Sure, Gilbert-born Lindsey Stirling's shtick — virtuosic violin shredding over booming EDM beats — sounds like there's no way it would translate on a live stage. But the 27-year-old Stirling doesn't just pull it off, she makes the whole thing seem remarkably natural. Commanding a sold-out crowd at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe in May, Stirling sprinted across the stage, performed intricate interpretive dance routines, and cracked jokes all night, never missing a beat or note on her fiddle. Songs like "Swag," "Crystallize," and "Shatter Me" blended her Celtic-inspired melodies with throbbing electronic music; at times it felt like a rave, other times it felt like Stirling was imagining the perfect soundtrack to Phoenix Comicon (like when she performed a medley of themes from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series). Stirling may not have won as a contestant on America's Got Talent, but her performance at the Marquee proved that the local girl's done good and has a career of genre-defying ahead of her.

Local promoter Steve "Psyko Steve" Chilton may have borrowed the idea of assembling a bunch of local musicians and randomly assigning them bandmates, a "rock lottery," from bigger cities like New York City, Seattle, and Dallas, but the resulting show was all Phoenix. In February, members of Captain Squeegee, Jimmy Eat World, the Whisperlights, The Stereo, Avery, Source Victoria, Ladylike, Where Dead Voices Gather, Snake! Snake! Snakes! Wooden Indian, and other Valley luminaries took the stage at Crescent Ballroom, with only an afternoon's worth of time to prep, and performed brand new material.

The ensemble names tended toward the silly — Beer Barbacoa and the Ballroom Burros, Bitch Choir, DCKSPLT, Auto-Tune-Workout — but the resulting music was surprisingly, okay, astonishingly cohesive. The idea was likely a goof, but it ended up being yielding goods that had Phoenix feeling pretty damn great about its music scene.

The Lost Leaf
The Lost Leaf

The Lost Leaf doesn't have a giant stage or a killer sound system, but it's still the perfect place to catch a loose set from locals like Wooden Indian, Kevin Daly's Chicken and Waffles, Sunorous, or DJentrification. The historic downtown bungalow feels appropriately homey, with art by bartender and musical proprietor Tato Caraveo on the walls, and the bar is stocked with a killer selection of microbrews. The Lost Leaf is refreshingly chill, mellow, and classy; it's easy to sneak in for a few, catch a great set, and wander out to explore downtown.

Crescent Ballroom

Local bands aspire to perform at Crescent Ballroom, and when they get there, it makes drinking the Honey Badger (Crescent's signature cocktail) all the sweeter. After coming up through the bottom rungs of the Phoenix music scene, playing house parties and bar gigs with no PA, playing the Crescent is like playing Madison Square Garden, and only the crème de la crème of local bands headline the venue's stage. The Crescent opened in 2011 and in just three short years has become synonymous with the local music scene. With killer burritos and other culinary options created by chef Chris Bianco by day, and a salivating mix of local and national acts by night, the Crescent is the place you'll find yourself more often than not if you're a fan of live local music.

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theater is, quite frankly, gorgeous. Originally opened in 1929, the theater boasts 85 years of Phoenix history, including time as a Vaudeville house and a Spanish-language cinema. In 1984, the theater joined the National Register of Historic Places, and when the city of Phoenix finished renovating the place in 1997, it was clear why. With gargantuan Spanish Colonial murals adorning the walls, it's easy to feel dwarfed by the larger-than-life décor, which is the perfect setting for a concert. Unfortunately, the Orpheum is criminally underused as a music venue, but when the rare opportunity to see a national act — like St. Vincent in May — arises, it is a treasure.

Once home to a printing press in Phoenix's warehouse district, the Pressroom formerly was the site of Madison Event Center, which hosted raves and underground events. Relaunching in 2013 as the Pressroom, the 1,000-person venue came in with a bang, hosting occult rockers Ghost BC, the PHX AM afterparty with Death, the Allah-Las, and Dam-Funk, and Caliente Summer Jamz. With a massive sound system, the Pressroom features an indoor and outdoor bar and has the potential to become one of the premier venues in downtown Phoenix.

Cake Nightclub

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 Dayclub

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.

Joe's Grotto

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?

The Nile Theater

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.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of