Lauren Cusimano

We're not talking about one of those fancy Internet jukeboxes, with all the songs in the world at your fingertips. No, the jukebox at Shady's, the wood-paneled, dimly lit spot on East Indian School Road, is loaded with real CDs, and its masterfully curated selection of ska, indie rock, garage, soul, and early alternative is unmatched around town. It's all about variety: Put in your quarters or bills and you can swing from the raw R&B of Screamin' Jay Hawkins to the taut post-punk of Joy Division, from rootsy Trojan ska to the searing jangle rock of the Dream Syndicate. Best of all, the juke has local flavor on lock, featuring Phoenix soul by Eddie and Ernie, Roy and the Dew Drops, the Servicemen, and Fredi and Henchi, garage rock from the Hobbit, the Door Knobs, and modern bashers the Rebel Set.

Readers Choice: The Cornish Pasty

Josh Chesler

The décor is bright green, the carpet is shag, there's a pole in the middle of the room, and the TV screen is giant. What more could you ask for in a karaoke setting? Oh, yeah, privacy. You've got that, too. For a fee (call ahead for a reservation), Geisha A Go Go will kindly rent you a small room just off its main dining room for all your karaoke needs. You'll be assigned a waitperson and given menus, and the food and drink will flow along with the classic tunes. Have fun and don't forget to try the pole. Why not? No one's watching.

Readers Choice: The Grapevine

There's something about rhythm and blues music that makes one want to move and (quite possibly) groove. Maybe it's all the catchy hooks, fiery tempos, or infectious grooves inherent to the genre, but hearing a great R&B song has a tendency to get people in motion, whether they're shaking their tailfeathers or simply snapping their fingers to the beat. Both happen quite frequently inside Char's Has the Blues during any of its nightly R&B shows or jam sessions. As artists and acts like Laydee Jai, Larry Bailey, or Soul Power belt out their brand of rhythm and blues (as well as a variety of funk and Motown tunes), those who pack the place will boogie, bounce, or bust a move, particularly on its modestly sized parquet dance floor. True, it may offer less space than other Valley dance spots, but the close-quarters action only adds to the intimate juke joint atmosphere of Char's, as does the sultry red lighting bathing its interior. And since the bar's nook-like stage shares a portion of the dance floor, you might wind up cutting a rug alongside that evening's performers. Not that they're judging you or anything.

Readers Choice: Crescent Ballroom

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.

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