Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

Yucca Tap Room is one of the best rock bars in the Valley, period. Featuring the perfect combination of quality food and drink and divey atmosphere, Yucca has stalwartly maintained its presence as an oasis for live music in Tempe as surrounding venues have dropped like beats at a dubstep show. Yucca has anchored itself as both a destination for underground touring bands and locals who have gained somewhat of a following. And don't forget one of the best bonuses of playing at Yucca: Double Nickel Collective, a kickass record store, is just next door. So, if the music gets too loud or stops matching your taste, you can pop over and flip through records more to your liking.

Readers Choice: Crescent Ballroom

Crescent Ballroom

There are a number of reasons Crescent Ballroom is the first venue Phoenix residents mention to their music-loving friends when they come for a visit. First, the venue is so cool that beautiful people go there to eat and hang when there's not even a show happening, because the cocktails and food are both simple, delicious, and reasonably priced. Then, inside the ballroom, there's great sound, bleachers in the back for tired legs, and two bars, perfect for the 550-capacity venue, so there's rarely a wait for drinks. It's a wonderful spot to catch an intimate show, as well as a great place to cut loose when the situation demands.

Readers Choice: Crescent Ballroom

The Lost Leaf
The Lost Leaf

Lost Leaf is a bar/music venue that offers live music seven nights a week on Roosevelt Row's vibrant Fifth Street. It's a fine example of the adaptive reuse that gives the downtown arts district its character — Lost Leaf resides in an old home that at one point housed a Max's Sausage store. This means the interior of Lost Leaf doesn't feel anything like a modern venue; you wend your way around the bar and past walls adorned with painting by local artists to get to where the bands perform. But you can't really call it a stage at Lost Leaf. It's more of a nook, a rectangular recess that squeezes the band into close quarters and shoehorns spectators into a similar area just out in front, wedged between the band, the bathrooms, the exit to the smoking area, and the bar. The result is perfect for rock. The small area creates density, feeding musicians the energy of a packed house, which the band in turn unleashes on the audience. It's rock 'n' roll paradise.

Readers Choice: Crescent Ballroom

The Rhythm Room

This year, B.B. King, one of the last true blues superstars, passed away. It's fitting that his visage is now painted on the side of the Rhythm Room, Phoenix's premier blues club, alongside roots icons like Little Walter, Big Mama Thornton, Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Painted by local artist Curt Condrat, the mural represents the aims of Bob Corritore: preserving and celebrating the blues. Host of Those Lowdown Blues radio program Sunday nights on KJZZ 91.5 for the past 30 years, Corritore is no slouch on the harmonica himself, and in addition to performing around the world, he opened the Rhythm Room in 1991 and has maintained it as a destination for local blues bands like the Sugar Thieves, the Rocket 88s, and Cold Shott & the Hurricane Horns, as well as a stop for touring acts like Janiva Magness, Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, and Joe Louis Walker. Twenty-four years on, the Rhythm Room remains the Valley's most storied juke joint. 

Readers Choice: Rhythm Room

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

Blooze Bar

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

Royale Lounge
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

Rips Ales & Cocktails
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.

Cash Inn Country

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

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