Best Bartender 2015 | Andrew Calisterio, Crudo | Nightlife | Phoenix

Though Andrew Calisterio's been in the Valley for only about a year, he's wasted no time making his mark on the local drinking scene. He landed a job at one of the most prestigious bars in town, Crudo, not long after moving here from California, and he already has made contributions to the bar's cocktail menu. Calisterio's liquid concoctions fall in line with Crudo's reputation for well-balanced and creative drinks that walk the line between being approachable and exciting to hardcore booze nerds. But he's got more than just a knack for shaking up great cocktails going for him; Calisterio's also got a barside manner that we wish were more common around town. Always willing to take the time to chat with drinkers and determine the best cocktail for the occasion, he plays educator and gracious host all at once.

Agility, passion, power, delicacy — Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger's voice has it all. The singer-songwriter, who performs under just her first name, grew up singing gospel in church, and the soulful acoustic pop she makes today makes full use of her versatile vocal cords. With the skill of a jazz singer and a warm, disarming stage presence, Teneia can make her voice do just about anything — charm you into a hypnotic trance, make your heart beat faster, or motivate you to get out of your chair and dance. In the summer of 2015, Teneia and her husband/musical compatriot, Ben Eichelberger, set off in an RV on a nomadic musical adventure, and they have only their fans to thank — the RV was the final goal of a successful crowdfunding campaign, in which the singer raised more than $20,000 for the journey. Only a special talent can inspire that type of generosity.

Fresh off the June 2015 release of its debut album and with rock industry vet Alan Niven guiding the group, Razer has a lot of momentum. And though the entire band plays with the precision of sharpened studio pros, vocalist Chris Powers is Razer's greatest asset. The singer boasts a textbook rock 'n' roll voice — the power of a freight train, the soul of a blues singer, and the chops of an opera star. There are few things Powers can't do with his mighty pipes, and his vocals will lead the way for what might be the next band to break out of the Copper State.

Fairy Bones is a shining example of how talent, hard work, and multi-tasking can carry a band. Fronted by singer/keyboardist Chelsey Louise Richard, the band writes hard-rocking, dramatic, keyboard-driven music, and Richard's mighty voice wails powerfully on Fairy Bones' 2015 release Dramabot, produced by musical Renaissance man Bob Hoag. But the band doesn't just do music well. Fairy Bones released a series of eye-popping videos to build buzz for the album release, and it worked. The video for "Waiting," which looked like a nightmarish stroll through a satanic cult's frat house, appeared on most every local blog's "Best Videos of 2014" list, and the band has a fashionable, unique visual aesthetic that matches its unique style. Fairy Bones has nowhere to go but up.

Readers Choice: Black Bottom Lighters

Kongos hasn't released an album in three years. In the modern music world, three years is an eternity. When most bands haven't released new material in three years, it's because they no longer exist. Remember Carly Rae Jepsen? Her one and only hit was huge in 2012, the year Kongos' album came out. But Kongos has had a good reason to wait. The band of brothers' biggest hit didn't take over alternative rock radio until last year, and they've got the hardware to prove it. "Come With Me Now" received platinum certification in 2014, meaning the song's digital sales exceeded a million units. Since all of Arizona (if not the country) loves the catchy four-on-the-floor chorus and the song's novel use of the accordion, everyone is wondering: When will the new album come out?

Unfortunately, the guys in Kongos have become so good at dodging the question that they would be primed for careers as White House press secretaries should they opt out of the music industry. So for now, we'll wait.

Spearheaded by local promotor Jeremiah Gratza, President Gator Records releases limited-run vinyl titles representing some of Phoenix's brightest. Adhering to no genre specifications, Gratza has released hip-hop from Mega Ran, video game prog from the Minibosses, lo-fi gospel by the Through and Through Gospel Review, Gypsy jazz rock by the Dry River Yacht Club, minimal synth pop from Vial of Sound, and crushing metal by Take Over and Destroy and Gatecreeper, and lots more, all packaged in beautiful, full-color sleeves and including digital download cards. Releasing the records he wants to hear, Gratza is pulling double duty by documenting the ever-growing sounds of the Phoenix music community. 

Led by the dynamic Tommy Ash (that's Miss Tommy Ash to you), the Tommy Ash Band leans just as hard on its Sonoran roots as the twangy sounds of Bakersfield and classic Nashville country. Ash's vocals echo the slapback rockabilly of singers like Wanda Jackson and the rootsy grit of Patsy Cline, and her band of gunslingers rock as hard as they swing. Hailed as a potential breakout star by outlets like We Hate Pop Country, the Tommy Ash Band's approach is well represented by the group's album, Sinner's Blood, and live performances have turned clubs like Last Exit Live and Crescent Ballroom into genuine honky-tonks for an evening.

A night with Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta is a trip back in time to a dusky mambo club, where a sharply dressed horn section blasts backing melodies to a guitarra-wielding frontman. He's Tucson's Tito Puente, if the iconic percussionist played guitar. La Orkesta brings two singers, a pedal steel guitar, a bassist, a drummer, multiple trumpets, and even more instrumentation depending on the night, creating a powerful wall of sound. Few bands in Arizona guarantee as fun a dance party as Sergio's orchestra. Playing a combination of traditional mambo covers and blistering, fun-as-hell originals, the Tuscon band truly is something special. Luckily for us, La Orkesta is a common presence in Phoenix, making the trek north at least once a season. Hell, they play so frequently in Phoenix they might as well live here. We wouldn't complain.

As far as local rappers go, no one has dominated the scene recently more than Futuristic. The Tempe rapper (who now lives in Los Angeles but still reps the Copper State) has recently exploded. The rest of the world is slowly catching on to what Valley residents have known for years: The 24-year-old McClintock High School grad is the real deal. When most locals get 10,000 views on a YouTube video, it's considered a success. Futuristic's most popular song received more than 15 million listens in just a few months. The rapper combines sharp wordplay with blazing speed and lyrical dexterity, and his on-stage and on-camera charisma is magnetic and undeniable. He's not just Phoenix's best rapper; he's Arizona's greatest shot at this moment for producing a hip-hop superstar.

Jay Valdez has had a hell of a year. The Phoenix DJ is now in his 40s, and he has been spinning and scratching around town for decades. But he's no hobbyist. Under the name of DJ Akshen, Valdez is a professional turntablist, and he's got the accolades to prove it. In 2015, he won the regional finals for the Red Bull Thre3style competition, essentially earning him the crown of the Southwest's best DJ. The win also propelled him into the national finals (which took place at downtown's Monarch Theatre), but he failed to advance to the global competition, where he could have competed for the title of best DJ in the world. Nevertheless, Akshen is still king of the hill around here, and there's nobody more deserving of the title.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of