Best Dance Artist 2023 | CHKLZ | Nightlife | Phoenix

When COVID hit, drummer Henri Benard (Okilly Dokilly, Dry River Yacht Club) embraced his inner DJ. Benard, who has previously DJ-ed as DJ Ill Choppo, joined forces with LeMarshawn Jean to form CHKLZ. Over the past few years, the duo have leaned heavily into making some decidedly wild and inventive dance music across a suite of remixes and original cuts. Benard's love and history of big, bold rhythms stands front and center among CHKLZ's output, informing a hypnotic blend of EDM and house music that feels far too propulsive to ever truly escape. But it's not just about big drums, and the duo claim that "CHKLZ is for EVERYONE!" which makes for a motto that cuts to the true heart of all great dance music as a proper builder of communities. It's that mix of a novel approach, big-time musicality and a penchant for inclusiveness and camaraderie that has not only made CHKLZ popular so far (they were invited to DJ a Canadian music festival this past summer) but leaders of a daring and inventive new scene for local dance music. Now enjoy those vibes, doggies.

As a rule, a lot of music can be considered appropriate for parties. (Heck, even emo music has become the inspiration for its own national series of themed events.) Still, it takes a very special kind of band to facilitate a properly epic party, and that's just what Lucky Devils does every single show. The band operates across the West Coast (with a keen focus on our beloved city) playing weddings, corporate events and other such gigs and outings. (There are also regular showcases at our very own Rhythm Room.) And, sure, wedding bands may not be the dictionary definition of cool, but there's something freeing about a band that understand that the need for fun and frivolity can exist beyond the nightclub. The music itself isn't just a big part of their razzle-dazzle, but it's generally good, including semi-inventive takes on "No Diggity'' by Blackstreet and "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. Party bands should be able to blend the saccharine and the earnest like threading a needle, and Lucky Devils do it with a huge air of showmanship. Plus, any band that covers both Bach and Beyoncé deserves huge props.

The name Djentrification is not just an edgy moniker for beloved DJ Alex Votichenko (known also simply as "Djents"). He does mean, quite literally, de-gentrification, a politics that runs through his unorthodox, captivating DJ sets but also his work with the community, which is always intertwined with the music. He's a longtime staple at various Phoenix haunts, including Bikini Lounge on Grand Avenue, where he has hosted popular Tuesday-night sets for more than a decade. This summer, the historic tiki bar, thanks in part to the DJ, became the home base for a water drive by activists for people living on the streets in the Phoenix heat. As they went to dance, partygoers hauled in cases of water over to the DJ booth. Here, his sets — masterfully spun on vinyl — incorporate deep cuts, strange beats, music from other eras and places, as if wondering, searching, for how to create art in a gentrifying city. As he told New Times in 2018, "It makes sense to consider sounds and rhythms as potential tools, to hurt or help, to create or destroy." Though of course, that's all unspoken. There's usually a more pressing matter at hand: the night, the music, the dancing, the moving crowd.

After most of the Valley's bars and nightclubs close up shop and revelers head to bed or to their favorite post-bar diner, the music plays on at Charlie's. The uptown Phoenix gay bar's catchphrase, "There's always a party at Charlie's," rings true. Sunday through Thursday nights, the fun calls it quits at 2 a.m., But on Fridays and Saturdays, you can strut your stuff on the dance floor until 4 a.m. If all that dancing works up an appetite, on-site food truck Charlie's Tacos serves tacos until the doors close. So pick your spot and hang out on the patio with scantily clad dancers or head inside to make eyes at your crush across the dark space. Multiple bars keep the cocktails flowing and the dancing going until the wee hours when you can stumble home happily, exhausted by all the fun you've had.

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