Best Dance Night 2015 | The Palace, Last Saturdays at FilmBar | Nightlife | Phoenix

Your average club DJ has probably never heard of Omar Souleyman. It shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that the Syrian-born electronica vocalist isn't on Beatport's Top 100, Billboard's dance music charts, or the radars of rank-and-file mixer monkeys eager to follow the latest trends. Local crate-digging king Djentrification, however, is more than familiar with Souleyman. As such, the musician's hypnotic hybrids of electronic elements and traditional dabke sounds are regularly mixed into Djentrification's sets, particularly during his world beat dance night, The Palace, held on the last Saturday of every month at the FilmBar. Souleyman's tracks are among a multitude of "international selections from all directions," most of which are culled from vinyl that Djent and special guests dig up from all corners of Earth. Their playlists are both varied and vibrant, running the gamut from Thai morlam and Bollywood beats to Turkish fuzz-folk, Russian synth disco, and pre-Khmer Rouge-era Cambodian rock. Suffice it to say, it allows The Palace to stand worlds apart from the Valley's other dance night offerings.

In addition to having one of the best names in the Valley, Playboy Manbaby also has the best live show. Part of the band's appeal comes from its nontraditional instrumentation. The band has the standard punk combo of guitar-drums-bass-singer, but it adds a trumpet player, and it makes all the difference. Not that all of what makes Playboy Manbaby's live show so great comes from the band's horn player. No, Playboy Manbaby's infectious live presence stems from frontman Robbie Pfeffer, whose antics alone are worth the price of admission. Few bandleaders have what it takes to make their bands' live shows shine. Pfeffer is someone other lead singers in the Valley should study.

If Miley Cyrus, the late Chris Farley, the fictional Rocky Balboa, Elmo, and Cookie Monster are at a party, you know you've either taken some really good shit or have died and gone to Heaven. Since both are unlikely, the next best thing is a show from Beacher's Madhouse, a performance troupe unlike any other. Beacher's specialty is little people, and during the troupe's show, there were two mini Lil Waynes, a mini Miley Cyrus, a mini DJ, and vaudeville-esque variety acts. Athletes made it rain like it was monsoon season. It was Hunter S. Thompson's Circus Circus bad trip from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas come to life, and it was spectacular.

The latest Primus project reimagined the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in eerie, twisted ways. Roald Dahl's source material, the classic children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, already contains subtle strands of darkness. Primus tapped into it perfectly, infusing the classic songs with signature Primus weirdness and technicality. The Orpheum Theater might be Phoenix's most underused music venue, but when the right show is staged there, the results can be spectacular. Primus was that show. The second half of the Primus concert at Orpheum in October 2014 had video screens, actors in oversize Oompah Loompah masks, and full chocolate factory regalia for the band. No other theater show in the last year came close to matching its bombast.

Though KWSS' The Morning Infidelity remains Valley radio's most consistent supporter of local music on the Phoenix airwaves, KJZZ's Tiny Desert Concert proves that the local NPR affiliate has its ear to the ground, too. Inspired by NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series, TDC has profiled Valley bands like folk rockers The Senators, indie poppers Of the Painted Choir, Sedona roots band decker., indie punks Numb Bats, and punk rockers Man Hands, featuring beautiful recordings and high-quality video. The only thing we'd ask for is more installments, focusing on the diverse range of bands currently making Phoenix a place to pay attention to musically. 

We love the locally produced Cruising with the Manic Hispanic program, hosted by James Rivas. Featuring sensual lowrider oldies and dedications, Rivas was inspired to do radio by the classic Wolfman Jack scenes in American Graffiti. His on-air persona is less wily than the Wolf but effective, matching the vintage soul and funk like Zapp and Roger, the Delfonics, and Brenton Wood with a mellow cool unmatched on Phoenix's FM dial.

Tune into Phoenix's NPR affiliate on weekday nights and you'll get a treat: jazz music for hours and hours, a blend of classics from Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, and J.J. Johnson to modern talents like Nicholas Payton and Bruce Dudley. The playlist from 8 to 10 p.m. is curated by Blaise Lantana, KJZZ's music director. She's the consummate radio host. She gives just enough background information on the artists she features to sate the appetite of the curious listener but doesn't talk long enough to drive away those interested only in music. Most importantly, her voice contains an unfakeable enthusiasm, and her passion for the music she plays is contagious. It all combines to make for two hours a night of a superior jazz listening experience.

Remember that awkward period after 103.9 changed its format to "All Suck All the Time" but before 93.3 decided it no longer wanted to be one of several classic rock options in the Valley? That was a dark time for alternative music in Phoenix, and it was really strange to have an online radio station sponsoring some of the biggest alternative and punk shows in the Valley for a while. Thankfully, 93.3 switched gears and decided to play more modern alternative music, and though it might not be the indie stations of many American college towns, it's certainly not bad, by any means.


DJ? KCDX don't need no stinkin' DJ. Mysteriously broadcasting from the desert, there's no verbiage or on-air announcing — just loads of progressive rock, AOR obscurities, classic rock hits, and deep cuts. You'll hear Graham Nash paired with Taj Mahal, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band followed by Pink Floyd, and other transitions that sensible program directors would shut down real quick. The signal doesn't come in all over the Valley, but it's worth seeking out. There are no on-air bells and whistles, but the station's site features a searchable song archive and an "Ask the Guru" button, which allows you to e-mail the station's shadowy overseer. Our e-mails, to be clear, have gone unanswered, but we figure it's kind of better that way.

What the AM dial lacks in fidelity, it makes up for in ambiance. There's no better example in Phoenix than Arizona Gold 1440 AM, which devotes its daytime air to long stretches of oldies from the '50s, '60s, and '70s (14 songs at a time, naturally). There's a slight crackle to the transmission, a vintage station jingle, and nothing but gems: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels tearing through "Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly" from 1966, Carly Simon's 1972 kiss-off "You're So Vain," the incendiary "Liar Liar" by the Castaways from 1965. They're not exactly deep cuts, but you're not likely to hear them on other Valley oldies stations, and more important, they sound fantastic with the added hum and boom of the AM transmission. Fourteen of 'em in a row — true dusty, poppy gold.

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