10 Best Outdoor Concert Venues in Phoenix

A huge crowd gathered at Shady Park in Tempe for Shiba San in February.EXPAND
A huge crowd gathered at Shady Park in Tempe for Shiba San in February.

Look, we’re well aware that being outside for any length of time during the six-month stretch when everything's hot can be a hellacious prospect. Put simply, it’s just a fact of life for those of us crazy enough to live here.

That part of the year, however, hasn’t started yet. Sure, things might be a little warmer, but – truth be told – it’s not so bad out right now. That’s why you need to find any excuse to be outside over the next few weeks and savor the tolerable weather while you can.

Good thing local concert promoters and venue owners will give you plenty of reasons to experience the great outdoors while our relatively brief springtime gradually melts into the summer.

Concertgoers at Mesa Amphitheatre in 2014.EXPAND
Concertgoers at Mesa Amphitheatre in 2014.
Jim Louvau

Scores of al fresco shows and gigs – ranging from intimate performances to mega-concerts and multi-day festivals are scheduled for the coming weeks and months to take advantage of the bearable climes.

A lot of these concerts will be happening at any of the Valley's premier open-air venues or spots that regularly offer outdoor shows. That includes bigger joints like Mesa Amphitheatre and Ak-Chin Pavilion, as well as bars with great patios or even an art space or two. And thanks to modern conveniences like fans, misters, and plenty of shade, it’s worth attending shows at many of these spots even after the spring festival season wanes and when the heat starts to rise.

Here’s a look at 10 of Metro Phoenix's best outdoor concert and live music venues.

Traveller performs at the Desert Botanical Garden's Ullman Terrace.EXPAND
Traveller performs at the Desert Botanical Garden's Ullman Terrace.
Courtesy of DBG

10. Desert Botanical Garden

When it comes to picturesque views, you really couldn't ask for more beauteous surroundings than the Desert Botanical Garden and its verdant collection of native flora and fauna. During the months where the weather is nicer (read: the spring and fall), the patio-like Ullman Terrace hosts a diverse and curated selection of local ensembles and acts of more of an instrumental nature and world music bent, ranging from Latin and Celtic bands to blues and Americana offerings. Perched on the edge of the garden and situated at the foot of a saguaro-lined butte, performances at the 400-person venue get especially eye-catching around dusk, when amber rays of sunset and dramatic lighting of the plants and cacti add extra spectacle to an already striking scene.

Upcoming shows: The Brazen Heads (March 11), The Rave: British Invasion (March 18), Cinco de Moio (March 25), Michael Powers Group (April 8), Jazz Con Alma feat. Beth Lederman (April 15), Big Nick and the Gila Monsters (April 22), Guitarras Latinas (May 6), Big Pete Pearson (May 13), Hans Olson & Chuck Hall (May 20)

Sadie Jane Ramsey performs on the outdoor stage at ThirdSpace.
Sadie Jane Ramsey performs on the outdoor stage at ThirdSpace.
Benjamin Leatherman

9. ThirdSpace

About a decade ago, Grand Avenue was fast becoming a hotbed for music via such venues as the Paper Heart, Four White Walls, Fat Cats, Trunk Space, and Bikini Lounge. While all but the latter two spots sadly have gone defunct and faded into obscurity, the folks at ThirdSpace thankfully have picked up where their predecessors have left off and taken the lead in reviving live music along Grand.

When ThirdSpace's shows are held out back at the eatery and bar, it's often an intimate experience. Bands and artists perform during the daytime and often at night on weekends while cloistered amid the colorful complex of small shops located behind ThirdSpace. After sundown, it become even cozier as musicians sing out while patrons watch from their tables. The scene glows from strings of twinkling bulbs overhead, the light of the fire pit, and the great sounds coming from the amplifiers.

Upcoming shows: Upcoming shows: Level 9 (March 12), Rule of Thirds (March 19), ECID & Bluebird (March 22), Sister U'i (April 2)

Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers perform at last year's Share Fire Festival at Firehouse Gallery.EXPAND
Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers perform at last year's Share Fire Festival at Firehouse Gallery.
Courtesy of Michael 23

8. Firehouse Gallery

While it's very much true that the Firehouse Gallery is currently up for sale — and thus, has something of a metaphorical Sword of Damocles teetering over its head — the downtown Phoenix art space and performance venue is still very much viable and has a number of shows (both music-related and otherwise) scheduled for the days and weeks ahead. And when they aren't prepping for said events, its proprietors are scrambling to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to purchase the property, as you may have heard, .

Upcoming Events

We sincerely hope they succeed, since the Firehouse has been one of the liveliest and most colorful places to see a show dating back to its founding back in 2005, long before other arts district venues like The Lost Leaf, Lawn Gnome, or Revolver Records put on their first gig. Its outdoor stage in the gallery's backyard has hosted artistic expressions in abundance, from fire-dancers and sideshow acts to theatrical troupes and spoken word slingers. (Last year, it also staged an impressive production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that featured numerous local musicians in the cast.) It's also been the site of many a concert, including gigs by crust punks, indie rockers, folk singers, experimental musicians, and multiple DJs. While the digs are decidedly DIY and definitely shabby chic, it's all part of its funky atmosphere and artsy charm.  

Upcoming shows: Organic Eclipse (March 11), Swimming in the Head (April 2)

The scene at Civic Space Park during Los Dias De La Crescent in 2014.
The scene at Civic Space Park during Los Dias De La Crescent in 2014.
Jeremiah Toller

7. Civic Space Park

Whether you think it's strange, scintillating, or unsightly, Janet Echelman's astounding midair sculpture, "Her Secret Is Patience," is one of the many unique elements that help make Civic Space Park one of the most distinctive outdoor venues in the Valley. Ditto for its array of illuminated columns, vintage buildings, uniquely shaped canopies, and ideal location in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

And then there's its large stage and ample grassy areas, both of which have been amenable to the numerous concerts both large and small that have taken place here since it debuted seven years ago — including 2014's excellent Los Dias de la Crescent festival — all of which have had an extra aura of cool thanks to the park's urban feel and otherworldly art.

Upcoming shows: Wednesday Wind Up (March 9 & March 23)

A show at Shady Park in Tempe.EXPAND
A show at Shady Park in Tempe.

6. Shady Park

Downtown Tempe's Shady Park is nothing if not versatile. In addition to serving as a stylishly retro pizzeria and vintage-inspired cocktail lounge, it also pulls quadruple duty by offering a sports bar atmosphere and college kid hangout. And out back is its best feature, the expansive open-air "bar park" that's ringed with trees and features a recessed seating area, a weather-proof sound system, and a stage that’s hosted local bands, touring artists, and DJs almost every weekend since the spot began booking shows in January.

Shady Park is the brainchild of restaurateur and C.A.S.A. SunBa owner Scott Price, who was inspired by out-of-the-way bars and taverns he encountered in Europe that were cloistered amid forests. And while the foliage that surrounds the bar park isn’t as thick as you’d find in some overgrown sylvan area, it adds a clandestine feel to the joint and seems to insulate it from the usual madness of nearby Mill Avenue. Plus, the canopy of leaves and branches overhead help keep in the sound.

Upcoming shows: SuperFun Friday with Fred Green & Dirt Moon (March 11), SuperFun Friday with The SmashUp (March 25), kill_frenzy (March 26), Vibe Street (April 2)



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