The 10 Best Downtown Phoenix Live Music Venues

Valley BarEXPAND
Valley Bar
Melissa Fossum

Local music in Downtown Phoenix is thriving these days and it's due in large part to the unique venues offered to fans. An influx of new concert halls and bars in the past year has given us even more options, while the mainstays seem to be reinventing themselves or continuing to grow. Here's our list of the best venues downtown has to offer.

Valley Bar
Walking down an alley makes some people nervous. But to get to Valley Bar, walk down an alley you must. Once inside, though, the new venue is nothing but inviting. The small interior makes for a cozy place to hear smooth jazz, salsa, and spoken-word performances. Plus, it has skee-ball and vintage arcade and pinball games crammed into a room with very modern, sleek interior design (whatever that mobile thing hanging over the bar is, it’s cool as fuck). Plus, there’s even a small corner of the bar filled with books and comfortable seats so you can read. This place is the definition of relaxing.

Emby Alexander performs at the Rebel Lounge.EXPAND
Emby Alexander performs at the Rebel Lounge.
Troy Farah

The Rebel Lounge
Veterans of Phoenix music might remember this place as the Mason Jar, which opened in 1979 and was host to bands such as Tool, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine. The new version hopes to continue that legacy, and in a few short months, it has shown it definitely is trying. It helps that the walls are made of thick concrete, providing perfect acoustics for the concussive hardcore and punk bands that tend to pass through. If legacy and loud volume mean anything, this is the place for it. Just remember to wear earplugs.

Dinosaur Love performing at Trunk Space.EXPAND
Dinosaur Love performing at Trunk Space.
Troy Farah

Trunk Space
Phoenix doesn’t have a venue that gets weirder than this place. Regular patrons know this to be a place where you can experiment, without the fear of being made fun of, threatened, or told to shut up (unless you say the word "bitch"). Plus, it’s one of the only consistently all-ages venues we have, which is really important for people unable to drink. The yearly Indie 500 (500 songs played consecutively by 100 bands) is also one of the most insane, fun things that happens in this town.

Firehouse Gallery
Firehouse Gallery
Benjamin Leatherman

The Firehouse Gallery
Not only did the folks at The Firehouse put on a full-scale production of Rocky Horror Picture Show this year, they often throw some of the biggest, most inclusive shows around, including last year’s Share Fire festival, which hosted more than 20 local bands on two stages, with a legendary after-party at the Icehouse. The art commune/gallery constantly is at odds with the city, which seems bent on turning the complex into cookie-cutter condos. For now, it is a beacon of defiance to the conventional.

Comerica TheatreEXPAND
Comerica Theatre
Ben Garcia

Comerica Theatre
Comerica is where you go when you want it massive, when you want it so big it explodes all sticky all over your face. This is where you go when you want to see folks like Bruno Mars, Matchbox Twenty, and Katy Perry (to name a few of the mega-stars that have passed through). Though, generally, the kind of music performed at Comerica is radio-friendly or commercialized bubblegum pop — the occasional Pixies and Arctic Monkeys shows being the exception — the bands onstage just look so good up at Comerica that it’s okay to indulge.

Orpheum Theatre
Orpheum Theatre
Melissa Fossum

Orpheum Theatre
In ancient Greek religion and myth, Orpheus was a musician who could charm even rocks. Living up to the name, the Orpheum Theatre is just plain gorgeous, which makes every event here more formal by a factor of 10. Where else can you go in Phoenix that makes you feel as though you walked into a late-19th-century opera house? No matter what you see here — plays, symphonies, or rock bands — it will feel intimate and sound amazing. And, as was the case when we saw St. Vincent at the Orpheum, it might be beautiful enough to bring you to tears.

ThirdSpace
ThirdSpace

ThirdSpace
Name another venue in Phoenix that hosts a regular hip-hop night, as ThirdSpace does every Friday. Exactly. While there are such nights elsewhere in the Valley (Mesa comes to mind), this is the only one in the downtown area with frequent rappers. But ThirdSpace is trying to be more than just a bar with decent drink selections. True to its name, ThirdSpace trying to be a third option in social surroundings (the first two being home and work) and we have to say, it's doing a better job than most.

Rhythm RoomEXPAND
Rhythm Room
Curt Condrat

Rhythm Room
Is it too much of a stretch to say Rhythm Room is the closest thing Phoenix has to CBGB? The Indian School Road venue, which recently got a facelift, does tend to feature country and blues. But Rhythm Room also showcases plenty of up-and-coming punk bands like Ceremony and Parquet Courts while also not being afraid to get experimental with acts like Tobacco and the Pizza Underground. Not only that, this place refuses to compromise, offering no pool table, no TVs — just great live music.

Crescent BallroomEXPAND
Crescent Ballroom
Troy Farah

Crescent Ballroom
In just four short years since opening, Crescent has become the standard bearer for downtown venues. From its state-of-the-art sound system to its mouth-watering Mexican fare, Crescent quickly became a hipster hotspot with good reason. It has seen a lot of acts come and go, but has kept up with a wide range of trendy, engaging bands. It can get packed, like when Jeff Mangum or Purity Ring sold out, but the size of the venue still makes for memorable shows that seem intimate.

Pro Teens playing Lawn Gnome in 2014.EXPAND
Pro Teens playing Lawn Gnome in 2014.
Troy Farah

Lawn Gnome Publishing
Yes, Lawn Gnome Publishing may be a used bookstore and publishing house, but the backyard boasts an impressive homemade stage that is used for everything from storytelling marathons to weekly open mics to the occasional concert. So while this place has one of the best selections for zines and independent publishing, you’re also likely to run into some of your favorite local musicians here when they’re warming up for their show. As many others have put it, Lawn Gnome is more of a community center that happens to have books. 

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Related Locations

miles
Lawn Gnome

905 N. 5th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

www.lawngnomepublishing.com

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Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-716-2222

www.crescentphx.com

miles
Rhythm Room

1019 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

602-265-4842

www.rhythmroom.com

miles
ThirdSpace

1028 Grand Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

602-258-1536

miles
Orpheum Theatre
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Comerica Theatre

400 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-514-2919

www.comericatheatre.com

miles
The Rebel Lounge

2303 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

602-296-7013

www.therebellounge.com

miles
Valley Bar

130 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-368-3121

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Trunk Space

1124 N. 3rd St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

www.thetrunkspace.com

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The Firehouse

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