Best New Nightclub 2014 | Cake Nightclub | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

Every new nightspot in Scottsdale gets long lines out the door — for the first couple of months, at any rate. The real test is whether people are still willing to come out and line up long after most everyone's gotten a look at what's inside. In the case of Cake, which opened in January, its staff is still dealing with big crowds and no signs of slowing down, so we'd have to dub it a success. What's the draw? The staff of comely, lingerie-wearing CakeDolls might have something to do with it, as might the aerialists and burlesque performers who strut their stuff amid the club's stylish chateau-meets-bordello décor. When most of its neighbors surrounding Saddlebag Trail club zone are geared toward flat-out partying, Cake offers panache in addition to a staff of highly selective doormen who allow young and hot females to cut to the head of the line. Cake, in essence, takes the cake.

Maya Day & Nightclub has existed for less than two years, but it has sailed to the top of the short list of places where you want to be seen when you go clubbing in Scottsdale. Boasting A-list DJs on any given weekend, with a smattering of great lesser-known talent filling in the gaps between headliners, Maya makes running a great nightclub look easy. Inside, the place is like a twisted circus, with a pounding electronic dance music soundtrack. We've seen fire-breathers, go-go dancers, and a metal-clad, spark-shooting electric saw dancer we had never seen before (and haven't since). And that's just on the inside. Atop the building is one of the Valley's best pools, where you can kick back, enjoy a Valley sunset, and revel in the closest thing to a Las Vegas nightclub experience that Scottsdale has to offer.

Don't let the location fool you — tucked in the corner of an unassuming strip mall in North Phoenix lies Joe's Grotto, a bar and music venue that hosts some of the best rock and metal shows in the Valley. The place has a killer stage (lights included!) and a screaming sound system capable of doing justice to everyone from your friendly local alternative band to the distorted chaos of a touring death metal band. Two nights a week, you'll find open mics on the smaller of the venue's two stages, where amateurs get a chance to strut their stuff and perhaps be broadcast live on KWSS 93.9 FM. And the owner, Joe Grotto (yes, that's his real name), is always ready with a grin and easy conversation. What more could you want in a rock club?

Benjamin Leatherman

Punk (and its many subgenres) is one of the few types of music in which top-tier acts get up close and personal with their fans. Barriers are pretty much the least punk rock thing ever. A punk show without at least three crowd-surfers is considered a dull affair. The Nile offers intimacy in the best ways possible — from the cavernous yet cozy, 800-capacity main room, which hosts bands like Against Me! — to The Underground, the Nile's 300-capacity basement, home to local shows and touring acts like Circle Takes the Square. Go to a show here and rub shoulders with punk scenesters of all ages, and if it's a particularly good performance, watch the kiddos rock out on stage and dive back into the crowd. The Nile's two-fisted approach to music easily takes the cake for best place to see punk rock shows in the Valley.

It didn't take long for The Nash to establish itself as the preeminent spot in Phoenix for jazz. The venue opened in April 2012, and before you could say "Louis Armstrong's cigar-sized joints," it was offering a full slate of top-notch jazz performances and educational classes. The venue feels like an old-timey New York City jazz club (minus the cigarette smoke), and the Nash's BYOB policy only serves to augment the speakeasy feel of the place. Take a seat anywhere within the cozy confines and you'll get crisp, near-perfect sound in a picturesque setting for a jazz show, and catch any genre, from Dixieland to traditional to free.

Bob Corritore's venue gets the nod for best blues club not just because it consistently hosts the best blues shows in town, which it does. It's the whole package that the owner brings to the table. Corritore is more than just a venue owner. He's a musician and a tireless promoter of jazz and blues. From his weekly five-hour radio show on KJZZ to his nonprofit Southwest Musical Arts Foundation to his weekly jam sessions with his cast of Phoenix blues regulars, Corritore and the Rhythm Room are synonymous with Phoenix blues. When longtime Rhythm Room general manager and barmaid Mona Lisa Watkins hung up her apron this past April, the Rhythm Room threw a huge blues party in her honor — a testament to the community Corritore, with the Rhythm Room, has enabled.

Lauren Cusimano

Bust out the Bettie Page bangs and tack on the tattoo art, because you're going to want to blend in with the best of them at Rips Ales & Cocktails. Although this Central Phoenix dive bar doesn't do much to draw attention from the mainstream masses, the acutely concave roof and retro signage reels in a specific type of local with a particular sense of style. On a regular basis, Rips puts the "rock" in rockabilly with must-see musical acts, alternative dance parties, proms, and promotional giveaways. Since its mid-century beginnings, Rips has remained a hotbed for hipsters and hot rodders alike. Consider it the pin-up that doesn't give up.

As much as we love our two-stepping and country tunes, we don't always want the full honky-tonk experience on a night out. Sometimes we want a place that splits the difference between being a regular nightclub and a spot where you can let our inner cowboy show. That's when we head to Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row. Nestled in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale's nightlife district, this bar keeps you in the middle of the action but embraces boots, hats, and other Western apparel. The dance floor isn't the biggest, but it's always crowded with guys and gals who know how to bust a country move. Best of all, there's live music nearly every Thursday and Friday night.

Jennifer Goldberg

Blunt Club is a proud gem of Phoenix's hip-hop scene. Since 2002, Blunt Club has showcased local and touring rappers every week at various venues around Phoenix. Though the location has changed over the years (the Yucca Tap Room recently has become its permanent host), the founders' vision of an open showcase for underground hip-hop has not. Throughout the years, organizers have brought in marquee talent, like (jaw-dropping) Public Enemy at Hollywood Alley, a secret Z-Trip show at Yucca Tap Room, and Afrika Bambaata and Digable Planets, and for the 12th anniversary celebration this year, world-champion DJ Chris Karns brought his mind-melting turntablism. Hip-hop is strong in Phoenix, thanks in large part to the DJs and rappers behind Blunt Club. 

Sean Watson owes his DJ career to having a whole lotta talent and a little bit of luck. Chance encounters with certain movers and shakers at The Vig shortly after his debut in 2007, for instance, led to a breakthrough residency at the trendy Arcadia spot that launched him into local prominence. It's entirely possible that Watson's late-night Saturday dance party, Kismet, has become as popular as it has over the past two years due to, well, kismet. His substantial music knowledge and talents at building an epic set probably helped, too, as does the fact there's no DJ-style posturing, no attitude, and no cover involved. Just him having a blast slinging whatever sort of nu-disco, electro, and '80s remixes that suit the moment while visual artist Matt Castleberry conjures up an ever-evolving mural of video art projections. Both creatives attract the weekend party crowd and entice Crescent concertgoers to stick around after a show with promises of a great time. "Something good might happen when you walk through the door," Watson says. Sounds like kismet to us.

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