The Trunk Space

The Trunk Space stands apart from every other music venue in the Valley. First, the DIY spot is purely a nonprofit venture run by volunteers, overseen by a seven-person board, and largely features shows by local indie promoters. It's also located on the grounds of a historic house of worship (specifically, Grace Lutheran Church) whose staff and clergy are cool enough to let it do its own thing. And at The Trunk Space, that thing is usually a bit unusual. Since debuting in 2004, the venue has fostered the sort of outsider art, experimental performances, noise artistry, and musical oddities that can't be seen elsewhere. "We enjoy things that are definitely strange and outsider," says Trunk Space co-founder Steph Carrico. "There are plenty of places to play if you're a rock band, but not that many places to play if you tape contact mics onto a table and drag it around on a floor." In addition to all the weirdness, the Trunk Space also hosts gigs by local and touring indie acts on the regular. In an age when DIY venues frequently go defunct, the Trunk Space has survived for 15-plus years. Here's hoping it sticks around for decades to come.

The Nile Theater

There's a lot of diversity among the Valley's concert venues: large-scale clubs, huge stadiums, outdoor amphitheaters, ample dive bars, and even a church rec room. But there are few like The Underground at The Nile Theater, likely the closest thing to a CBGB or Club 82 as Phoenix has ever had. The Nile itself has a history of holding raucous punk and metal shows, and The Underground takes those same madcap events and drops the square footage by a country mile. With exposed pipes and bare concrete floors, The Underground is more akin to a bomb shelter or a fetish dungeon than most rock clubs. But that slightly oppressive, moderately intimidating vibe works wonders, and the best artists are able to fill the space with noise and an air of creative confrontation. It's easy to get lost in the Underground — not, like, physically — forgoing the inherent claustrophobia for primal levels of camaraderie and moshing. Just remember to always stretch and hydrate before any Underground show.

Celebrity Theatre

This historic venue has seen generations of musicians pass over its circular stage, and if you have attended a show at Celebrity Theatre, you know how intimate a 2,650-seat venue can feel when the stage is in the center of the room. There is something about a theater in the round that is especially conducive to a hip-hop show. This is a feature mostly afforded to rap artists who are fortunate enough to fill stadium-size venues, because most clubs and smaller venues have the stage situated at the end of the floor. The freedom for the performer of having a 360-degree vantage point allows for innumerable unique moments they can share with the audience.

Casino Arizona

Tribute acts and casinos go together like buffets and blackjack, or retirees and slot machines. Just look at Sin City, where a wide variety of tribute acts and artists perform each week, or, on a more local level, Casino Arizona in Scottsdale. The sincerest form of flattery is served up regularly inside its showroom, courtesy of the array of tribute bands rolling through for two-night stints almost every weekend. The selection is largely mock 'n' roll bands like Metallica mimics Masters of Puppets, the grunge gurus of Fooz Fighters, or G N' R tribute Paradise City, but acts paying homage to Selena and Elvis (natch) are occasionally featured. Best of all, tickets typically top out at $17.50 (before processing fees), allowing you plenty of leftover cash to order a few rounds. Who knows? After enough cocktails, you might just think that's actually a Use Your Illusion-era Axl Rose gyrating onstage like a bandana-clad sleazoid dervish while howling out lyrics. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

Music writers get an exorbitant amount of emails about cleverly named, small, independent bands, filled with hyperbolic reasons explaining why the group's album should be the next thing they listen to. Most publications will regurgitate those releases as clickbait, making their readers wonder if the author even bothered to hear the hard work the band put in. But when publicists sent Nanami Ozone's second album, NO, to inboxes, reviewers actually paid attention. The Phoenix quartet's hybrid of pop, shoegaze, and '90s alternative is too good to ignore. Now, the band are touring the coasts (and Canada) to become the Valley's greatest musical export since AJJ. We're already planning think pieces about the group's success.

Of the few Phoenix-bred groups to make it out of the desert, Injury Reserve have to be the most boundary-pushing. After signing with indie-major label Loma Vista last year, they delivered their self-titled debut album in May, preceded by a string of videos showing the trio staging a fashion show, taking a Tesla for a joyride, and other wild ideas. They're currently on a worldwide tour that will take them to Australia, Japan, and Europe. There's also a local date scheduled for December 27 at The Van Buren.

It's easy to talk to Peter Resendiz, frontman of Phoenix's Sad Dance Party, and forget that he's just 20 years old — or that his band have only been around for a couple of years. Part of that ease is Resendiz's blend of charm and commitment, the kind of musician you'd follow even through a lengthy goth phase. With Resendiz as their screaming, beating heart, SDP make deeply expressive music, squeezing every intense, overwhelming emotion possible into two-minute punk songs. Last year's Spontaneous Human Combustion felt like an achievement in balancing earworm songwriting with deeply visceral displays of humanity, and yet the band already have moved onward and upward. Subsequent singles like "Older, Sadder" track SDP toward new, more streamlined territories that only extend their basic shelf life. And all that's before word one of their frequent touring, collaborations with other local bands, and December's Pleasure Planet festival. SDP are a true Phoenix band, typifying the city's restless energy and knack for trail-blazing. Now, everybody dance away all your deepest, darkest feelings.

It's presumptuous for any band to open a boutique shop selling their merchandise a stone's throw from their hometown, but most bands aren't as bold as The Maine. The store, which opened in January to coincide with their 8123 Festival, isn't just another revenue stream for the quintet. It's an exciting way for the indie group to interact with their dedicated fanbase. The Tempe band use the space to test their ideas that most musicians on major labels can't even try, like a listening party for their seventh album, You Are OK. Even if you aren't a fan of the local pop-rock group, seeing the record's uplifting title plastered on T-shirts, notebooks, and all over the walls is affirming for your soul.

Nearly every music promoter in town is finding a way to boost the visibility of local musicians, but Stephen Chilton, the man behind Psyko Steve Presents and co-owner of The Rebel Lounge, does it in a way that is fun for those on both sides of the mic. His crowning achievement is the Phoenix Rock Lottery. For one day in January, over 20 musicians are separated into bands to write a couple of original songs. They perform them (and a cover) in front of an eager audience that evening. Offstage, Chilton unites the local music community with the Basically Annual Phoenix Independents Bowl. The best part is that proceeds from both events benefit local charities.

Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Asuka — the wrestling world loves a good winning streak. So it's only fitting that wrestling podcast co-host Teek Hall is on a streak of his own: This is the Detroit native's second consecutive year holding the Best Rapper strap. It's a run that's well-deserved — the lyrically agile Hall is a beast incarnate on the mic. When he's not co-hosting Mat Mania with Mega Ran (another Phoenix rap MVP), Hall is decimating the competition with his dense, clever, and undeniable rhymes. In a way, his imagination is like a hall: wide and long, capable of containing a myriad of characters, scenarios, and flights of fancy. Anyone looking to take the title from him in 2020 has his work cut out for him if Hall keeps spitting at his usual level of intensity. When Teek Hall hops on the track, every syllable becomes a suplex and every chorus is a finisher.

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