10 Best Outdoor Concert Venues in Phoenix

ZZ Top performs on the poolside stage at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale last year.
ZZ Top performs on the poolside stage at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale last year.
Melissa Fossum

5. Talking Stick Resort

Talking Stick's lavish pool area doesn't want for creature comforts by any means, considering it's equipped with posh daybeds, VIP cabanas, two bars, bottle service, a DJ setup, and (of course) the pool itself. During the spring and summertime, however, it gets an extra boost in the form of an enormous portable stage that's erected nearby and features renowned bands in the alternative, pop, and classic rock vein during the resort's yearly summertime concert series. And because the stage faces Talking Stick's 15-story hotel tower, the wall of sound is contained by the structure and focus on the audience, which means you hear all of the hot licks or killer riffs being dispensed by all the rock 'n' roll legends onstage.

Upcoming shows: Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (April 2), DVBBS (April 9), Lil Jon (April 10), Firebeatz (April 16), Diplo (April 23), Paris Blohm (April 24), 3 Doors Down (June 10)

The crowd during the Mad Decent Block Party's tour stop at Rawhide in 2014.EXPAND
The crowd during the Mad Decent Block Party's tour stop at Rawhide in 2014.
Benjamin Leatherman

4. Rawhide

Attending concerts at Rawhide in Chandler is a unique experience inasmuch as it’s the only location in the Valley where you catch a show at an actual theme park. While most outdoor music gigs and festivals at the venue take place on its expansive Sonoran Lawn, including the last two Mad Decent Block Parties that have visited Metro Phoenix, a couple of events have gone down within Rawhide’s kitschy Western Town.

Last year’s Global Dance Festival Arizona, for instance, featured three stages of electronic dance music artists and DJs that were located within the cluster of rustic building and dirt streets that are straight outta the Wild West of Arizona’s past. It certainly made for an unusual and amusing sight to see colorfully dressed kandi kids and hear cutting-edge EDM in a milieu more suited to cowboys and country music.

Upcoming shows: Pot of Gold Music Festival 2016 (March 17 & March 19), Dirty Disco 2016 (May 21)

Les Claypool's Duo de Twang onstage during the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in 2013 at Hance Park.EXPAND
Les Claypool's Duo de Twang onstage during the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in 2013 at Hance Park.
Benjamin Leatherman

3. Margaret T. Hance Park

When the organizers of the annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival moved the event to Hance Park in 2013, it was widely applauded due to the fact that it offers a lot to concertgoers. Not only is it centrally located and adjacent to both light rail and a major freeway, its also the largest park in downtown Phoenix and boasts a wealth of space and diverse variety of settings for live music.

There's more than enough room on its sprawling acres of green grass for big-stage concerts like MMMF and various fests, as well as the different venues contained within or next to the park, such as the Japanese Friendship Garden, Irish Cultural Center, and Phoenix Center for the Arts. Heck, local folk-punker Travis James even put on DIY festivals underneath the Central Avenue bridge every so often.

A drum circle during McDowell Mountain Music Festival in 2013 at Hance Park.EXPAND
A drum circle during McDowell Mountain Music Festival in 2013 at Hance Park.
Benjamin Leatherman

And McDowell Mountain isn't the only major multi-day concert extravaganza to relocate to the Margaret T. Hance, as the promoters of the EDM-oriented Phoenix Lights festival decided to hold this year's event, which takes place in early April, at the park, allowing dance music fans more room for getting down and going hard.

Upcoming shows: McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2016 (March 11-March 13), Phoenix Lights (April 2-April 3)

Chiodos performs at Mesa Amp in 2014.EXPAND
Chiodos performs at Mesa Amp in 2014.
Jim Louvau

2. Mesa Amphitheatre

Having been around in the late 1970s, Mesa Amphitheatre has been a go-to outdoor venue for generations of Valley concertgoers that's filled with history. For natives, its where your parents might've rocked out to the Frank Zappa, The Clash, Joan Jett, Jerry Garcia, or The Go-Go's way back when, or where your older metalhead brother went to worship at the feet of Black Sabbath or King Crimson in their heydays.

Not much has changed at the Amp in the ensuing decades, right down to the ever-present bougainvillea bushes that's lined its back wall for eons. Its bandshell has always featured keen acoustics, and there's never been such a thing as reserved seating at the 4,950-person venue, as the Amp has always been general admission (and probably always will be). The tiered setup of its terraced lawn offers fantastic sight lines from everywhere in the venue, as well as something to lean against and kick back if you tire of standing. And who knows? Your folks might just have wound up conceiving you in that same spot while checking out the Allman Brothers Band back during the summer of '80.

Upcoming shows: 2 Cellos (April 9), Chris Stapleton (April 14)

Ak-Chin Pavilion during a concert by Mumford and Sons in 2013.
Ak-Chin Pavilion during a concert by Mumford and Sons in 2013.
Courtesy of Live Nation

Upcoming Events

1. Ak-Chin Pavilion

To old-school Valley residents, it will always be Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion. Millennials, however, easily remember the era when it was Cricket Wireless Pavilion. And pretty much everyone has tried to forget the couple of years when it was awkwardly called the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion. But no matter what corporate identity its been branded with since its debut 25 years ago, this outdoor venue has been a mainstay of Phoenix's concert scene over the decades. And with its 20,000-person capacity, its definitely the largest — and the site of some of Phoenix's most epic concerts.

KISS performs at Ak-Chin Pavilion in 2014.
KISS performs at Ak-Chin Pavilion in 2014.
Jim Louvau

If you've had the means to afford the more expensive tickets at any of the thousands of concerts that have occurred at the pavilion, you've gotten to partake in the premium and reserved seat available underneath its gigantic roof, which is equipped with fans, misting systems, and nothing but shade, all of which comes in handy during its summertime operating season. That isn't to say that lawn seating atop the venue's sloping hillside setup is undesirable by any means, since it allows patrons to stretch out and relax on blankets or chairs (depending on the event) without missing any of the action, courtesy of a pair of high-definition jumbotrons on either side of the stage.

Upcoming shows: KUPD's U-Fest 2016 (March 19), Journey & The Doobie Brothers (May 14), Bad Company & Joe Walsh (May 22), Brad Paisley (June 2), Slipknot & Marilyn Manson (June 18)


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Related Locations

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Ak-Chin Pavilion

2121 N. 83rd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85035

602-254-7200

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Mesa Amphitheatre
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Downtown Civic Space Park

424 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

www.phoenix.gov/parks/index.html

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Margaret T. Hance Park

1134 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-534-2406

www.phoenix.gov

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Talking Stick Resort

9800 E. Indian Bend Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85256

877-724-4687

www.talkingstickresort.com

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Shady Park
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Rawhide Event Center

5700 W. N. Loop Rd.
Chandler, AZ 85048

480-502-5600

www.rawhide.com

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Desert Botanical Garden

1201 N. Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85008

480-941-1225

www.dbg.org

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The Firehouse - Closed
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ThirdSpace

1028 Grand Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

602-258-1536

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Tempe Beach Park

54 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

480-350-8625

www.tempe.gov/lake


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