Best Classic Rock Radio Station 2016 | KCDX 103.1 FM | Fiesta | Phoenix

We'll freely admit that some of the attraction to KCDX is the mystery. Broadcast from the desert, there are no DJs, only a long, endless stream of free-form music. You might hear prog rock crashing into country rock, or gentle folk rock colliding with chiming power pop, but you'll rarely hear the same song more than once for weeks. Big stations aren't playing the Jayhawks or the Smithereens like KCDX is, but you don't necessarily tune in to hear anything specific. You let the mysterious "Guru" who's running the show simply surprise you with a song you haven't heard in years, or even better, have never heard played on the radio. 

We were pretty nervous when "AZ Gold" KAZG relaunched early in 2016 as Oldies 92.7, but luckily for us, there's still plenty to love. The new station, which still simulcasts on the AM frequency we know and love, leans much heavier on the '70s than before, but the tunes are guaranteed winners, like Carole King's gently funky "I Feel the Earth Move" and Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)"; plus, the new format still allows for slips back to the '60s with songs like Gene Chandler's classic "Duke of Earl." The adjusted format and name change comes with increased access, too. The station maintains an interactive Facebook page and offers streaming online. 

No offense to the fine rock stations of Phoenix, but if you really wanna hear music about partying — stuff in the tradition of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue — you should turn your dial to KNIX. Modern country has its detractors, but it's hard to deny the cold-beer, boot-stomping swagger of KNIX's playlist, stacked with the likes of Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, and Uncle Kracker — country artists unafraid of a little hip-hop inspired low end or arena-rock crunch. Sure, they might deviate from the sonic touchstones of classic country, but the attitude and ethos are "outlaw" in their own right.

Walking the tight rope between old-school soul, funk, and the Quiet Storm program with selections from contemporary artists, Mega 104.3 is the kind of station that knows how to draw the connecting line between Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" to Earth Wind and Fire's "Shining Star." Things stay consistently funky, whether said funk's coming from the Bee Gees or Parliament-Funkadelic or Janet Jackson, and like its sister station 101.1 The Beat, the grooves here seem custom-engineered for smooth, languid listening. The station is often a lifesaver on backed-up Phoenix freeways: a soft, pillowy balm for road rage. 

An all-volunteer, community-centered station, Radio Phoenix features a diverse blend of talk, politics, and entertainment. There's music, and lots of it, from soul to blues and rock, but also a wide-ranging selection of political and social programs, like Soul Star Live, which examines culture and current events from a black viewpoint and the Budcoach Radio Show, a podcast focused on cannabis and weed culture. In addition to local perspectives, Radio Phoenix features programs from throughout the world, like the internationally syndicated Putumayo World Music Hour and Native America Calling from Albuquerque, focused on Native arts and history. 

Playboy Manbaby is one of the most popular bands in Phoenix for good reason. The group makes punk rock with a trumpet, but don't call it ska. The horn is just icing on the cake that is the manic energy of Playboy Manbaby. Onstage, frontman Robbie Pfeffer transforms into a screaming, flailing madman, shouting songs about selling out and giving your boss the middle finger. His onstage persona channels rock stars and Pentecostal preachers equally, and not many bands get roomfuls of people as engaged in punk rock call-and-response like PBMB. The result is often the most entertaining show in town.

You know when you hear a song and you can't help but react? The bass syncs up with your hips, and the drums seem to tell your feet exactly when to move. Pretty much every single one of the songs by Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (charmingly known as PAO by fans) holds this power to make you move. And we mean move. We dare you to sit still while this 15-piece orchestra does its jazzy thing, and singer Camille Sledge demonstrates the actual definition of funk. Sledge's energy alone is contagious enough to get your out of your chair and onto the dance floor. Just give in, and let PAO's rhythm move you. 

Led by guitarist Joel Robinson, Sunn Trio isn't really a trio (the band's roster fluctuates, but there are usually more than three players at any given time) but that "sunn" part tracks: There's a woozy, heatstroke feel to the band's innovative blend of surf rock, free jazz, mystical drone, and world music. Consistently recording and releasing material via self-distributed cassettes, the Trio's sound mutates in concert, with fantastic flurries of distorted guitars butting up against mantric psychedelic saxophone runs and looping bass. In Sunn Trio's capable hands, genre isn't something to adhere to, but rather a set of templates to be torn up and reassembled, and the band's creative destruction is something to behold. 

In 1977, punk rock wasn't necessarily exploding in Phoenix, but it was happening. There were the Consumers, the Liars, and the Exterminators at the forefront of the local movement which was in its infancy in the desert, like the first bulb on a saguaro cactus getting ready to bloom. At the helm of the mighty Exterminators were the Clark brothers — Dan on vocals and Doug on guitar — who would later help bring bands like the Feederz, the Brainz, Mighty Sphincter, and Victory Acres to life; one Don Bolles (aka Jimmy Giorsetti) on drums who would go on to play in the Germs, 45 Grave, and Fancy Space People; and bass player Rob Graves (Ritter), who also played in 45 Grave, Gun Club, and the Bags. The band would only survive until 1978, when many of the early Phoenix punks made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles, but early in 2016, Slope Records brought the Clarks and Bolles back together, with Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets taking over on bass for the deceased Graves. The result has been extraordinary as the band released a seven-inch and a full-length LP on Slope in September. Viva weirdo Phoenix punk rock. There's nothing better.

Rock 'n' roll is best at its most dangerous, and L. Hotshot of Phoenix garage rockers Scorpion vs. Tarantula is undoubtedly the most dangerous vocalist around. Screaming over the band's turbo-charged riffs — which owe as much to classic rock as they do the punk underground — Hotshot is as physically imposing as she is sonically, her face painted, her hair wild, and her towering stature clad entirely in leather. On SVT's latest, a six-song, vinyl-only self-titled EP, she dominates songs like "Molly O" and "You're All Talk," and makes songs like "Showstopper" sound like an entirely appropriate theme song for her stage-commanding vibe. 

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