Best Punk Bar 2015 | Rips Ales & Cocktails | Nightlife | Phoenix
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

Jennifer Goldberg

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

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