Phoenix New Times' Best of Phoenix 2017 is out now. Here's our list of the best places to party in the Valley.
Best New Music Venue: The Van Buren
Charlie Levy did it again. In August, the longtime Phoenix concert promoter behind Stateside Presents teamed up with Live Nation to open his third downtown concert venue, The Van Buren. An impeccably designed 1,800-person music hall, the spot opened with a sold-out set from Cold War Kids and has a lineup of must-see concerts in the coming months.
Best Tiny Music Venue: The Lunchbox
DIY, BYOB, BAMF — pick the acronym you like best. They all apply to The Lunchbox, an itty-bitty venue just off Calle 16. Dannie Levie founded the spot in October 2016 as a sort of one-stop shop for local and touring bands. It's a print shop by day, offering screen-printing, graphic design, and cassette duplication, among other services. And on select evenings, the 100-capacity music venue hosts bands like The Darts, A Giant Dog, and Slow Moses.
Best Small Music Venue: The Trunk Space
For a spell in 2016, The Trunk Space was kinda homeless. After leaving its longtime spot on Grand Avenue, the Valley's premier DIY art space occasionally programmed concerts at The Newton. But it just wasn't the same as the lovably dumpy spot where bands like AJJ cut their teeth. Cut to last fall, and Steph Carrico and company shared great news: T-Space would once again have a permanent base for up-and-coming indie musicians at the Grace Lutheran Church.
Best Large Music Venue: Crescent Ballroom
We can't name a downtown music venue that has inspired so much change — and so quickly — as Crescent Ballroom. Since Stateside Presents founder Charlie Levy opened the spot in 2011, the Valley's music scene hasn't been the same. A constant hub of activity, the 550-capacity club hosts live music every night, serves up burritos and cocktails, and just happens to be a great place to catch a concert.
Best Extra-Large Music Venue: Ak-Chin Pavilion
Yes, this is the best extra-large music venue in town, but it's so much more than that. It's also al fresco. There's something unforgettable about stretching out on a lawn during an outdoor concert. Call it phantom Coachella syndrome, but Ak-Chin Pavilion perfectly satisfies that summery quest for a place to sit cross-legged with a really big beer while bands play through a breeze.
Best Place to See a Band You’ve Never Heard Of: Time Out Lounge
Time Out Lounge caps the end of the Huntington Square Shopping Center plaza in central Tempe. A local hangout under the same ownership since 1988, Time Out hosts comedy and DJ nights, but loudest of all are the nights promised by the many colorful flyers decorating the walls and flat surfaces of most of the bar. Bands range in genre from metal to punk to indie to jam and back again, and don't worry, there isn't a seat in the house where you won't hear every single note.
Best Punk Venue: Yucca Tap Room
Yucca Tap Room has been scheduling live music since the Hu family started hosting bands in 1989. The classic wood-paneled walls of the Yucca's original music room create the perfect setting for local and touring punk acts, as many a punk fan would most likely be drinking there anyway. The Tempe dive bar and grill has welcomed some well-known bands to its short stage in 2017, including Michigan ska giants Mustard Plug, the Boston-based Big D & The Kids Table, Zeke, and San Diego's The Bombpops.
Best Rock Club: The Rebel Lounge
First, let's state the fact that The Rebel Lounge used to be The Mason Jar, hosting bands like Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Tool, and Guns N' Roses in the '80s and '90s. Now, as The Rebel Lounge, this familiar space hosts a multitude of touring and local acts under the eye of promoter Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents. Since the space's 2015 rebirth, Phoenix showgoers have seen national and local acts like Chicano Batman, The Maine, Saddles, Venom Inc., Fall of Troy, and more.
Best Blues Club: Rhythm Room
As if there could be any question: Bob Corritore's Rhythm Room remains the Valley's best blues joint. Open since 1991, Corritore's spot plays host to local and touring acts, but it really shines when it comes to its owner's genre of choice. The renowned harmonica player — and host of KJZZ's Those Low Down Blues — performs at his club pretty regularly, and makes sure the concert calendar's stocked with notable players from across the country.
Best New Bar: Gracie's Tax Bar
Leave it to metal singer and longtime restaurant industry pro Grace Perry to give us the pitch-perfect downtown dive. It was love at first sight when the former frontwoman of Landmine Marathon threw open the doors to the wood-paneled 50-person hangout, complete with cozy booths, a stuffed javelina, cheap beer, and the vintage arcade shooter Revolution-X.
Best Country Bar: Roman's Oasis
Debit-card users beware: Roman's Oasis is a cash-only country bar in the deep West Valley with enough activity to keep you there all night — or day. You can easily spot this honky-tonk thanks to the tractors, large rooster, and wagon wheels on full display in the bar's front area along the road. Inside you'll find a full kitchen, two dance floors, shuffleboard, license plates, country music memorabilia, and plenty of bar space.
Best Nightclub: Ellure Lounge
The overriding rule in Scottsdale's nightlife district is to go as all-out and over-the-top as possible, as evidenced by the bright lights, enormous dance floors, and blaring soundtracks. So it's remarkable when a place like Ellure Lounge comes along and trumps the competition with its subtlety, style, and sophistication. The Stetson Drive lounge and dance club offers a posh atmosphere and a seasonal drink menu that features martinis and other high-end cocktails made with desert botanicals and locally sourced ingredients.
Best Gay Dance Club: Club VOLT
New kid on the block Club VOLT hit the scene in April and hasn't let up since. The bar's grand opening featured RuPaul's Drag Race queen Shea Coulee. Since then, the club's hosted a slew of other RuGirls, including season nine's thinking queen herself, Sasha Velour. Go-go boys rule the roost on Saturday nights, Fridays feature the 4some Revue, and you can't go wrong with Dollar Drink Thursdays.
Best Gay Bar: Kobalt
Everyone's favorite Park Central Mall hangout also happens to be the Valley's best gay bar. Kobalt makes the grade for two main reasons: killer karaoke nights and even better happy hour specials. But what keeps locals returning to this CenPho hot spot is the community vibe. Whether it's show tunes on Saturdays, all-day happy hour on Fridays, or drag bingo on Mondays, Kobalt has you covered every night of the week.
Best Lesbian Bar: Stacy's @ Melrose
Kinda gay. Kinda goth. Kinda sounds like the perfect combo, no? That's the vibe you'll find at Stacy's @ Melrose, a central Phoenix staple of the LGBTQ community. As the name indicates, the bar is located on the Melrose Curve, a stretch of Seventh Avenue that's long been known for being gay- and lesbian-friendly. And Stacy's has fit right in since opening in 2013.
Best Drag Show: Freaky Friday at Plazma
The drag scene in this town is anything but a drag, and Friday nights at Plazma in the Coronado district prove it. The rules to Celia Putty's Freaky Friday are simple: There's no cover if you order a cocktail, stay open-minded, and get ready to join a conga line at the end of the show. Expect jokes, gowns, costumes, lip-syncing, dancing, a weird movie playing on the flat-screens in the background, and this being Celia Putty, a lot of props.
Best Jukebox: TT Roadhouse
Named for the Isle of Man motorcycle race, Roadhouse is a fitting title for this motorcycle and regular cycle neighborhood dive bar in south Scottsdale. When owner Skoog and crew aren't hosting live shows or DJs, the jukebox is usually on full blast. Packed with punk, rock, punk rock, and lots of outlaw country, you'll typically hear jams from early AFI, NOFX, Hank III, The Pixies, Manic Hispanic, Agent Orange, Johnny Cash, and others. There are also quite a few punk and country compilations featuring everyone from Strung Out to Johnny Paycheck.
Best Karaoke: The Rock
Who puts the "eff you" in fun? The Rock. And we don't mean Dwayne Johnson. This Melrose Curve gay bar is a go-to for karaoke — and it's no slouch when it comes to drag shows and dance parties, either. On Monday nights, however, karaoke queens take over the small dive. Nobody's gonna be mad if you just so happen to belt out some flawless Whitney or Dolly. Same goes if you can't quite carry a Britney tune.
Best Trivia Night: Seinfeld Trivia at Valley Bar
What is Elaine's fake phone number? Which Seinfeld episode title is the only one to not start with "The?" If you could possibly know the answer to these questions, your place is Seinfeld Trivia at Valley Bar. This free, basement-based competition is known as The Trivia Night About Absolutely Nothing, and prizes include everything from big stickers of Kramer and George to muffin tops and Junior Mints.
Best Sports Bar: Santisi Brothers
If sports bars are supposed to be large, dark rooms with wall-to-wall TV screens airing every game under the sun, and maybe a lengthy, Italian-themed menu of pizza, wings, subs, and beer, then Santisi Brothers in north central Phoenix knows how to satisfy. This joint also runs every operation from fantasy football and paint nights to karaoke, poker, and a game room with pool tables and arcade cabinets.
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Best Pool Hall: Hambone Sports Bar
It's safe to say pool halls were once a hazy place where cigarette-smoking players were only cautious about not getting ash on the table's felt. That scene is part of a bygone era — in fact, if you ask us, there are far too few old-school pool halls in the Valley — except when it comes to the Hambone Sports Bar. Hambone is said to date back to 1958. It currently holds five or more pool tables and features a jukebox, an X-rated claw machine, dancing, darts, arcade games, and of course, drinking and smoking.
Best Dive Bar: Dilly Dally Lounge
When a dive bar gets a makeover, the neighborhood draws its collective breath. Will they still have darts? What's going to happen to all that wood paneling? Can I still order three SoCo limes for a party of one without being judged? Luckily, the crew behind Dilly Dally's remodel a couple of years ago made all the right moves. While slightly spiffier than it was in 2015, the Dillz has maintained that perfect blend of cheap beer, questionable music, and lights low enough for you to make some bad decisions.
Best Place to Day Drink: Swizzle Inn
Around since 1996, and previously the Starlight Lounge, the Swizzle Inn has daily specials, a pool table, plenty of seating, silly signs on the wall, a decent selection of '80s and country on the jukebox, and more important in these kinds of places, clean bathrooms. Weekend patrons and Thursday night stool-warmers are not hard to come by, but the real charm is found in the day-drinking crowd.