Best Rock Venue 2018 | Pub Rock Live | Nightlife | Phoenix

If the walls of Pub Rock Live could speak, they'd probably offer up many twisted tales of rock 'n' roll exploits that've gone down at this Scottsdale spot during its many iterations over the decades. For a good chunk of the '90s, it was a hard-rock sanctum called The Atomic Cafe. Then, it transformed into Chasers, a dive-y haven for both heavy metal and punk effin' rock. In 2012, it became Pub Rock Live, but has continued its predecessors' predilection for rock and its many different flavors. During any given month, the club's 20-by-26-foot stage hosts all manner of touring acts, particularly those specializing in metal, pop-punk, garage rock, and hardcore. Locals love the place, too, including bands like Doll Skin, Fourbanger, The Beast of Bailey Downs, and Ebinezer. Plus, there's always tons of free parking and the bartending staff is friendly as hell. Rock on.

Why do we keep coming back to The Rhythm Room as our pick for the best blues destination in town? Probably for the same reasons that local blues hounds keep coming back, year after year, to indulge their taste for toe-tappin' and rump-shakin' tunes at this central Phoenix blues institution. The many shades of the genre — from Delta and Chicago to 12-bar and boogie-woogie — are showcased several times a week at this no-frills joint equipped with just a stage, seating area, and bar. There's always room to dance, though, which patrons do with gusto when things get jumping. The Rhythm Room is a longtime favorite of local artists and touring legends alike, and has been since owner Bob Corritore, a veteran harmonica man and longtime host of KJZZ's Those Lowdown Blues, helped open the spot 27 years ago. We sincerely hope The Rhythm Room doesn't stop boppin' for another three decades or more. And that ain't no jive.

Lauren Cusimano

You really can't miss this west Valley honky-tonk. Marked by farm equipment, a giant chicken, and other sun-bleached kitsch, Roman's Oasis has been in place since 1998, when the Alabama-born owner — Roman, obviously — could count just a few houses within sight of the country bar. Now, 30 years later (and one nearby spinoff — Roman's County Line), Roman's Oasis is still packed with a boot-scooting, table-slapping crowd. There are several rooms, meaning several bars and dance floors, and the calendar lists karaoke and dance lessons, as well as tournaments for cards, darts, and shuffleboard. There's also a full kitchen, good people, and lots of what matters: cold beer.

Elbow your way past the college crowds on Mill Avenue, make it past the bouncer, and descend a flight of stairs to enter Low Key Piano Bar. Once inside, you can watch two dueling pianists perform high-octane renditions of pop hits new and old. A rotating crew of genuinely talented musicians go for broke onstage in front of a sea of low tables. Be prepared for the inevitable patron who has one too many syringe Jell-O shots or fishbowls of alcohol, and then jumps onstage to hog the microphone. You can also expect the singers to get more raucous (and sweatier), and the crowd more hyped up, the closer it gets to last call. Low Key stands out among the other varieties of nightlife on Mill Avenue, and is the perfect place to end your evening on a high note.

Opening a dance joint is a risky venture, even in a nightlife-friendly party zone like Mill Avenue. Clubgoers are fickle, tastes and trends are constantly changing, and the competition is always out to eat you alive. Despite these odds, Aura Nightclub has managed to thrive, probably because it's got a lot going for it. The 9,500-square-foot spot, which opened in April, has an excellent pedigree, as owner Narender Raju also runs popular local venue The Pressroom. And just like he transformed a shady downtown Phoenix warehouse venue into the aforementioned concert spot, he renovated and revamped the decrepit two-story space on Mill that formerly housed School of Rock into a high-tech nightlife playground. The main room boasts a 5,000-square-foot dance floor, 14 VIP tables, several 4K high-def screens, intelligent lighting, and a state-of-the-art sound system. There's also a huge stage that hosts DJs and bands brought in by general manager and talent booker Cahleb Branch, a veteran of the local hip-hop scene. An adjacent lounge area contains even more seating, a chill vibe, and enormous windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of Mill that allow you to kick back and check out the line of folks clamoring to get in.

First, the good news: You don't have to beg or even invoke the eponymous phrase of this Scottsdale hotspot to gain entry. Just be willing to wait in line, dress to impress, and make nice with security (pro tip: a strategically timed 20-spot sometimes helps). Once inside, stroll past the foyer's electric pink "Oh-la-la!!" neon sign and a golden perch-like swing (a popular backdrop for Insta photos) and enter an opulently decorated den of decadence offering an enticing mix of hot sounds and even hotter bodies. A seductively playful verve permeates the 350-person nightclub, from its sultry red lighting and sexy beats to its lingerie-clad female waitstaff. There are even a few booths equipped with stripper poles, should patrons, inebriated or otherwise, desire to make a spectacle of themselves. And if you really want to be the center of attention, Pretty Please's two hydraulic-equipped VIP booths in the center of the room can elevate you and your squad above the crowd while lasers and smoke effects shoot out from underneath. Sure, it might seem a bit ostentatious at other local nightspots, but in image-obsessed and spectacle-driven Old Town Scottsdale, it's right at home.

Matt Hennie

Charlie's is a clear staple of the local queer community because it's always been one of the best places to dance, grab a drink, or watch a drag show. RuPaul's Drag Race cast members and alumni often tear the house down, and Charlie's doesn't charge a cover for these Thursday night shows. But the best part of Charlie's is what separates it from everyone else. The delicious Taqueria Los Yaquis provides the perfect drunk munchies Thursday through Sunday, offering tacos, quesadillas, and other snacks for a few dollars via a taco truck window. On the weekends, the huge indoor dance floor opens up and the resident DJs play the best in pop music, never forgetting the gay favorites (read: Madonna, Lady Gaga, etc.).

Located in the heart of Phoenix's very own "gayborhood," Stacy's @ Melrose is reliable for a good time and fantastic drink specials. Despite the discreet exterior, the bar/nightclub is full of ambiance, from high ceilings to dim lights and gothic-inspired decor. The staff ensures that there's always something to do at Stacy's, which makes for fun programming like weekly bingo, karaoke, and DJ nights. On Tuesdays, Stacy's hosts The Queer Agenda, an alternative and inclusive drag show that's enlisted some of Phoenix's hippest queens. Stacy's also features the coolest all-gender restrooms in the Valley, which continue the gothic aesthetic found throughout the building. Established in 2013, it's a newer venue, but there's nothing else like it in metro Phoenix.

Who doesn't love an all-day happy hour? (Answer: no one.) The Cash Nightclub and Lounge offers one daily from 4 to 8 p.m. that features $3 domestic beers and well drinks, among other discounts. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it hosts karaoke and bingo, respectively, but it's the Tuesday night two-step and line-dance lessons that make this country-themed, lesbian-slanted bar the Phoenix staple it is. But The Cash — as it lovingly has been known since it originally was named Cash Inn Country — is inclusive in more ways than one. Although the crowd is often cut from the lesbian cloth, there's always a variety of patrons who fit under the other letters of the LGBTQ+ abbreviation, and everyone is welcome. And fortunately for those who can only handle so much Americana twang, The Cash plays music that crosses genre lines, including Top 40, pop, and hip-hop.

Club VOLT's 4Some Revue recently has undergone changes, altering the original cast that has been performing at the relatively new venue for over a year. Toothpick and Joey Jay have been added to the show, joining original cast members Luna Love St. James and Gia DeMilo to bring the roof down every Friday starting at 10:30 p.m. The weekly cast is talented, bringing their own brands of fashion, comedy, and lip-syncs time and time again. But it's the rotating special guest spots (filled with some of the Valley's most interesting performers, veterans and newbies alike) that make the show truly pop. Be sure to try one of the special 4Some cocktails, which have to be the booziest $4 drinks offered in metro Phoenix.

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