Our 10 Favorite Metro Phoenix Music Venues
It's a hard pill to swallow, but music venues in the Valley tend to come and go. Fact. Look no further than the closing of The Compound Grill within the past week or last month's nixing of Clubhouse Music Venue for proof.
Some live music joints and concert halls have figured out the magic formula of how to both thrive and survive throughout the ups and downs, whether that means booking the right bands, finding ways to keep fickle music fans satisfied, or just offering them a suitable aura where they can lose their shit. Some are newer than others, and a couple were beloved enough to be raised from the dead.
It's also why these establishments are our favorite venues in town.
10. Nile Theater This downtown Mesa punk and hardcore haven is so badass that it came back from the dead. Some 15 odd years ago, the Nile was widely considered one of the go-to venues for three-chord devastation in the Valley, as well as indie and alt-rock favorite (a pre-OK Computer Radiohead played there in 1995). Then it closed amid a cloud of controversy in 2002, only to be revived two years ago by local concert promoter Mantooth Group. And things have pretty much stayed the same music-wise. Its cavernous digs still draw nationally known punk groups -- as well as a fair amount of emo, screamo, ska, and power-pop musicians -- who perform for hundreds either upstairs in the Nile main room or downstairs in the adjacent basement venue The Underground. Sadly, there's no liquor license, but the in-house java joint Lo-Fi coffee serves up potent brews of a different kind. -- Benjamin Leatherman
9. Chasers Bar & Night Club
Chasers may be located in Scottsdale, but its vibe is decidedly unlike the glitzy glamor of Old Town and its bumping clubs. Formerly the home of the Atomic Café, the darkened stage at Chasers plays host to underground hip-hop (often courtesy of promoters Universatile Music), but also features hardcore, punk rock, ska, metal and industrial rock, and even branches out to include buzzy indie rock (on May 1, Sacred Bones recording artist Amen Dunes is scheduled to play there). Long before they were indie darlings, Fucked Up brought their crushing tunes to the bar. Chasers caters to a crowd that doesn't care for bells and whistles, just the hard-hitting bands that take the stage there. -- Jason P. Woodbury
8. Club Red
Located in a Tempe strip mall that's slowly dedicating itself to music (there's a guitar shop, a record store, and a practice space, not to mention Jack in the Box and Waffle House to feed hungry roadies), Club Red and its satellite lounge, Red Owl, are home to hip-hop bubbling just under the mainstream and hair metal icons who still bust out the leather and Aquanet for adoring crowds. It's wonderfully varied. On any given night, you can catch the laid-back weed rap of Curren$y or a note-for-note tribute to the Crüe. The patio is spacious, too, and offers a place to chill and sip beers while smoking and comparing frayed denim jackets. -- JPW
7. Hollywood Alley There's a lot of history on the decor of this venerable Mesa venue, either in the form of classic movie posters, the shelves of used paperbacks, or the ever-growing mass of local band stickers covering the men's room and the corrugated metal wall near the front door. The latter is indicative of the roll call of artists who have called Hollywood Alley's stage home -- at least for the length of a 45-minute set, that is -- during its 24-year lifespan. A few dozen chapters of Valley music scene history have been written inside the scuzzy-yet-chic rock dive, which has been run by the eclectic Wincek family since its debut in 1988. Name any of the more memorable names in local music (Beat Angels, Zen Lunatics, Grey Daze, Minibosses) from the past quarter-century and they've been there. -- BL
6. Sail Inn
Don't let its granola aura and weekly jam band gigs fool you -- the Sail Inn is more than just a hangout for local hippies. Underneath its funky exterior beats the heart of a rock club that's versatile enough to host marquee-level acts going full-tilt boogie one night, and then an intimate locals-only show the next. It's also a cornerstone for the eclectic Tempe scene (groups like Dry River Yacht Club, Black Carl, What Laura Says, and their ilk perform here so often, you'd swear they're the house bands) and weekends are usually the domain of daylong mini-festivals packed with at least a half-dozen acts. And if whatever concert you're witnessing takes place on the outdoor stage, so much the better, as the Sail's open-air amphitheatre allows for killer performances underneath the stars. -- BL
5. Trunk Space If you missed out on catching that little-known weirdo chillwave act from Brooklyn that packed 'em in at this intimate Grand Avenue gallery and performance venue, don't fret. They'll play Phoenix again, albeit at the much bigger venue. That's because Trunk Space co-owners Stephanie Carrico and JRC have a predilection for booking burgeoning bands that likely are bound for greater things. Look at their track record: Louisiana's The Givers visited years before becoming the toast of the blogosphere or tearing the house down at Coachella. Ditto for Matt and Kim, Yacht, and STRFKR. And folk-punk pair Andrew Jackson Jihad cut their teeth on the space's tiny triangular stage prior to signing to Asian Man Records. So if you're one of those indie early adopters who loves whining about how you "heard about 'em first," pop a squat on the Trunk Space's floor and catch artists long before they hit Pitchfork's radar. -- BL
4. Rhythm Room The Valley's long-running juke joint is fine with indie rock, alternative, and alt-country during the week (last summer Atlanta garage rockers The Black Lips made a real mess of the place), but transforms into a boogieing blues party each weekend. Proprietor Bob Corritore (who hosts Those Lowdown Blues, a solid block of blues each Sunday night on KJZZ) has brought legends like R.L. Burnside and Robert Lockwood to town, often recording the onstage jam sessions for prosperity. The house band, The Rhythm Room All-Stars, are adept at backing up guitar slingers, and nights often kick off early, so you can get two whole shows' worth of music (and a couple cans of beers and a whiskey) in if you've got an afternoon to kill. -- JPW
Jason P. Woodbury
3. Yucca Tap Room Shows are (almost) always free at the Yucca Tap Room, which is one of numerous charms of this venerated Tempe live music haven. Here are a few more: Its divey milieu (wood paneling, cheap PBR, neon beer signs) is a fitting setting for rock 'n' roll debauchery usually taking place on the stage, the adjacent craft beer and whiskey lounge is stocked with some serious spirits, and the crowds are always colorful. There's music every night, running the gamut from the weekly Blunt Club hip-hop throwdown to Valley Fever's Sunday evening Americana extravaganza, with plenty of rock and punk the rest of the week. Plus, The Ghost of Eastside Records and a well-stocked smoke shop are a couple of doors down should you need either vinyl or a vaporizer to complete to truly feel rock 'n' roll. -- BL
Flkr via GRTaylor2
2. The Marquee Theatre
The Marquee Theatre began its life as the Red River Opry, a seated venue optimized from country and western music in 1991. Could the 10-gallon-hat-sporting showgoers have imagined that in 2012, the venue would be synonymous with the agit-rap of Odd Future, the greasy punk 'n' roll of Social Distortion, or the surging pop rock of The Maine? Probably not, but that's just a taste of the wide variety of acts you'll find at the Marquee on a regular basis, which has hosted national (and international) acts like A Perfect Circle, Wu-Tang Clan, The Black Keys, and Sigur Ros have taken the stage there. Local bands get a shot on the venerable stage too: the venue regularly hosts multi-band showcases give green bands a taste of the big time. -- JPW
1. Crescent Ballroom The indie-chic downtown venue has gotten overwhelming amounts of love and attention in the six months since it opened, much to the chagrin of a few haters. Such an infallible aura well earned, however, considering its one of the best venues in Phoenix. Why? Let's hit the highlights: The sound system is pimp, the historic décor is all exposed rafters and polished wood, and roster of music talent is top-shelf. Oh, and its got killer burritos. The patio and lounge is a social scene unto itself, with free shows (and plenty of hot gossip) on tap nightly. -- BL
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