Q & Brew

Were one inspired, it would be perfectly easy to spend an entire evening just hanging around the Danelle Plaza on the corner of Southern and Mill avenues. Start off the night browsing records at the Double Nickels collective, grab a coffee at 51 West, take down a couple of craft whiskeys at Yucca Tap Room, and then cross the parking lot over to Q & Brew, the pool hall that has proudly stood for 27 years. There are snacks and pinball, but the main draw is the plentiful pool tables and a (usually packed) smoking table. You might see pool leagues competing or ASU students on a first date, all soundtracked by the familiar crack of the cue against balls and curses over missed shots.

Monkey Pants Bar & Grill

You're out for karaoke, it's finally your turn, and you're not sure whether you should stay seated when handed the microphone or stand awkwardly next to your table and friends — you know, for your diaphragm's sake. Not the case at Monkey Pants Bar & Grill, found in the Huntington Square Shopping Center at Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe. They have a stage — complete with a cozy living room backdrop and two microphones with stands — and you're to get up there when your name is called. Feel the hot lights like a real star during karaoke on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 8 p.m. to close — which includes the infamous One O'Clock Shirtless Shot. And while you wait, there's booze, food, and plenty of regulars belting out everything from Cyndi Lauper to Notorious B.I.G. to Rocky Horror Picture Show classics and, of course, "Love Shack."

Shady's
Lauren Cusimano

We're sure you could find someone out there who might wish the Shady's staff would toss some hit makers into the mix — maybe that Timberlake song from Trolls, or something from twenty one pilots, or whatever. But here's the thing: You can hear those songs anywhere, from the grocery store to your local bar. The mix at Shady's, featuring weirdo blues, pub rock, two-tone ska, and off-kilter indie rock, is one-of-a-kind, a selection curated especially by the staff, and the CDs stocked there (that's right, it's a real jukebox, not one of those digital ones) reflects uniquely on the place. It's singular, and in a day and age where you're likely to hear the same songs overhead most everywhere (and for real, we like "One Dance" a lot, too!) the dedication represented by the Shady's jukebox is a thing of stubborn, loving glory.

Cornish Pasty Co.
Shelby Moore

Next time you're at the Tempe location of Cornish Pasty on Hardy and University drives, look — or listen — for the glowing red room emitting sinister-sounding music, and sometimes, characters. That would be the Beast, and in there you'll find a full bar, pool tables, dartboards, band-sticker-laden booths and high tops, the occasional dance party, and one fantastic jukebox. Slide off your bar stool for a quick trip to that radiant piece of machinery over by the pool tables, and you'll find a contraption teeming with speed metal, thrash, some hardcore punk, and some dark classics. A taste of what you'll find in the Beast's jukebox? Dio, Megadeth, early Metallica, Venom, and more.  

What separates a good DJ from a great DJ? Possessing some actual talent helps, as does a tireless work ethic, single-minded focus, and the wherewithal to diligently pursue your goals; in short, the same personality traits that have helped Benjamin Cutswell succeed. Over the last 18 years, DJing has pretty much been his sole purpose in life. As a matter of fact, it's akin to an obsession. "My whole life is about DJing, everything I do," he says. "I'm completely consumed." Since getting his hands on some secondhand turntables at age 14, it's been a nonstop grind of constant practicing, finding music, creating mixes, networking, and, of course, performing. And there aren't many joints in the Valley where Cutswell, who spins an open format during his sets, hasn't gigged. All this dedication has paid off considerably, as he's in demand at hotspots like Cake in Scottsdale, as well as both locations of El Hefe. Red Bull also taps him to DJ their sporting events, while the jocks at Adidas fly him out to the NBA All-Star Game's host city each year to work after-parties. In the words of Drake, he started from the bottom, now he's here.

Tommy Laurie enjoys the sort of career that any local DJ would envy. A onetime protege of Z-Trip, the performer known as Tricky T honed his considerable skills during Phoenix's DJ heyday of the late '90s, battling local legends like M2 and Pickster One, melting wax at influential venues like the old Nita's Hideaway, and opening for the Roots and Outkast. Needless to say, Laurie knows his way around a pair of Technics. He's able to drop hip-hop and party-rock sets with aplomb, he can beat-juggle and trick-mix with the best of 'em, and his remixes and mashups are both innovative and creative. He's also got the scratching thing on lock. Over the decades, he's had a hand in promoting some of the Valley's more notable club nights, ranging from Funky Cornbread in the early aughts to The Blunt Club. (The Rhythm, The Rebel, his newest affair, has been bringing people into The Rebel Lounge monthly since launching in July.) In essence, Laurie's proclamation of being "your favorite DJ's favorite DJ" isn't just boasting. Like they say, it's not bragging if it's true. 

Home to reliable morning programming like The Breakfast Club (billed as "the most dangerous morning show in the world," but don't worry, it's actually pretty tame) and Nina Cruz's The Gello Show, 101.1 The Beat leans heavily on '90s West Coast — big on Biggie, Snoop, and Tupac — but there's a good chance you'll hear a great jam you've forgotten all about, like Diddy and Usher's "I Need a Girl" or Ja Rule and Ashanti's fantastic and sweet "Mesmerize." The vibe's always optimized for backyard barbecues, especially on themed long weekends, like the I Love the '90s Memorial Day programming; it's consistently smooth, and will transport you directly back to the Clinton era. 

No station is dedicated more passionately to the breaking of new music than KWSS. Tune in on any given afternoon, and you might hear classic alternative tunes from the Dandy Warhols or Blur, but you'll quickly hear it followed up by younger bands carrying on those traditions, groups like the electronically tinged Ghostland Observatory or English rockers Bastille. The playlist is vast and varied; unlike so many rock stations, it's not just the same 30 songs on an infinite loop.

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. 

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