Best Free Concert Venue (2000)

Charlie's Espresso on Mill

Imagine an autumn evening at an outdoor cafe. As you sip a perfectly executed cappuccino, wisps of exotic languages drift through the evening mist of the nearby lake. Seated at the concert grand piano just inside the open glass doors is world-class pianist Jian Liu, playing as if his life, and yours, depends upon his perfect execution of an intricate Chopin passage.

As the music swells, all languages are silenced, and just beneath the pounding crescendo you can sense -- could it be, the fetal heartbeat of a world-class city?

Nice fantasy, isn't it?

But on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8 to 11, Charlie's Espresso turns fantasy into reality. Just up the street from Tempe's Town Lake, a weekly array of talent featuring international stars such as Liu, who won third place at the 1999 Vladimir Horowitz piano competition in Moscow, appears on Charlie's shaded courtyard.

Tango/flamenco dancers, French horn virtuosos, lute and violin soloists and operatic vocalists also perform for the culturally enlightened and fiscally frugal. There is no cover charge for Charlie's fete to high-end culture. Just bring an open mind, a taste for really great coffee and an imaginative heart.

Charlie's is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.


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