In October of 2021, I became one of many California transplants to join the California pandemic exodus, ending up a six-hour drive southeast to the hot, dry and vast desert valleys of Phoenix, AZ. Having spent over 11 years living in the entertainment capital of the West coast, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t have as much to do, but to the contrary—over the past seven months I’ve gone to more events and shows than I had previously in L.A. As I continue to explore my new city, I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite places–obvious and not so obvious–to see live music in the budding city so far.
Top 10 Places to See Live Music in Phoenix, AZ
- The Van Buren (https://www.thevanburenphx.com) is my hands-down favorite venue in town to catch a show. With a spacious outdoor bar/lounge and theatre-style open floor plan, there’s no ‘bad view’ in the house and even for packed shows, it’s pretty easy to slide your way to the front. They also have one of the coolest backstage ‘green rooms’ that I’ve experienced, including an entire wall of books for artists to peruse.
- Boondocks (Tempe) (https://tempe.boondocksaz.com/) is a brand new sports bar/venue that is bringing live entertainment back to Tempe. With an assortment of cover bands, like Gail & The Night Owls, and up-and coming acts, you can grab some standard fare bar food and watch a Suns game then stay for the music. Did I mention they have a reverse happy hour during the week too?
- Old Town Tavern (https://www.oldtowntavernaz.com) is a local’s favorite bar in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Located adjacent to the Scottsdale Civic Center Park, the small two-level bar with open air seating and an outdoor patio has live acoustic music every night of the week from an array of local musicians ranging from classic rock and blues to country and singer-songwriter. A few Gin Blossoms members have been known to drop in for a surprise set on occasion.
- Tempe Marketplace (https://tempemarketplace.com/concerts/) is an open-air shopping center with over 100 retail stores and restaurants with an outdoor stage area in the center. They often host free shows throughout the year featuring national and local acts. Most recently Escape the Fate and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took part in their Rock It Up Spring Concert series.
- Frasher’s Tavern (https://www.frasherstavern.com/) is not only the best place to get a steak in Scottsdale, but also hosts intimate acoustic shows on occasions. SRO clients, The Black Moods, have performed here for the release of their “Sunshine” wine which the restaurant paired with a set dinner menu and a signed bottle.
- Rebel Lounge (https://therebellounge.com/) is one of my favorite places to see a rock/punk show in Phoenix. If you’re looking for a sweaty, headbanging and mosh-friendly venue, look no further.
- Coach House (https://www.coachhousescottsdale.com/) is the oldest dive bar in Scottsdale. It’s adorned with colored lightbulbs (wrapped around the inside and outside of the open-air building), wrapping paper and tinsel. Open only at night, it’s impossible to miss.
- Yucca Tap Room (http://www.yuccatap.com/) is the oldest venue in Tempe and located in the middle of a strip mall plaza that looks vacated minus a few random businesses and a weed shop. An intimate venue with a spacious dance floor with a full arcade attached and a Tiki speakeasy! Play some Iron Maiden or Rush pinball before catching a touring or local act and make sure to head to the bar for an extensive craft beer selection.
- Chars Live Music (https://charslive.com) is the revamped and rebranded venue formerly known Char’s Has The Blues, an r&b, jazz and soul nightclub. A great spot for a date night, they have amazing specialty cocktails served in a dark-lit ambience. They’ve expanded genres so you can also catch a DJ or drag show now.
- Rusty Spur Saloon (https://rustyspursaloon.com) is a country western dive bar, if you couldn’t tell by the name. It’s randomly popular with celebrities and has served everyone from John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to Jennifer Aniston and even Post Malone. They have music seven days a week and with an 80-person capacity it quickly fills up on the weekends.