Yes, this is the best extra-large music venue in town, but it's so much more than that. It's also al fresco. There's something unforgettable about stretching out on a lawn during an outdoor concert. Call it phantom Coachella syndrome, but Ak-Chin Pavilion perfectly satisfies that summery quest for a place to sit cross-legged with a really big beer while bands play through a breeze. The sprawling venue can hold 20,000 people — 8,000 under its roof and the other 12,000 on the grassy hillside. In 2017, the west Phoenix venue formerly named for Cricket, Desert Sky, and Blockbuster has hosted Jimmy Eat World, Dead & Co., and Future. Pretty great reasons for taking it outside.

Best Place to See a Band You've Never Heard Of

Time Out Lounge

Lauren Cusimano

A neighborhood bar by day, often a music venue by night, Time Out Lounge caps the end of the Huntington Square Shopping Center plaza in central Tempe. A local hangout under the same ownership since 1988, Time Out hosts comedy and DJ nights, but loudest of all are the nights promised by the many colorful flyers decorating the walls and flat surfaces of most of the bar. Bands range in genre from metal to punk to indie to jam and back again, and don't worry, there isn't a seat in the house where you won't hear every single note. Local outfits fill up multi-slot evenings like Night of the AZ Punks and the Ghost Mother tape release show, while touring acts might ask you where to grab something to eat while hanging out in front. Covers don't usually go above $5, though most bands just ask for a donation and for you to have a good time.

Lauren Cusimano

Yucca Tap Room has been scheduling live music since the Hu family (notice it's Hu's Yucca Tap Room on the sign out front) started hosting bands in 1989. The classic wood-paneled walls of the Yucca's original music room create the perfect setting for local and touring punk acts, as many a punk fan would most likely be drinking there anyway. The Tempe dive bar and grill has welcomed some well-known bands to its short stage in 2017, including Michigan ska giants Mustard Plug, the Boston-based Big D & The Kids Table, Zeke, and San Diego's The Bombpops. Of course, local bands like The Venomous Pinks, The Rebel Set, and the psychobilly-leaning Creepsville 666 also fill up a Yucca flier. The classic Tempe music venue also hosts the annual Ska Prom, SkaFest, and the 666th Annual Punk Rock Halloween Bash.

First, let's state the fact that The Rebel Lounge used to be The Mason Jar. Around since 1979, The Mason Jar saw bands like Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Tool, and Guns N' Roses in the '80s and '90s. Its last days were spent hosting turn-of-the-century punk and hardcore bands on its small stage — so much so that proprietors had to grease the rafters to keep onlookers from getting a pair of dingy Vans to the face when kids would grab on and swing around during harder sets. Now, as The Rebel Lounge, this familiar space hosts a multitude of touring and local acts under the eye of promoter Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents. Since the space's 2015 rebirth, Phoenix showgoers have seen national and local acts like Chicano Batman, The Maine, Saddles, Venom Inc., Fall of Troy, and more.

As if there could be any question: Bob Corritore's Rhythm Room remains the Valley's best blues joint. Open since 1991, Corritore's spot plays host to local and touring acts, but it really shines when it comes to its owner's genre of choice. The renowned harmonica player — and host of KJZZ's Those Low Down Blues — performs at his club pretty regularly, and makes sure the concert calendar's stocked with notable players from across the country. What it lacks in modern updates, it makes up for in live music. Where else in the Valley could you catch Carvin Jones, The Sugar Thieves, Sistahs Too, and Marshall Crenshaw?

Lauren Cusimano

Debit-card users beware: Roman's Oasis is a cash-only country bar in the deep West Valley with enough activity to keep you there all night — or day. You can easily spot this honky-tonk thanks to the tractors, large rooster, and wagon wheels on full display in the bar's front area along the road. Inside Roman's Oasis — named for the Alabaman-turned-Arizonan who established the joint in 1988, which was followed by the opening of Roman's County Line in 1991 — you'll find a full kitchen, two dance floors, shuffleboard, license plates, country music memorabilia, and plenty of bar space. It's all lit by the multitude of neon beer signs, and there is often an event calendar full of dance lessons, off-track betting, card games, darts, and live country music.

The overriding rule in Scottsdale's nightlife district is to go as all-out and over-the-top as possible, as evidenced by the bright lights, enormous dance floors, and blaring soundtracks. So it's remarkable when a place like Ellure Lounge comes along and trumps the competition with its subtlety, style, and sophistication. The Stetson Drive lounge and dance club, which opened in January, offers a posh atmosphere featuring leather and suede seating, mahogany floors, candlelit tables, and walls adorned with crushed velvet. A floor-to-ceiling waterfall greets patrons near the front door, and a color-changing LED wall behind the bar offers tasteful mood lighting. Ellure's seasonal drink menu features martinis and other high-end cocktails made with desert botanicals and locally sourced ingredients. And the DJs behind the mixers tend to spin more house music, funk, and rock instead of the latest club bangers. There's even a private entrance in the back for VIPs and big spenders eager to avoid the crowds. Put simply, there's a definite allure to Ellure.

Not long ago, a small group of creative types from Tempe formed a group called Mutiny Phoenix, and started hosting dance nights on the regular. One of these monthly get-togethers was the Riot! Women's Dance Night — held the first Saturday of the month from May 2016 to June 2017 at the Palo Verde Lounge (they usually moved the pool table). Sadly, that night's over. But as Mutiny Phoenix, the anti-authoritarian social event organizers continue to host female-focused nights like Spellbound at The Bikini Lounge, with features rotating DJs, jams by everyone from Missing Persons to M.I.A. to No Doubt to The Knife, and whatever you want up at the bar. We have high hopes for the group's next move. Entry is free, though often the group encourages donations to LGBTQ organizations.

New kid on the block Club VOLT hit the scene in April and hasn't let up since. The bar's grand opening featured RuPaul's Drag Race queen Shea Coulee. Since then, the club's hosted a slew of other RuGirls, including season nine's thinking queen herself, Sasha Velour. While the touring entertainment's lovely, we're totally partial to the regular programming. Go-go boys rule the roost on Saturday nights, Fridays feature the 4some Revue, and you can't go wrong with Dollar Drink Thursdays. Premium well cocktails and domestic drafts for a buck? Oh girl, we are there.

Lauren Cusimano

Everyone's favorite Park Central Mall hangout also happens to be the Valley's best gay bar. Kobalt makes the grade for two main reasons: killer karaoke nights and even better happy hour specials. But what keeps locals returning to this CenPho hot spot is the community vibe. Service is great, and the staff is friendly. And these folks know how to host events. Whether it's show tunes on Saturdays, all-day happy hour on Fridays, or drag bingo on Mondays, Kobalt has you covered every night of the week. And we certainly aren't mad about the free popcorn and condoms.

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