play chauffeur for artists, and that's led to a few interesting experiences, like when he had to wander around Sky Harbor last year while picking up Phife Dawg. "His cell battery died, so I had to walk in and look around the crowd for this short guy who has repped himself as 'The Five Footer,'" Bentley says. "That was odd." Hey, whatever it takes to ensure another memorable night of hip-hop at Club Red.

Red Owl

If you're looking to get up to speed on what's happening in the oft-underappreciated Valley hip-hop scene, WTFunk? Fridays is as close as you'll get to a cram school. Every month's WTF Funk? is packed with local MCs and DJs — not just the ones performing but the ones who are there to watch — and the venerable hip-hop night also nets its share of under-the-radar touring acts. The end result is a mix of indie hip-hop sensibilities and organic community-building, one that'll leave you convinced the hip-hop scene here is underappreciated a couple of hours after you walk in underappreciating it. Formerly held at Tempe's Stray Cat, the popular hip-hop weekly event is moving to Club Red on October 11 and will be held monthly.

The Nash

Before last fall, downtown Phoenix hadn't had much in the way of a dedicated jazz joint in like, well, a while. Lots of actual jazz musicians, yes, and a smattering of great bars that hosted their gigs, but no place that was entirely focused on the genre. Thanks to Jazz in AZ, however, that all changed in October when the arts organization officially opened The Nash on Roosevelt Row. And what the Crescent Ballroom is to indie music, The Nash has become to the jazz scene — a stylish epicenter with crisp acoustics and can't-miss performances. Purists and neophytes alike have flocked to the lounge-like venue (named for renowned Phoenix native and jazz drummer Lewis Nash) for intimate shows or rowdy jam sessions featuring many and varied flavors of jazz, from bop and swing to experimental and avant-garde. Besides serving as one of the the Valley's few dedicated jazz venue, The Nash emphasizes mentoring young musicians though various workshops, small group improvisation sessions, and the ongoing "Catch a Rising Star" performance series. Earlier this year, it debuted an entire Education Annex dedicated to this end. Oh, and you also can do the BYOB thing with beer and wine at shows.

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