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. 

Wyves was a breath of fresh air in the music scene when they started gigging in 2015, and the group released its debut album, Spoils of War, in 2016. In addition to cementing guitarist Nick Sterling as one of the top shredders in Phoenix, the album really showed that the proper place for Corey Gloden is in front of a microphone. Gloden's voice sounds older and more soulful than you'd imagine. There's definitely some classic rock influence in Gloden's vocals, and he possesses chops powerful enough to make a room stand still when he desires. There's grit and pain in his voice as well, making his vocal cords some of the most interesting in Phoenix. 

Nerd rap may be a subset within the larger subset of indie rap, but Raheem "Mega Ran" Jarbo's lyrical chops are stellar without any extra qualifiers. He's not good for a nerd rapper — he's simply a good rapper. That said, he brings the geek cred, too. Working with a modified 8-bit gaming system, his beats bloop like classic Nintendo soundtracks, and his deft, positive lyricism is peppered with references to classic games, pro wrestling, and cartoons. He's been embraced by outlets like the Nerdist, who've proclaimed his "ferocious flow," but you don't have to be a gamer to dig what he does — it helps, but it's not required — because Jarbo creates a world within his records that's open to all. 

Allow us to modify Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's comments about pornography from 1964 to fit the definition of "real country": We're not sure exactly what it is, but we know it when we hear it. And that's the vibe you get watching Phoenix country band Junction 10 play at local bars like the Yucca Tap Room. Inspired chiefly by the late Merle Haggard, Junction 10 plays Bakersfield-style country (to quote Dwight Yoakam's quoting of Waylon Jennings, Phoenix is just "Bakersfield East," anyhow): twangy, hard-edged, and soulful. Vocalist/guitarist Robert Perez, a big man with a big voice and a big heart, leads the band with ambling charm, and his band always matches him with worn intensity.

Guitarist Tommy Connell doesn't need much to make his Sunday night performances on the Cibo pizzeria patio special — just his small amp, his tasteful effects pedal, and his big Gretsch guitar, which he utilizes to weave a stream of classic jazz, quiet lounge melodies, and rustic Americana. Known for his work with pedal steel player Jon Rauhouse (who plays for Neko Case, Billy Bob Thornton, and more), Connell knows how to find the sweet spot between Western swing — hillbilly jazz! — and evocative, twangy atmosphere, adding a lilting, understated ambience to Cibo's already cozy evening vibe.

Established in 2013, Phoenix-based label Moone Records has quickly solidified itself as the premier representation of Phoenix's indie pop underground. Cassette, vinyl, CD, and digital releases by country-rock super group Little Bobby Jr. and the Horsey House Band & Friends (featuring members of ROAR and Cherie Cherie)  and indie R&B-inspired outfit Pro Teens demonstrate the label's design aesthetic — clean, minimalist packaging — and speak to the genre-bending approach which seems to guide each entry in its catalog. The label wears its Phoenix pride on its sleeve, hosting shows around town and shining a light on little-seen corners of the art scene here, as well as committing to community-based activism (see the trenchant HB 2440 commentary offered on the label's Facebook page). 

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