The Van Buren

Charlie Levy did it again. In August, the longtime Phoenix concert promoter behind Stateside Presents teamed up with Live Nation to open his third downtown concert venue, The Van Buren. An impeccably designed 1,800-person music hall, the spot opened with a sold-out set from Cold War Kids and has a lineup of must-see concerts in the coming months. Located in a revamped auto dealership, the venue has multiple bars, a mezzanine for a bird's-eye view, and tiles worthy of the #ihavethisthingwithfloors Insta tag. More impressive than the gorgeous cement walkway in the lobby? The super-friendly staff and security crew, who are easily the nicest metal detector-wielding bag-searchers we've ever encountered. Period.

The Lunchbox

DIY, BYOB, BAMF — pick the acronym you like best. They all apply to The Lunchbox, an itty-bitty venue just off Calle 16. Dannie Levie founded the spot in October 2016 as a sort of one-stop shop for local and touring bands. It's a print shop by day, offering screen-printing, graphic design, and cassette duplication, among other services. And on select evenings, the 100-capacity music venue hosts bands like The Darts, A Giant Dog, and Slow Moses. What it lacks in space, it makes up for in perks for the artists. All performances are recorded, filmed, and photographed — and the media are turned over to the bands post-show.

The Trunk Space

For a spell in 2016, The Trunk Space was kinda homeless. After leaving its longtime spot on Grand Avenue (and having its iconic Luster Kaboom mural painted over), the Valley's premier DIY art space occasionally programmed concerts at The Newton. But it just wasn't the same as the lovably dumpy spot where bands like AJJ cut their teeth. Cut to last fall, and Steph Carrico and company shared great news: T-Space would once again have a permanent base for up-and-coming indie musicians at the Grace Lutheran Church. The extra-heartwarming part? Kaboom's green geek-beast mural was re-created as an indoor painting behind the stage. Just like home.

Crescent Ballroom

We can't name a downtown music venue that has inspired so much change — and so quickly — as Crescent Ballroom. Since Stateside Presents founder Charlie Levy opened the spot in 2011, the Valley's music scene hasn't been the same. A constant hub of activity, the 550-capacity club hosts live music every night, serves up burritos and cocktails, and just happens to be a great place to catch a concert, whether an up-and-coming local band is releasing a fresh record or your indie faves are rolling through town. A place where there's always something to do? We didn't have that before Crescent, and we're so thankful Levy and company carved out such a space.

Ak-Chin Pavilion

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

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.

Yucca Tap Room
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.

The Rhythm Room

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?

Roman's Oasis
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.

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