Best Rapper 2017 | Ali Tomineek | Nightlife | Phoenix

Ali Tomineek has no apologies. He made that clear on his 2016 mixtape I Ain't Sorry. What the Arizona-born independent rapper does have? A cool 100,000 YouTube followers who keep tabs on the speed demon's latest flows. He first found an audience while attending Peoria High School, rapping curse-free verses during the school's video announcements. He's taken that vibe worldwide to a massive audience (Tomineek says one of his videos hit a million views before it was hacked) he's dubbed the 31 Squad. In May 2017, Tomineek released his debut full-length record, #FridayFlow, snagged a top spot on Billboard's Heatseekers Mountain chart, and made an appearance on local hip-hop radio haven The Beatlocker.

Let's get to the point, shall we? The Darts fucking rock — and deliver on the promise to "make your head slam and your feet shake." The garage-psych band of badass women have the albums to prove it. That's two EPs, to be exact, and one LP. Nicole Laurenne (formerly of Love Me Nots and Motobunny), Michelle Balderrama (Brainspoon), Christina Nunez (Love Me Nots), and Rikki Styxx (Dollyrots) took the band's noisy, sexy songs on tour for the summer — and through Europe. But the girls are back in town, and recently dropped Me.Ow, a full-length debut that was recorded by Bob Hoag and pressed on pink vinyl.

Hometown folk-punk heroes AJJ have been at it for years now. To celebrate a decade of the band's seminal record, People Who Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World, founding members Ben Gallaty and Sean Bonnette played not one, but five sold-out concerts at downtown DIY venue The Trunk Space. Besides a sweaty good time, the duo formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad played the album front to back — and tossed in requests from the audience, who knew every single word. A testament to both the venue and hardworking rockers (who tour relentlessly and are now signed to Asian Man Records), the packed shows are proof that people in Phoenix love their local bands. The feeling's mutual.

The 2017 Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a star-studded event for fans of jangle-pop, grunge, and The Boss. Valley bands and musicians including The Gin Blossoms and Nils Lofgren (the guitarist and longtime Springsteen sideman) rocked the stage at Celebrity Theatre, which was also being welcomed into the hall of fame that late August night. But perhaps most notable was the reforming of Meat Puppets' O.G. lineup: Cris and Curt Kirkwood, along with drummer Derrick Bostrom. It was the first time the three founding Puppets had performed together since New Year's Eve in 1995. And it was fucking righteous.

When a dive bar gets a makeover, the neighborhood draws its collective breath. Will they still have darts? What's going to happen to all that wood paneling? Can I still order three SoCo limes for a party of one without being judged? Luckily, the crew behind Dilly Dally's remodel a couple of years ago made all the right moves. While slightly spiffier than it was in 2015, the Dillz has maintained that perfect blend of cheap beer, questionable music, and lights low enough for you to make some bad decisions. Diehards might lament the "Arcadiazation" of this pub, but we don't mind the bar keeping up with its increasingly fancy neighbors in Gaslight Square, especially when that means a huge new window. Keep the cheap beer flowing.

Lauren Cusimano

Though this local hangout is hard to find behind a bustling Starbucks, the Swizzle Inn draws more than its fair share of customers. Weekend patrons and Thursday night stool-warmers are not hard to come by, but the real charm is found in the day-drinking crowd. It's dark, of course, with the only light coming from the decorated atrium (there's usually a holiday theme of whatever sort), and the occasional swinging open of the heavy front door. Pro tip: Come here during the holidays to see every square inch of this place covered in twinkle lights. Around since 1996, and previously the Starlight Lounge, the Swizz has daily specials, a pool table, plenty of seating, silly signs on the wall, a decent selection of '80s and country on the jukebox, and more important in these kinds of places, clean bathrooms. And you can tell who's in for the long haul when someone pays with plastic, because there's a $10 card minimum.

Two bands loom large in recent New Times cover curse history. There's The Format, the early-aughts indie rock project from Nate Ruess and Sam Means. That duo broke up in 2008, two years after they reclined smiling on the cover of this publication. And you've got Dear and the Headlights, who packed it in two years after their 2009 cover. Both acts hit the big time — and members of both have gone on to found new projects. Dig a little deeper into the ol' memory bank and you might recall The Medic Droid, who broke up seven whole days after their cover. Will the curse continue? Well, we'd be the first to admit that it's not the most consistent of hexes. But it'll be worth checking in with Futuristic and Destruction Unit in a minute.

We've heard that wishing on a star is a surefire way to get what you want. But what star should you wish upon? Are there more prestigious stars with a higher success rate of granting wishes? Is that even a star to begin with, or are you wishing on a 747? Just to be safe, we recommend going to one of the Phoenix Astronomical Society's free public star parties, an all-ages event where you can look to the night skies in the company of some knowledgeable amateur astronomers and your fellow star neophytes. Events are usually, but not always, held at Paradise Valley Community College's Black Mountain Campus in far north Scottsdale, where the distance from the city lights helps you scan the heavens that much more effectively. You can bring your own telescope, or PSA members bring their own for the public to look through. Either way, you know you'll have an excellent view of the sky — the better to choose a star to wish on.

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