The building that now houses The Rebel Lounge has been a vital piece of Phoenix's punk and metal scene since 1979 — that's 40 years of building a community based on blunt-force, pissed-off music. Then known as the Mason Jar, this small club ushered in a wave of punk and metal bands that not only inspired a whole network of alternative subgenres, but helped forge an entire lifestyle. In 2015, the Mason Jar was taken over by Psyko Steve Presents and renamed The Rebel Lounge. Subsequently, this change in power has only enriched the venue's reputation of being a hub and inherent champion of a scene that reaches far beyond just heavy music. Remember: Punk is a lifestyle. There are few places in the Phoenix area that have established themselves as a heavy-music safe house the way The Rebel Lounge has — and even fewer with such an impressive monthly calendar.

Gracie's Tax Bar
Charles Barth

You want to hate Gracie's Tax Bar, a relatively new hangout that for whatever reason looks and feels like an old dive bar, what with its cheap drinks, cheese curds, and chipped-brick exterior. But then, you hear the music. Bar owner Grace Perry has curated a jukebox with something for everyone, touching on classics from the past five or six decades. The broad appeal of its CD collection is impressive. The Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Curtis Mayfield, Television, The Strokes, Prince, Wu-Tang Clan — few genres are ignored. Plus, it's a great deal. For $1, you get three plays, while $5 gets you 20 songs.

Kobalt
Lauren Cusimano

Park Central's crown jewel, Kobalt, is the type of place that brings in a karaoke crowd without even trying. Why? Its many features. This welcoming establishment offers karaoke four days a week — 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday, plus 7 p.m. to midnight on a seasonal basis. And there's no standing by your table at this place. Kobalt karaoke offers a stage, lights, some sort of waterfall backdrop, and quite the songbook. Picks include everything from Disney hits to country classics, legends of rock, one-hit wonders, '80s smash hits, and pop divas. And we did say Kobalt has many features — plural. The Park Central gay bar also has an attentive staff, great parking, and quick light rail access, and the place is BYOF (bring your own food).

Bliss/reBar

Bliss / reBAR is the ultimate after-work go-to and late-night hangout, complete with an expansive wraparound patio — ideal for tank-top season. There's liquor, a big dining room and bar, and the Moonlight Menu from 10 p.m. to midnight. And if the amazing crowd and unisex restrooms aren't proof enough this is a fantastic gay bar, Bliss / reBAR also hosts Sunday events like Chillaxin Sunday Phunday with a live DJ, Karaoke Kraziness, weekend Champagne brunch, and sometimes, BLUSH — better known as the drag brunch experience. There are also daily specials like all-day happy hour on Monday, and 20-percent-off Wednesdays. But mostly, this downtown nightlife spot has a proud and supportive atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone.

Charlie's
New Times Archives

Around since 1984, Charlie's Phoenix has been the kind of inclusive nightclub that has become a go-to for members of the LGBTQ community — and everyone else for that matter. The somewhat country-themed nightclub is known for its ever-fresh rotation of nightly events, like Undie Mondays, Claudia B's Karaoke Cabaret on Tuesdays, Pipin' Hot Thursdays, and while the weather is hot, Banana Hammock Sundays. There are also free dance lessons, celebrity drag shows, DJs, dance nights, and so much more. Charlie's attractions include the light rail station across the street, and the always dependable Taqueria Los Yaquis taco stand outside on Thursday through Sunday evenings.

BS West
Benjamin Leatherman

Every Friday at 10:30 p.m., you can stop by BS West for its Elements drag show to watch a handful of beautiful queens in elaborate costumes strut their stuff to the likes of Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna. The heels and the kicks are both probably higher than you could ever go, making Elements one of the most popular drag shows in the Valley. The regularly featured queens include Mya McKenzie, Eva Angelica Stratton, Desiree Demornay, Adriana Galliano, and Savannah Stevens, all of whom have won pageants across the country or in the Valley. The drinks are cheap and the staff are friendly, though you may want to reserve a table if you plan to see the show.

Boycott Bar
Benjamin Leatherman

This Melrose District hangout is an LGBTQ nightlife spot, as well as an ultra-welcoming neighborhood bar offering cold beers, well-mixed cocktails, games, dancing, and an overall good vibe. Boycott Bar features some solid events, including Frugal Fridays, Matchmaking Saturdays with rotating DJs, and karaoke on Sunday nights. Patrons can also expect drink specials, pool tables, VIP areas, drag shows, Latin dance nights, and way more. Neighboring other nightspots along the Melrose Curve, including Stacy's @ Melrose and Thunderbird Lounge, Boycott Bar can be part of your bar-hopping route, or easily can stand alone as where you'll be posted for the entirety of the night.

Novel ideas are hard to come by in a local music scene where repetition and imitation are the norm. One of the exceptions is the annual Vanishing Show, a unique live music experience unlike your typical bar gig, concert, or festival. The DIY music event put on by DJ and community organizer A Claire Slattery is a mobile party and movable indie rock feast that roams Tempe's Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson neighborhood one night every spring since 2015. Here's the setup: Slattery will post a starting location online (typically a house) where attendees can gather. A local band will perform a 20- to 30-minute set; then, the next location is announced just before they wrap up. The crowd then "vanishes" and heads over to the new spot by cycling or walking to catch the next band. Operating on a shoestring budget with nary a permit, the Vanishing Show and its audiences often play a cat-and-mouse game with Tempe cops, who have shut down the event a few times in the past after noise complaints. Their party-pooping isn't going to stop Slattery, who's already planning next year's Vanishing Show.

The Lunchbox

Back in July, things were looking mighty grim for The Lunchbox after owner Danny Levie announced he was pulling the plug on the scrappy underground music venue. The news caused shock and sorrow among patrons of boundary-pushing shows. Weeks later, fate, and some sympathetic fans of the venue, intervened. Local experimental electronic musician and audio engineer Scot McKenzie and a few friends stepped in to help out The Lunchbox during its hour of need. They not only gave the ailing venue an injection of much-needed cash, which gave it a reprieve from its impending death sentence, they installed a new sound system. Plus, McKenzie announced plans to bring Der Bunker Teknobar, an experimental electronica music night he promotes, to The Lunchbox in the near future. It should fit in nicely with the sort of gigs The Lunchbox has done in the past and will continue to do in the future, thanks to McKenzie and his pals.

Valley Bar
Benjamin Leatherman

If your Uber driver isn't familiar with downtown music venues, chances are it's going to be difficult for him to find Valley Bar. The entrance is in an alley, which gives the establishment a speakeasy vibe. There is a sense of the unknown as you walk down the stairs and head inside, so don't be surprised if your driver raises an eyebrow of concern like an overprotective parent. But any sense of danger washes away once you enter the intimate venue, which is the perfect place to attend an acoustic show by an up-and-coming indie artist or a comedy show.

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