The Trunk Space

F. Scott Fitzgerald can take that "There are no second acts in American life" malarkey and stuff it. When the venerable, long-running all-ages DIY institution The Trunk Space closed its doors on Grand Avenue in 2016, it didn't stay dead for long. After a few months of pop-up shows put on by the venue's dedicated team of volunteers, The Trunk Space found a second life as part of Grace Lutheran Church on Third Street. The gumball machine and photobooth are gone, but The Trunk Space's spirit of booking iconoclastic acts and being a place for young bands to find their voices remains. Since reopening at Grace Lutheran, Trunk Space has hosted underground legends like Lydia Lunch, packed anniversary shows by hometown heroes AJJ, film noir musicals, and marathon show events like Endless Bummer and the Indie 500 (where the space hosts back-to-back performances until 500 songs are played). And while some things change, other things remain the same: The discount comic boxes may be gone, but Luster Kaboom's iconic monster nerd mural followed owner Steph Carrico and her merry band of supporters to their new home.

Valley Bar
Benjamin Leatherman

If you want to hear what's going on in local or national underground music, then you go underground — literally. Jaunt through the alley west of Central Avenue and down a flight of stairs to join 250 of your closest friends inside Valley Bar's music hall. Once there, you can catch an album release party by a local band, indie musicians on the verge of stardom, or intimate shows by legendary artists such as Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. If your claustrophobia starts acting up, you can listen to the show while playing Skee-Ball in the game area or grabbing a flatbread pizza in the Rose Room.

The Van Buren

It's inevitable. At some point, you're going to see a show at The Van Buren. Guaranteed. And it's due in large part to the sheer number of "can't miss" concerts at the 1,800-person downtown Phoenix music venue co-owned by Live Nation and Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents. Since opening in August 2017, The Van Buren has hosted gigs in a wide variety of genres — from hip-hop and heavy metal to reggae, regional Mexican, and (of course) rock 'n' roll — within a stylish milieu that features gorgeous digs, primo acoustics, and excellent sightlines. There's also a gorgeous lobby and ample patio, each with its own bar. Just like Levy's other downtown spots (the equally popular Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar), there are more than just concerts happening here, as dance parties, beer festivals, comedy nights, and live podcasts have taken place. We can't wait to see what's in store for The Van Buren's second year.

Ak-Chin Pavilion

Seeing a show at Ak-Chin Pavilion is something of a rite of passage for Valley residents. Concertgoers have made the trek to this 20,000-person outdoor venue in the West Valley for decades now, dating back to the '90s, when it was known as Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion. Any number of recording stars and legendary bands from a wide variety of genres have performed here over the past three decades, including such notable artists as The Moody Blues, Nine Inch Nails, Blake Shelton, Rob Zombie, and KISS. Its ample open-air pavilion roof provides shade to those fortunate enough to possess reserved seating tickets, while general-admission types can kick back on the hilltop lawn area with blankets and still have a great view.

Best Place to See Performers You Loved 40 Years Ago

Musical Instrument Museum

MIM

The acoustics are perfect, the seating is comfy, and the lineup of talent is a dream come true for any of us who thought we'd maybe never see our faves perform again. For those of us who came of age listening to singer-songwriters like Rickie Lee Jones, Rita Coolidge, and J. D. Souther, the Musical Instrument Museum's almost nightly concert series is a great place to catch up with our favorites. And no one's shaking a musical stick at the world artists and up-and-comers that MIM books, either. Did we mention how fair ticket prices are? Get your seats early, though, as many MIM shows sell out quickly.

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

The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox

Phoenix has a storied history of DIY venues that rose and fell: Iron Lady, The Manor, Wall Street, ICYC, and many, many more. Sometimes they go into hibernation, throwing open their doors every once in a while for a special show. Most of them just disappear; part of the whole point of having a temporary autonomous zone is that they're, well, temporary. Rarest of all is the DIY spot that goes legit. The Lunchbox (LBX) started as one of those well-kept secrets — the kind of place where you needed to know somebody who knew the address to find it. Fast-forward a few years later, and now it has shows every week, a website, even an active social-media presence. What hasn't changed about LBX, though, is its knack for booking obscure, edgy, and interesting acts. Whether it's the avant-classical metal of Wrekmeister Harmonies, or weird singer-songwriters like Circuit des Yeux, LBX hosts some of the most forward-thinking and uncompromising artists working in the underground.

Yucca Tap Room
Lauren Cusimano

At Yucca Tap Room, you make a decision the moment you arrive — left door or right door. The left door leads to the Whiskey Lounge, where you've got a pool table, some booths, a bar separating patrons from selections of craft beer, and maybe a DJ. But the right door takes you to the original Yucca Tap Room, the well-worn music venue around since the early '70s that has seen many famous local and touring acts in its four decades of operation. And thanks to its short, approachable stage, decent sound, and somewhat of a floor area, some great punk shows have gone down. Agent Orange normally make a stop here, as well as comp punk darlings like Mustard Plug, Guttermouth, No Use for a Name, and Pulley. BroLoaf put on one hell of a show here, too. Heck, the Whiskey Lounge even aired that Fat Wreck Chords documentary that one time.

Pub Rock Live

If the walls of Pub Rock Live could speak, they'd probably offer up many twisted tales of rock 'n' roll exploits that've gone down at this Scottsdale spot during its many iterations over the decades. For a good chunk of the '90s, it was a hard-rock sanctum called The Atomic Cafe. Then, it transformed into Chasers, a dive-y haven for both heavy metal and punk effin' rock. In 2012, it became Pub Rock Live, but has continued its predecessors' predilection for rock and its many different flavors. During any given month, the club's 20-by-26-foot stage hosts all manner of touring acts, particularly those specializing in metal, pop-punk, garage rock, and hardcore. Locals love the place, too, including bands like Doll Skin, Fourbanger, The Beast of Bailey Downs, and Ebinezer. Plus, there's always tons of free parking and the bartending staff is friendly as hell. Rock on.

The Rhythm Room

Why do we keep coming back to The Rhythm Room as our pick for the best blues destination in town? Probably for the same reasons that local blues hounds keep coming back, year after year, to indulge their taste for toe-tappin' and rump-shakin' tunes at this central Phoenix blues institution. The many shades of the genre — from Delta and Chicago to 12-bar and boogie-woogie — are showcased several times a week at this no-frills joint equipped with just a stage, seating area, and bar. There's always room to dance, though, which patrons do with gusto when things get jumping. The Rhythm Room is a longtime favorite of local artists and touring legends alike, and has been since owner Bob Corritore, a veteran harmonica man and longtime host of KJZZ's Those Lowdown Blues, helped open the spot 27 years ago. We sincerely hope The Rhythm Room doesn't stop boppin' for another three decades or more. And that ain't no jive.

Roman's Oasis
Lauren Cusimano

You really can't miss this west Valley honky-tonk. Marked by farm equipment, a giant chicken, and other sun-bleached kitsch, Roman's Oasis has been in place since 1998, when the Alabama-born owner — Roman, obviously — could count just a few houses within sight of the country bar. Now, 30 years later (and one nearby spinoff — Roman's County Line), Roman's Oasis is still packed with a boot-scooting, table-slapping crowd. There are several rooms, meaning several bars and dance floors, and the calendar lists karaoke and dance lessons, as well as tournaments for cards, darts, and shuffleboard. There's also a full kitchen, good people, and lots of what matters: cold beer.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of