Best Punk Venue 2014 | Nile Theater / The Underground | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix
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.

Tongue Tied promoter Michele Roya Chinichian says she is a "big goofball at heart" with a soft spot for anything corny. And that's readily apparent at the monthly "crazy fun" dance parties she throws every first Saturday at Apollo's with DJ Funkfinger. To wit: Playthings like lightsabers, a stuffed unicorn, and superhero masks are the norm, cinematic cheese like Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo is on every TV, and Ace of Base and Montell Jordan pepper the indie-heavy playlist. There's a different theme each month (one party lampooned the Olympics while another was inspired by the Technicolor world of Lisa Frank) and free Otter Pops, to boot. Plus, writhing alongside the DJ booth is the neon spandex-clad spazzoid and resident interpretive dancer The Dave Driscoll Dance Machine. It all adds up to one of the most memorable club nights around, one that's more dippy fun than hipster irony. "Tongue Tied's more about having fun than being cool, which I think is lacking at a lot of hipster parties," Chinichian says. Well, that, and a dude in an electric pink bodysuit thrusting his crotch at you.

Okay, so maybe when you hear the name "Monarch Theatre," spelled with the very regal-looking "-re" instead of the pedestrian "-er," you think of a grand, historic venue. While Monarch Theatre has history, a stiff, traditional theater it is not. Rather, it's downtown Phoenix's best and most happening dance floor on any given weekend, featuring everything from touring electronic dance music producers to fashion shows. The dance floor is central to the experience here, and the warehouse-like feel to the room invokes a rave-type dance mania, making you feel so anonymous that you have no fear cutting loose to whatever music happens to be playing that night. Occasionally, it'll open its spooky basement and put on events down there, like the infamous Fight Club Sadisco*, which saw the already eerie underground adorned with stark, spray-painted cardboard bearing intimidating phrases from the movie. Whatever the event, the Monarch Theatre is just classy enough to make you want to dress up, while mysterious and exciting enough to make you want to get down.


When it comes to saying which stereotype can shake it more, we tango back and forth between the gay and Latin communities. Conveniently enough, however, there's one place in town where these two troops turn the dance floor into a tour de force. Karamba Night Club in Phoenix is a cultural fusion of fabulous, fast-paced flamenco and Latin sounds, featuring drinking and dancing specials throughout the week, including Salsa Tuesdays and Top 40 Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On any given night inside this colorful club, LGBT locals party to the beat of Latin pop and pulsating lights while they pick up cocktails and dance partners at either one of the club's full bars or generous patio. Novice high-heel wearers, beware: Your fancy feet may not be able to keep up with all this Latin flair.

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