Welcome to LGBTQ+PHX, where we highlight the people and places of Phoenix’s LGBTQ+ community.
There aren't too many folks in radio who are equally — if not more — impactful outside the studio.
With social platforms and event savvy as the new tricks of the trade, the old "face for radio" adage is a thing of the past. At his core, Aneesh is a host, a comedian, a pop culture savant, an authority on all things music and, above all, an ambassador of Phoenix with an influencer-level following.
Not only can he be heard sharing vulnerable and hilarious excerpts of his life — alongside his castmates and friends Joey Boy, Jeana and Karla — every weekday from 5 to 10 a.m. as part of "The Morning Mess" via Live 101.5 and now B96 in Chicago, he's also everywhere else.
Aneesh has co-hosted a stage at Phoenix Pride, he goes hard for Phoenix sports teams, he can usually be spotted checking out the newest area restaurants and participating in community fundraisers and, of course, he's at all the hottest live-music venues in town for concerts of every genre.
As this city reopened its stages for concerts and music festivals, Visit Phoenix caught up with Aneesh find out more about his love for this city and some of his favorite local spots.
How and when did Aneesh come to be?
This media queen came to be out of an absolute obsession with sitcoms. As a first-generation American, I felt like my first connection with my peers in school was through TV shows, and I was instantly hooked. I loved reenacting scenes from every show I watched. I feel like finding my own perspective on, and references to, entertainment really helped when my best friend, Tindal, told me about an audition for a morning radio show — I knew what to do. And here we are seven years later.
Most locals know you as the concert queen of Phoenix, so can you give us an insider scoop on the local music festivals?
The thing I love about Phoenix is that we have so much live music and entertainment to choose from. On par with any other festival in the Southwest, we have the Birds Nest each year at WM Phoenix Open; M3F Festival, a 100% nonprofit music festival that's committed to giving back to the community; Innings Fest, which coincides with spring training; and so many more star-studded annual shows hosted outdoors.
I want to make sure as many people continue to get out to all Phoenix Pride events: The 2022 festival and parade will take place in October and Rainbows Festival occurs in April. I've been going since the 2000s and haven't missed a year. It's worth it, no matter your identity. I think people who haven't experienced these events for themselves underestimate the large-scale festival atmosphere, the headliners, and just how big of an LGBTQ+ community we have. It's one of the biggest in the nation — and when we get together, we show out.
How about the best year-round stages, do you have a favorite venue for catching a concert?
We also have so many brilliant indoor venues for live music. Downtown there's the super intimate Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar (both amazing spots to grab a bite and a drink before the show), Arizona Financial Theatre and The Van Buren — which I’ve had the pleasure of hosting events at myself. Beyond downtown, there's Marquee Theater, Desert Diamond Arena at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale. I’ve also been to open mic nights at local bars (The Nash, The Womack, and Last Exit Live in the Warehouse District).
You've effectively turned your passion for pop culture into a career (amazing!), can you share a fanboy moment with us?
One of my best concert experiences in recent years involved me getting on a party bus and, later, floor seats to the Dua Lipa concert. Megan thee Stallion opened and then they performed together! ICONIC. That's the thing I love about Phoenix: We have so many opportunities to catch live music and entertainment in our city.
I’ve also had the pleasure of working the legendary Birds Nest at the WM Phoenix Open for years now. Artists like Blink 182, Nelly, Snoop Dogg and many more have walked that stage, and so have I. Legendary.
Phoenix has also produced it's fair share of entertainment icons, any favorites?
I mean, who doesn’t want to be Emma Stone? I've had the honor of seeing many of our homegrown musicians, including Stevie Nicks, CeCe Peniston, do what they do best. Phoenix is home to a lot of stars.
I had the pleasure of interviewing and watching a private performance by Alec Benjamin ("Let Me Down Slowly"), and I will never forget seeing the late Chester Bennington, of Linkin Park, at one of his last performances. (Check out more music and musicians from Greater Phoenix.)
That's an impressive roster, by anyone's standards. Shifting gears to something you haven't done: What’s on your local, non-musical bucket list?
I'm currently planning a Bearizona experience with my family, so I'm looking forward to that happening in the very near future. I've also always wanted to go to the Japanese Friendship Garden. That's on the bucket list for sure.
When you're not working (or attending) concerts, where is your favorite place for a happy hour? And drink of choice?
My group of friends and I love to enjoy a happy hour and try out different restaurants — there are almost too many new concepts opening to keep up. Any place that has bubbles, I’ll be there. I promise I’m not a stereotypical gay man raised in the '90s ... actually I can’t make that promise.
My most recent outing was with some great friends going to Lylo, the swim-up bar and restaurant by Ross Simon, at Rise Uptown. Also, Barcoa Agaveria, a new concept that specializes in tequila, mezcal, and other agave-distilled spirits, in downtown. And, of course, ending the night at Charlie’s in the Melrose District. We love a chaotic Friday night.
You have some serious local restaurant connections, so what’s your favorite dish and where do they serve it up better than anywhere else?
Along with our great music and entertainment scene, we have a very impressive and diverse food scene. I don’t know why, but it tends to get overlooked. So here goes:
I live for leftover pizza from Sauce and I LOVE Grand Avenue Pizza Company’s selection. You can't go wrong with some good ol' Taco Chelo on Roosevelt Row. And Phoenix Coqui, the gay-owned food truck-turned-brick and mortar Puerto Rican hot spot, makes for the best leftovers. OMG, I could go on so let me just stop.
You also travel for events quite a bit. While at out-of-town music festivals, has there been anything you learned about Phoenix or people’s perception of Phoenix?
Any time I’m out of town, people are always surprised to hear that Phoenix is not a barren desert. Which is hilarious. They truly think we live in sand dunes with the occasional tumbleweed blowing by. Now, I’ve lived here since the mid-1990s, so I do remember a time when Phoenix did have a lot of open land. But in 2022? Oh honey, there are can't-miss festivities and high rises everywhere — and I let everyone know that! I gotta rep my city, so I always let people know that any scene in Phoenix is always really is a good time.
You’re also a strong advocate for several causes, would you care to share about that side of your work?
I am a huge advocate for the youth! I’ve done volunteer work all over the city because I feel like it’s important to contribute to the community you’re a part of as much as possible. Especially knowing that it gets me face to face with folks who might no otherwise realize: “hey, if this big gay guy can do it, maybe I can too.”
Representation is so important. It can be overwhelming for me and, at times, it can feel daunting. But growing up, I never saw someone like me succeeding in entertainment. I hope that whoever I reach can see that you don’t have to fit a particular mold to pursue your dreams. Especially because my curvaceous body literally can’t fit that mold.
What’s your favorite thing about our city?
To be quite honest, I don’t know if I could’ve accomplished what I have if I was anywhere other than Phoenix. This city is where I grew up, it’s the city that I love and it’s very comforting to know that the love is reciprocated. It’s gotten me to the point that I’m now commuting back and forth from Chicago, taking on mornings on the biggest radio station in the entire company. That’s wild!
If I told myself 10 years ago that this is what would happen, I would’ve laughed. But now I get to make you laugh, whether you’re listening to me with my crew on "The Morning Mess" or following me at @neeshiminaj on Instagram and Facebook, and @neeshiminaj0 on TikTok.
I love you Phoenix, thank you for loving me back!