Best Jukebox 2018 | Gracie's Tax Bar | Nightlife | Phoenix
Charles Barth

Technology and credit cards have made cash practically obsolete, but the jukebox at Gracie's Tax Bar is the perfect reason to bring some crisp green bills for a night chugging down some libations. Smooth out some Washingtons and Lincolns against the edge of the multidisc machine, and you can craft an eclectic soundtrack for your drunken evening. Filled with music selected by local businesswoman and musician Grace Perry, the jukebox allows you to dance to some Otis Redding, rock out to The Clash, or put on some Johnny Cash and cry in your beer. (Note: We never recommend crying in your beer. Ever.)

Benjamin Leatherman

Is it a saloon? An Irish pub? A dive bar? All of the above? This bar on Camelback Road has a front porch that would fit in during the days of the Old West, a name that suggests Irish heritage, and an interior that could only be described as dive-y. Still, in an era when brand is everything and most restaurants and bars rely on gimmicks to get customers in the door, you have to respect H.B. Hanratty's amazing generalness. There's alcohol. There are darts. There's billiards. There are even pinball machines and the classic arcade hunting game Big Buck Hunter. If you want more in a bar, go somewhere else.

Let's face it, sports bars can be a dime a dozen. When it really boils down to it, they're all pretty much the same, offering the standard mix of bar food, televised action, and brews aplenty. Frankly, it takes something special to stand out from the lineup of other jock joints in town, which Santisi Brothers does with ease. Its enormous selection of 130 television screens (a.k.a. the "Wide Wall of Sports") trumps any other sports bar in town by itself. There are also plenty of activities taking place nightly at this north Phoenix hangout, ranging from karaoke and poker to fantasy sports sessions. Add in its similarly staggering selection of food and drink options (which include a wealth of hand-tossed pizzas, delicious wings, and a variety of Italian favorites), and Santisi Brothers stands tall over its competition. 

Benjamin Leatherman

There are many, many dive bars gracing the neighborhoods of our vast metropolis, but Hambone Sports Bar sets itself apart with a couple of distinct attributes. First, the Mesa strip mall bar has been The Hambone since 1958, or whatever year it opened — no one really knows for sure. It's first and foremost a pool bar, meaning six or so billiards tables dominate the room. The best part? You can smoke inside as there technically aren't windows, just screens. Yes, it's also a little warm, so good thing there's a bar and experienced bartenders to go with it. And here are some more fun facts: There used to be a menu, but now it's just drinks and snacks, so it dropped the "and grill" from the name. It opens at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday — a classic dive bar move — and at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. It does accept credit cards, it does have an internet jukebox, and yes, it does have a claw machine packed with stuffed and adult toys.

Jennifer Goldberg

When you think about it, Casey Moore's Oyster House — a freaking mainstay of the Tempe bar scene — is a big place. First, you have to make a decision on where you'd like to drink — options being the inside bar, a couple of side rooms, the spacious front patio, and the back-bar area shrouded in canopies that make you feel like you're shopping in some Moroccan market. If you're arriving during the day — and we suggest you do, as the patio is dog-friendly till 5 p.m. — make your decision and order a drink, because it's about to get fun. Spot old friends, out-of-towners, obvious regulars, and students just realizing they maybe shouldn't have brought their parents here for lunch. What's more, you can couple this quality people-watching with the lengthy and well-executed food menu. Order some fried clam strips, Oysters Rockefeller, Casey's Famous Reuben, or on chillier days, a cup of Casey's homemade soup. And for every other day, there are cold drinks.

Benjamin Leatherman

Most DJs wait forever for their big break. Chris Villa got his at age 13. In 2001, he was spotted doing turntable trickery at a local Guitar Center by a personality from Power 92.3 (now Power 98.3/96.1). It led to an appearance on the hip-hop station, and later, a full-time job after graduating high school. And Villa's gotten exponentially better since then, developing into a rock-solid selector who can effortlessly spin mixes on the fly, dominate in DJ battles, and rock a crowd. Having just turned 30, he's only hitting his stride. Good thing, too, since Villa's constantly in demand. He plays at clubs five nights a week, posts hit-getting performance videos to industry website, holds it down weekdays on LIVE 101.5, and works as an official Arizona Diamondbacks DJ during baseball season. He also occasionally jets off to NYC for sets on SiriusXM's Shade 45 channel or Serrato's social media platforms. And somewhere in there, he finds time to dote on his two sons, ages 6 months and 3 years. Basically, it's "can't stop, won't stop" for Villa, who wouldn't have it any other way.

The fliers made by Djentrification are as unique as one of his mixes. That is to say, they're a blend of funky, quirky, and worldly vibes, coupled with a little bit of odd and a whole lotta cool. For years, the artist and DJ has created fliers for events he's involved in (like the weekly 602'sDays party at Bikini Lounge). Each one is crafted by hand using a number of methods — including stenciling, drawing, and silk-screening — and always feature his distinctive styles of lettering that are almost graf-like in appearance. He also occasionally incorporates desert or indigenous influences, whether it's a serpentine creature winding around the letters or fashioning words in the shape of a roadrunner. Djentrification's art deserves its own exhibition, which it got earlier this year ... sorta. During AJJ's Desert Trash party at The Van Buren back in February, a collection of his fliers, prints, and other works were put on display, including the amazing poster he created for the event (natch).

The members of Gestalt Theory get hearts pounding, fists pumping, and bodies moving at many of the bigger DJ nights and dance music festivals around town. And they do it without dropping a single beat. As VJs, or video jockeys, they control the rapid-fire streams of graphics, animation, and video being broadcast over the array of LED screens onstage or projected onto walls, matching the sounds being blasted almost beat by beat. It complements and accentuates the music, amps up the energy level, and involves just as much mixing wizardry as any DJ. Watch any of Gestalt Theory's seven VJs at work, and you'll witness hands flying between laptop keyboards and control decks while unleashing visual concoctions of trippy imagery hewn from hundreds of clips. They've been dishing out this addicting eye candy at local EDM events since 2014, when local video artist and graphic designer Thomy Hoefer launched the collective after working dance parties at Bar Smith and elsewhere. Since then, Gestalt Theory's jocks have worked at Shady Park in Tempe and Monarch Theatre, as well as festivals like BOO! Arizona and Bassrush Massive. Meanwhile, Hoefer has crossed the globe with superstar DJ/producer Marshmello as his touring VJ, while other Gestalt Theory members tour with EDM artists like Ghastly, Ookay, and Slushii, helping spread Gestalt Theory's influence worldwide.

DJ Javin has only been in the scene for a handful of years, but she already has made her mark and become the best turntablist in town. Every weeknight, you can catch her scratching, selecting, and cutting with skill and style on hip-hop station Power 98.3/96.1. And every weekend, she's usually busy dominating the decks at hot spots like The District and the W Hotel in Scottsdale. In between all her gigs, Javin (pronounced "Jay-vin") can usually be found sharpening her DJ skills at home, laying down tracks for a weekly show on Pitbull's SiriusXM Globalization channel, or gearing up to open for hip-hop stars like Snow Tha Product when they roll through town. This fall, she'll head to Philadelphia to compete in the U.S. national finals of Red Bull Music 3Style DJ battle along with the Valley's Chris Villa in an attempt to become the best in the country. Her competition better be prepared, since Javin's got talent to spare.

No Volcano almost threw in the towel and didn't release their third album this year. They lost their original bassist, leaving guitarist Jim Andreas wondering if the project was destined to not happen. Nevertheless, they persisted. Andreas, guitarist Jeremy Randall, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Kennedy recruited James Karnes to take over on the four-string. Even if the quartet hadn't released Envy in the Valley, they likely still would have won the title of best band in Phoenix. The music veterans release evocative music videos, and make every live show an event by mixing onstage visual elements with their well-crafted rock songs.

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