Best Last-Minute Save 2019 | The Lunchbox | Nightlife | Phoenix

Back in July, things were looking mighty grim for The Lunchbox after owner Danny Levie announced he was pulling the plug on the scrappy underground music venue. The news caused shock and sorrow among patrons of boundary-pushing shows. Weeks later, fate, and some sympathetic fans of the venue, intervened. Local experimental electronic musician and audio engineer Scot McKenzie and a few friends stepped in to help out The Lunchbox during its hour of need. They not only gave the ailing venue an injection of much-needed cash, which gave it a reprieve from its impending death sentence, they installed a new sound system. Plus, McKenzie announced plans to bring Der Bunker Teknobar, an experimental electronica music night he promotes, to The Lunchbox in the near future. It should fit in nicely with the sort of gigs The Lunchbox has done in the past and will continue to do in the future, thanks to McKenzie and his pals.

Benjamin Leatherman

If your Uber driver isn't familiar with downtown music venues, chances are it's going to be difficult for him to find Valley Bar. The entrance is in an alley, which gives the establishment a speakeasy vibe. There is a sense of the unknown as you walk down the stairs and head inside, so don't be surprised if your driver raises an eyebrow of concern like an overprotective parent. But any sense of danger washes away once you enter the intimate venue, which is the perfect place to attend an acoustic show by an up-and-coming indie artist or a comedy show.

Whether you're feeling like smoking some weed with Machine Gun Kelly, watching the world burn with Ilana Glazer, or reliving some '80s bops at a Stranger Things-themed party, you can do it all at The Van Buren. The venue's expansive calendar has concerts slated from the likes of Thievery Corporation, Chvrches, and Common, but the space is also used for performances by comedians and storytellers, and for music nights with themes as broad as Miami or '90s Night. The 1,800-capacity concert hall makes great use of what used to be an auto dealership, with enough bar space that you won't spend the entire concert waiting for a drink, and enough standing room that you won't be close enough to smell your fellow concertgoers' hair. On a busy night, the line may wrap around outside, but security is quick and efficient, and they'll have you inside with a drink or a jackfruit slider in your hand in a matter of minutes.

Sure, it may be a struggle to find parking if you're heading in from the 'burbs, but for Phoenicians living in downtown and midtown, there's no better place for a massive concert than Talking Stick Resort Arena. Whether you're there for Travis Scott's mind-blowing ASTROWORLD Tour or a fantastic evening with Paul McCartney, the arena that forms the backbone of a downtown sports and entertainment complex along with Chase Field is just a rideshare or (even better, since the station is right next to the entrance) a light rail ride away. Now, if only we could get people to show up for basketball games.

The Trunk Space stands apart from every other music venue in the Valley. First, the DIY spot is purely a nonprofit venture run by volunteers, overseen by a seven-person board, and largely features shows by local indie promoters. It's also located on the grounds of a historic house of worship (specifically, Grace Lutheran Church) whose staff and clergy are cool enough to let it do its own thing. And at The Trunk Space, that thing is usually a bit unusual. Since debuting in 2004, the venue has fostered the sort of outsider art, experimental performances, noise artistry, and musical oddities that can't be seen elsewhere. "We enjoy things that are definitely strange and outsider," says Trunk Space co-founder Steph Carrico. "There are plenty of places to play if you're a rock band, but not that many places to play if you tape contact mics onto a table and drag it around on a floor." In addition to all the weirdness, the Trunk Space also hosts gigs by local and touring indie acts on the regular. In an age when DIY venues frequently go defunct, the Trunk Space has survived for 15-plus years. Here's hoping it sticks around for decades to come.

Benjamin Leatherman

There's a lot of diversity among the Valley's concert venues: large-scale clubs, huge stadiums, outdoor amphitheaters, ample dive bars, and even a church rec room. But there are few like The Underground at The Nile Theater, likely the closest thing to a CBGB or Club 82 as Phoenix has ever had. The Nile itself has a history of holding raucous punk and metal shows, and The Underground takes those same madcap events and drops the square footage by a country mile. With exposed pipes and bare concrete floors, The Underground is more akin to a bomb shelter or a fetish dungeon than most rock clubs. But that slightly oppressive, moderately intimidating vibe works wonders, and the best artists are able to fill the space with noise and an air of creative confrontation. It's easy to get lost in the Underground — not, like, physically — forgoing the inherent claustrophobia for primal levels of camaraderie and moshing. Just remember to always stretch and hydrate before any Underground show.

This historic venue has seen generations of musicians pass over its circular stage, and if you have attended a show at Celebrity Theatre, you know how intimate a 2,650-seat venue can feel when the stage is in the center of the room. There is something about a theater in the round that is especially conducive to a hip-hop show. This is a feature mostly afforded to rap artists who are fortunate enough to fill stadium-size venues, because most clubs and smaller venues have the stage situated at the end of the floor. The freedom for the performer of having a 360-degree vantage point allows for innumerable unique moments they can share with the audience.

Tribute acts and casinos go together like buffets and blackjack, or retirees and slot machines. Just look at Sin City, where a wide variety of tribute acts and artists perform each week, or, on a more local level, Casino Arizona in Scottsdale. The sincerest form of flattery is served up regularly inside its showroom, courtesy of the array of tribute bands rolling through for two-night stints almost every weekend. The selection is largely mock 'n' roll bands like Metallica mimics Masters of Puppets, the grunge gurus of Fooz Fighters, or G N' R tribute Paradise City, but acts paying homage to Selena and Elvis (natch) are occasionally featured. Best of all, tickets typically top out at $17.50 (before processing fees), allowing you plenty of leftover cash to order a few rounds. Who knows? After enough cocktails, you might just think that's actually a Use Your Illusion-era Axl Rose gyrating onstage like a bandana-clad sleazoid dervish while howling out lyrics. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

Music writers get an exorbitant amount of emails about cleverly named, small, independent bands, filled with hyperbolic reasons explaining why the group's album should be the next thing they listen to. Most publications will regurgitate those releases as clickbait, making their readers wonder if the author even bothered to hear the hard work the band put in. But when publicists sent Nanami Ozone's second album, NO, to inboxes, reviewers actually paid attention. The Phoenix quartet's hybrid of pop, shoegaze, and '90s alternative is too good to ignore. Now, the band are touring the coasts (and Canada) to become the Valley's greatest musical export since AJJ. We're already planning think pieces about the group's success.

Of the few Phoenix-bred groups to make it out of the desert, Injury Reserve have to be the most boundary-pushing. After signing with indie-major label Loma Vista last year, they delivered their self-titled debut album in May, preceded by a string of videos showing the trio staging a fashion show, taking a Tesla for a joyride, and other wild ideas. They're currently on a worldwide tour that will take them to Australia, Japan, and Europe. There's also a local date scheduled for December 27 at The Van Buren.

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