Best Gay Dance Club 2022 | Charlie's Phoenix | Nightlife | Phoenix
Matt Hennie

On any given night in the Valley, the answer to the question, "Where's the party?" is usually "Charlie's Phoenix." The venerable nightspot has been open since 1984, and we have a crazy fun night every time we go. The expansive property has plenty of space inside and outside for drinking, dancing, and making new friends. Feeling shy? Charlie's is often packed, so gently bump into someone, apologize, and strike up a conversation. If you prefer to watch other people dance, Charlie's has free steamy shows featuring their legendary go-go boys on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Add in bingo, karaoke, line dancing lessons, and drink specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Charlie's is a guaranteed good time any day of the week.

Benjamin Leatherman

The decline of lesbian bars in the U.S. is noticeable enough that there's a docuseries on the subject coming to The Roku Channel this fall. That's a loss, in our book, because we need more bars like Boycott Bar. Boycott, located in the Melrose District, is featured in the series, which means that anyone with a Roku will get to see the unfussy interior decorated with images of classic movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Everyone is friendly at Boycott, from the guy at the door to the bartenders to the crowd. We love the mostly enclosed patio accessible by a sliding door, where you can play some free pool or even a couple of rounds of Super Mario Bros. 3 on an original NES. Show up on Thursdays for some spirited karaoke, and enjoy Boycott's welcoming vibe.

Lauren Cusimano

Right in the heart of central Phoenix is Kobalt, a gay bar whose weekly 4Some Revue drag show is one of our favorite ways to spend a Friday night. You should probably know that "4Some" is a misnomer. On any given Friday, you'll probably get to see more than four performers — the core cast is composed of queens Toothpick, Gigi, Mynx, Salem, and Ru Paul's Drag Race Season 13 alum Joey Jay, plus there are special guests nearly every week. You should also probably know that tables for the popular weekly event are the best way to enjoy the show and sell out fast, so you may want to make a reservation. And you should definitely know that 4Some Revue, like all the other events at Kobalt, such as Monday Naughty & Nice Drag Bingo and Sunday karaoke, offer both wild fun and a welcoming inclusive atmosphere. Any more questions?

How small is the performance space at Old Town Tavern? On one Friday this summer, Honeygirl bassist Jeff Hecht actually had to play standing outside with the door to the bar open. But what OTT lacks in size, it makes up in the artists they showcase and the fun to be had. For most of the year, OTT hosts at least one artist per day, including Pistoleros veteran Mark Zubia, party favorites Elvis Before Noon, and Wyves frontman Corey Gloden. Everyone seems to pass through OTT at some point, including the many regulars, folks in town for business or pleasure, packs of bachelorettes, and random Old Town Scottsdale partiers drawn in by the sound of music. They all find the same thing: affordable drinks, a convivial atmosphere, and live performances by some of the Valley's best-known musicians.

Benjamin Leatherman

Due to the ongoing Valley Metro Rail construction happening on Central Avenue, it can be kind of an ordeal getting to a concert at Last Exit Live. But trust us, it's worth it. The spare interior leaves plenty of room for patrons to pack in and see local, regional, and national acts like KONGOS, Gang of Four, The Woodworks, and so many more. The sound quality is excellent, and the indoor/outdoor setup (big rollup doors open during nice weather) means that you can hear the show even if you're taking a breather at one of the picnic tables on the patio. And you'll have to take our word for it, but Last Exit has one of the coolest green rooms in town, with a massive gallery wall put together by local designer Sid Rhea.

The Van Buren hits the sweet spot for music venues: small enough that you can actually see the action on stage, but large enough that the many concerts that happen there feel like big events. We love the fact that the venue is housed in a midcentury car dealership, because it makes The Van Buren feel deeply connected to Arizona, as do the desert-themed murals next to the stage. Just in the past year, The Van Buren has hosted Mongolian folk metal outfit The Hu, alt-country crooner Orville Peck, indie rock darlings Wet Leg, '90s heartthrobs Hanson, and so many more. We like to head downtown early and kill some time before the show by playing pinball at the adjoining Stardust Pinbar before heading inside to hear some of today's most exciting musical acts up close and in person.

Live Nation

Just to be clear: We mean the performance space formerly known as Arizona Federal Theatre. The downtown Phoenix venue got its fourth name in 20 years a few months ago, but our enjoyment of the concert experience hasn't changed. The 5,000-seat theater always provides top-quality sound whether we're watching Maynard James Keenan's Puscifer project get weird or listening to Olivia Rodrigo enchant thousands of teenagers (and their parents). One thing we love about Arizona Financial: The location of the merch booth allows the line to wrap up the staircase to the second floor, keeping those attendees out of the way of those of us who are just trying to get a drink or reach out seats. Add in plenty of parking, light rail access, and lots of dining and nightlife options before and after shows, and it's clear why Arizona Financial Theatre is our pick.

Andrew Marshall

It can be hard to keep track of the revolving door of stadium name changes in metro Phoenix, but what's now called Desert Diamond Arena you know as Gila River Arena, the erstwhile home of the Arizona Coyotes. Whatever its moniker, Desert Diamond Arena is our favorite place to see the big shows, artists such as Pearl Jam, Billie Eilish, and Harry Styles. Its prime location as part of the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale means we've got plenty of places to choose from for pre- and post-show drinking and dining. But there are good food and beverage options inside the arena as well. New this year at the arena is the Ella Dean Sensory Room, a space for guests who may have sensory issues (including people with autism, dementia, PTSD, and other conditions). Attendees can take a break from flashing lights and loud music to decompress for a bit. We love a music venue that takes care of its guests.

We live in an era where irony is almost second nature, as if the only way to live in this world is under a protective layer of detachment. But that's not the style of Chrome Rhino. The band's entire existence (all three years of it) has been marked by a willingness to embrace the silly and the joyous across the board. Whether that's dressing in animal onesies for a music video; calling themselves bright and shiny; or embracing '80s pop and ELO as influences, Chrome Rhino are a source of joy in a scene that often favors intensity. But they're not just about having a great time on their records or during one of their many jovial live sets — there's a depth and deliberateness to the band that rounds out those silly sentiments into music that proudly wears its heart on its jean jacket. It's all of that together that makes Chrome Rhino important, and a real shot in the arm for Phoenix bands who want to make having fun seem deeply essential and transcendent. So come for all the gimmicks and the razzle-dazzle, but stay for a band that knows the real joy is making music that moves you.

A band composed of 12 people is either going to be a musical triumph or an unholy mess. In the case of Goldwax Revival, it's definitely the former. Formed by Phoenix music scene veterans Ryan Probst and Pete Gonzales, Goldwax Revival was named after an obscure 1960s Memphis record label that released soul music by underappreciated artists, and includes a horn section and a trio of backup singers in addition to keys, drums, guitars, bass, and vocals. The original mission was to bring to life forgotten soul songs, a plan which came to fruition during the band's first show, a wall-of-sound, bring-the-house-down set opening for Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra at Crescent Ballroom in March. The group laid dormant for a few months, then did a dramatic pivot for their next show in June at Tempe nonprofit venue Unity for Community: a four-song set of Beyoncé covers. Rumor has it that they're working on some original material and planning one more show before the end of the year. We can't wait to see what they do next.

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