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On the other side sit the “regulars,” a middle-aged crowd wearing everything from tuxedo T-shirts and cowboy hats to Birkenstocks and fur coats. They drink beer and cocktails, smoke an endless supply of cigarettes, and show little emotion when it comes to the band. Occasionally a couple ventures out onto the dance floor for a song like The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You.” Sunshine, a 48-year-old blonde wearing a red cocktail dress and red heels with a gold cross around her neck, says she comes to the lounge every Friday and Saturday night.
“I go where the bands are,” says Sunshine, a Sedona resident of 30 years. “There is such a wide variety of ages around here – you see everyone from 21- to 80-year-olds who want to dance.” Sunshine says nightlife in the Verde Valley has changed quite a bit in her time, but still says there’s room for improvement: “There’s not enough variety. We need more country and rock.” The musicians in Ambiguous Tone, a Flagstaff band that came onto the scene last summer, says northern Arizona offers more opportunities for live music than the Valley.
“Phoenix is more about dancing and DJs,” says guitarist Jamie Anderson. “There are so many bands in northern Arizona and places to play. And Flagstaff is just a great college town. The clubs are really slammed between midnight and 1 a.m.”
Cliff Castle’s entertainment coordinator, Stephen Earnhardt, agrees. Dragonfly Lounge has live music every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. He says the club gets busy at 11 p.m. when, on a good night, as many as 85 people gather. “We have groups of people who are in the lounge every weekend,” he says, standing back by the bar and watching the band play for the first time at the casino. “We have a lot of families who come to the casino, eat dinner, leave the kids at the arcade or bowling alley, and come here for music and drinks.”
Dragonfly Lounge at Cliff Castle Casino – 555 Middle Verde Rd. in Camp Verde 928-567-7900; www.cliffcastlecasinohotel.com. Bands every Friday and Saturday; 500 slots, ten blackjack tables and eight poker tables; four restaurants, a lodge, arcade, and bowling alley.
Saturday, 9:06 p.m. – Olde Sedona Bar and Grill
Music thumping and pumping… rainbow lights flashing… long blond hair and tight jeans shimmying on the dance floor… a petite bartender with a ponytail racing around the U-shaped bar… TV screens flickering a hockey game…. It’s just another Saturday night in Olde Sedona. MC Diesel, in a white button-down shirt, gold chain, and jeans, his blond hair cut short, spins tunes at the bar every Saturday night, accompanied by two young women who dance on an elevated stage. He surveys the crowd from behind his mixing board and laptop computer, nodding his head slowly with satisfaction before heading outside to the patio for a quick cigarette.
“I’ve basically lived in Sedona all my life, I’m 26,” Diesel, aka Cameron Buck, says, taking a long drag. “I got tired of not having anything to do around here so I started doing this one year ago. There’s not a lot of people around here around our age – they head to Flagstaff or Phoenix – but it’s getting better.”
As he speaks, guys in tailored leather blazers have their arms around leggy girls in miniskirts carrying Coach handbags. A group of co-eds dance to songs by Shakira, Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, and the Black Eyed Peas. Everyone cheers when Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” reverberates from the tall speakers. A fog machine gives the scene a surreal fuzzy effect.