We love our hard rock in the Valley of the Sun. And when it comes to seeing those beloved bands in the flesh, our air-conditioned venues are a close second in our hearts. But around these parts, the cool air is just one important element of a great music venue. Fans want professional sound, decent ticket prices, easy stage viewing, and of course, great drink deals. There are plenty of hole-in-the-wall venues, which, in many enthusiasts' opinions, are the best places to see a great show.
In this case, we're not talking about the massive venues with a $50 ticket's worth of pyrotechnics. We're talking localized joints that host a bevy of heavy national and local bands. Whether you want a larger “concert-style” performance, a mid-size show perfect for moshing, or an intimate dive-bar gig, you can't go wrong with any of the Valley's 10 best hard rock venues.
Pub Rock Live
8005 East Roosevelt Street, Scottsdale
Pub Rock Live has hosted some of the best metal and hard rock bands of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and today — Crowbar, Down, In This Moment, and Upon a Burning Body. The drinks are reasonably priced, and you can often find food trucks on show days. Though there's no patio or, really, any windows, you can see the stage from any vantage point in the house. This spot is also a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs bar, but they are all about catering to all NFL, soccer, and racing fans alike. The staff is welcoming, and owner Nancy Stevens, who's very active in the local scene and radio stations, is known for hosting several bands touring through the venue to backyard barbecues at her home.
1306 West University Drive, Mesa
For overall size and sound, Club Red is a cross between an intimate and amid-size venue. A few years ago, the venue relocated to Mesa from Tempe, giving it a much-needed boost in parking spaces while still being super accessible. The dual-stage space can host two shows simultaneously. While Club Red hosts some of the biggest legends in hard rock and heavy and extreme metal, the shows also have one of the best concentrations on local supporting lineups around.
Cactus Jack’s Ahwatukee Tavern
4747 East Elliot Road, #2
With a spacious stage and fantastic sound system, Cactus Jack’s is a local favorite. You can grab a drink and a bite to eat while listening to live music. And this spot has a rep for treating bands well. The venue fits more than 400 people, and there’s a large outdoor stage.
13825 North 32nd Street
Joe's Grotto's backstory is as interesting as the crowd it draws. In 1994, the venue was established by musician Joe Grotto after he won $75,000 in Las Vegas and invested it in the club. Along with the help of some friends, he has made it a favorite for even big-name hard rock bands to play when they come through town. There's music six nights a week, several drink specials, and the bartenders never skimp on the shot pours.
730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe
As one of the larger venues that caters to hard rock in the Valley, the Marquee Theatre hosts an array of genres, from Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin tributes to Morbid Angel and Chevelle. It’s also home to some great hard rock festivals, like the Summer Slaughter Tour and Desert Frostover. It's undergone a major renovation to offer fans more standing room, as well as a balcony.
2303 East Indian School Street
Formerly the Mason Jar and now Rebel Lounge, this music venue has hosted some of the top rock acts before they hit it big, including Green Day, Guns N’ Roses, and Rage Against the Machine. Nowadays, you’ll find such rock bands gracing the stage as Sacred Reich, Agnostic Front, Red Fang, The Black Dahlia Murder, and The Heavy. This venue operates old school, and we love it. You can only buy tickets on their website or at Stinkweeds; the venue is only open on show nights; and it’s standing-room only, no matter how VIP you are.
423 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
At this dingy yet dope dive, expect indie types and rockers pounding PBRs, local rock bands on stage, an infamous graffiti-covered bathroom, and torn, yet comfy, vinyl booths. The Rogue's bartenders are attentive, and the stage is intimately small, but attendees are able to have a decent view from anywhere within the bar. Pro tip: Don't park in front of the convenience store next door; the owner's known to have cars towed.
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4245 North Craftsman Court, Scottsdale
Rockbar is Scottsdale’s hard rock club in the heart of an area that caters to the more trendy club scene and upscale nightlife. And it works. This double-decker venue packs in fans downstairs that crowd around a corner stage, so intimate that you’ll most likely feel drops of sweat flying off the musicians — mostly local or up-and-coming touring bands. Upstairs you’ll find a breezy patio with lots of comfy seating, a tattooed bartender (most likely in a metal band), and billiards. There’s a great rock vibe here that’s impossible not to love.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which was first published in March 2013.