Best Country Bar 2015 | Norton's Country Corner | Nightlife | Phoenix

The trek to Queen Creek might be too far for downtown Phoenix types, but if you're looking for a genuine honky-tonk, the drive to Norton's Country Corner is worth it. The saloon is under new ownership, but its Western bona fides remain unassailable, featuring great acts like the Harry Luge Band and Rattlecat Junction on stage and ice-cold domestics behind the bar. Named for Clarence and Willie Mae Norton, who ran a corner store in the 1930s (it sold liquor, of course), the Queen Creek location's sign is classic: a black-and-white rider on a bucking bull. And even if prices have gone up a little since the days of the Nortons, the Country Corner still offers nickel beer nights, a perfect catalyst for dancing in the banquet hall all night long to the twangy bands on stage.

Readers Choice: Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row

Stumble up to the Blooze Bar on any given night and you're likely to see a vintage roadster parked out front and a band playing revved-up hillbilly blues on stage. Acts such as the Rhythm Dragons, Dirty Dice, Nathan Payne and the Wild Bores, and Tommy Price and the Stilettos represent the venue's Thursday rockabilly bash, where slicked-back pompadours, tattooed women in vintage pinup dresses, and upright basses set the scene for real rave-ups. Housed in a strip mall in North Phoenix, the Blooze Bar hosts local metal bands and sports fans, too, but it's on Thursday nights that the venue really shines, tapping into the thumping, jumping rhythms of plucked bass and reverb-laden, twangy Gretsch guitars.

Readers Choice: Yucca Tap Room

Benjamin Leatherman

Phoenix has no shortage of dive bars — and great ones, at that — but few touch the Royale Lounge on 16th Street. Part of owner Mark Bolin's constellation of excellent bars (including the Do Drop Inn and Wanderin), the Royale has no hipster sheen and doesn't need one. There's pinball, a pool table, cheap-as-hell drinks, and a jukebox waiting your audio selection, and, best of all, one of Phoenix's finest glowing red neon signs (straight out the 1960s). It's a little dingy, sure, but the regulars are friendly and the beer is cold — and if you're looking for more than that, you're not looking for a true dive, are you? Pop in, belly up, and order. The Royale will take care of the rest. 

Readers Choice: Yucca Tap Room

Lauren Cusimano

It's no secret that Rips Ales & Cocktails is one of the best dive bars in town. But the bar is more than just cheap beer and good people. It hosts live music fairly regularly, and when there's a punk show going down, look out. Tight quarters make for the best crowds, and when you're in a place like Rips, you feel out of place if you're not head-banging and jumping around when there's a band playing. Punk music might not have the same cultural cache as it once did, but catch a punk band at Rips, and it won't matter: You'll be having too good a time to care.

Before spring 2015, U2 hadn't played in the Valley in about six years, and the concert made up for the absence in every way. From a near flawless performance to jaw-dropping stage design, U2's concert set the bar extremely high for arena shows, and it's doubtful anyone will surpass it anytime soon. The genius of U2's stage show was how it considered the viewpoint of everyone in the audience, not just the front rows. The stage spanned the normal width of the bottom of the arena but also included a catwalk which jutted out from the main stage and stretched for most of the arena's floor, ending in a circular platform. The band, equipped with wireless instruments and, in the case of percussion, a marching harness, strolled down the catwalk throughout the show, giving everyone in the crowd an eyeful.

But the crown was a metal cage that stretched the length of the catwalk and descended over it throughout the show, allowing Bono and others to walk inside as videos projected onto the sides. Sitting on the sides of the arena was like watching a big-screen TV, in which a real-life Bono interacted within an animated music video.

Don't let the rustic digs and line-dancing lessons fool you — longtime lesbian hangout Cash Inn Country doesn't just cater exclusively to cowgirls of a Sapphic bent. Though its loyal following is largely female, Cash Inn also is a come-as-you-are spot aimed at every segment of the LGBT community, a place where you don't need to sport a pair of Wranglers or even like country music to partake in the bar's strong pours, amiable vibes, and boozy distractions. For example, there's Thursday's old school hop-hop dance night or karaoke on Wednesdays. Of course, if you're a lady who likes ladies into boot scooting and denim-clad badonkadonks, then Cash Inn can help you scratch that particular itch, too, buckaroo.

Readers Choice: Rainbow Cactus

Benjamin Leatherman

There rarely seems to be a dull moment at BS West after dark, thanks to its lively nightlife events and even livelier patrons, who flock to this Scottsdale gay bar in droves. What really brings people into BS West, even more than its popular drag revues or male stripper shows, are its thrice-weekly dance parties held every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday night, when the place is packed with bodies and booty shaking. There's ample room inside the two-story club to accommodate a throng of gay males of every size and description who turn out to get down, hook up, or throw some back while bare-chested hunks behind the bar dole out drink specials and DJs fill the air with high-energy pop, house music, and Top 40. The biggest crowds are on Saturdays during the "Dirty Boy Dance Party," where two-for-one cocktails and BS West's eye-catching crew of underwear-clad go-go boys are on tap all evening long. It's also a favorite dance destination for straight girls, who are equally eager to ogle some killer abs. Thankfully, there's more than enough beefcake to go around.

Readers Choice: Charlie's

If all you want to do is play pool, don't go to Cue Club. But if you want to shoot some pool while drinking some of the best value drinks in the Valley (just get a Long Island iced tea or an AMF; you won't regret it) and hanging out with some of the least terrible people on Mill Avenue, Cue Club is definitely the spot to check out. Instead of paying per game, the rates at Cue Club are hourly, so if you go during a non-peak time, tables are $5 per hour, which can be a great deal depending on how fast you play. If you're not into pool, Cue Club almost always has either live DJs or sporting events going on its many TVs.

Readers Choice: Mill Cue Club

Sure, there are swanky sports bars in Scottsdale, and there are quite a few places to catch a game in Phoenix and Glendale, but few of them combine the spirit, flexibility, and pricing that Devil's Advocate maintains. If you're there to watch a game, the ASU-themed landmark has you covered with TVs in every possible direction. You want to hang out with some of Tempe's finest or spend the evening doing bar trivia or an open mic? It's got that, too, depending on which nights you go. As for drink specials, every night brings a different option, and Devil's Advocate's Thursday night two-for-one special is the kind of deal that even the brokest college students can take advantage of on a weekly basis.

Readers Choice: Zipps Sports Grill

Along with its sister club, the Tempe Improv, Stand Up Live has become the go-to spot for comedy fans in the Valley looking to catch a set from comedy's up-and-comers and established acts alike. Part of the busting CityScape complex in downtown Phoenix, the club brings in big names like Tom Green, John Witherspoon, D.L. Hugley, Jay Mohr, and Jon Lovitz, but it also offers a chance to see local talent, hosting open mics and local showcases throughout the month. Sure, there's that pesky two-drink minimum to worry about, but Stand Up Live fortunately offers an extensive drink menu, and if you don't get your fill there, you can pop over to Cooper Blues, with over 60 beers on tap and, you guessed it, even more live comedy on stage. 

Readers Choice: Tempe Improv

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