Partying Hard on Mill Avenue

It’s Friday, and you need to put the week (and especially the memory of that lousy Psych 101 exam score) behind you. Mill Avenue beckons.

Will you start on the patio at The Handlebar? You will, because you’re trying to be pandemic-conscious but also because you like to start slow, with a couple of cold brews, and the Handlebar beer menu is impressive. The sausage sandwich at the next table looks tasty, but it’s too early in the evening for food. Maybe at the next stop.

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Renowned Phoenix concert promoter Danny Zelisko has done and seen it all — and he's the first to tell you about it. In his 2020 memoir, All Exce$$: Occupation: Concert Promoter, he spins unforgettable (and often wild) yarns from 45-plus years of producing more than 10,000 gigs since the mid-'70s for a who's-who of music legends in the Valley and elsewhere. Like helping Pink Floyd sell out back-to-back nights at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 1988. Or booking Paul McCartney at Sun Devil Stadium in 1990, or smoking weed with Perry Farrell when the now-defunct Compton Terrace hosted the first Lollapalooza show in 1991. As enthralling as this behind-the-scenes glimpse was to read, it told us what we already knew: Zelisko has profoundly shaped and influenced the local concert scene for decades, from mentoring Crescent Ballroom/Valley Bar co-owner Charlie Levy early in his career to advising the current proprietors of Celebrity Theatre after longtime owner Rich Hazelwood died in March. And he keeps bringing icons like Styx, Cheap Trick, and George Thorogood to town for fans of a certain age to enjoy and younger fans to discover. Keep going, Danny — we aren't ready for you to hang up that backstage pass yet.

It never fails. Every weekend night, a crush of clubgoers invade Scottsdale's bar-heavy entertainment district by the thousands to drink, dance, and debauch. Typically, the destination for this roving horde of 21-to-35 party monsters is the intersection of Saddlebag Trail and Indian Plaza. This T-shaped crossroads is a nightlife epicenter of the Valley: There are a dozen hotspots within stumbling distance of each other, each with its own vibe, DJ selection, and amenities. Along Indian Plaza, there's a posh nightclub (Pretty Please) next to a beer garden (Bottled Blonde) next to a tequila-and-tacos joint (Casa Amigos) topped with a boutique bowling alley (Skylanes) across from a pool party haven (Maya). Over on Saddlebag Trail, hip-hop hub INTL, country bar Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row, and open-air dance club Hi-Fi compete for attention spans. The scene is chaotic, bordering on shitshow territory, and Scottsdale Police usually block off both streets to traffic, so forget about rolling up in your ride. Stick with those speedy golf carts instead to get you to and from the madness.

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