It's a good thing local concert promoters and venue owners give music fans plenty of reasons to experience the great outdoors.
Scores of al fresco shows and gigs – ranging from intimate performances to mega-concerts and multiday festivals are scheduled for the coming weeks and months.
A lot of these concerts will happen at many of the Valley's premier open-air venues, or spots that regularly offer outdoor shows. That includes bigger joints like Mesa Amphitheatre and Ak-Chin Pavilion, as well as bars with great patios and an art space or two. And thanks to modern conveniences like fans, misters, and plenty of shade, it’s worth attending shows at many of these spots even after the spring festival season wanes.
Here’s a look at metro Phoenix's best outdoor concert and live music venues.
2121 North 83rd Avenue
To old-school Valley residents, it'll always be Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion. Millennials, however, easily remember the era when it was Cricket Wireless Pavilion. And pretty much everyone has tried to forget the couple of years when it was awkwardly called the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion. But no matter what corporate identity Ak-Chin Pavilion has been branded with since its debut in 1990, this outdoor venue has been a mainstay of Phoenix's concert scene over the decades. And with its 20,000-person capacity, it’s definitely the largest – and the site of some of Phoenix's most epic concerts.
If you've had the means to afford the more expensive tickets at any of the thousands of concerts that have occurred at the pavilion, you've gotten to partake in the premium and reserved seats available underneath its gigantic roof, which is equipped with fans, misting systems, and nothing but shade, all of which comes in handy during its summertime operating season. That isn't to say that lawn seating atop the venue's sloping hillside setup is undesirable by any means, since it allows patrons to stretch out and relax on blankets or chairs (depending on the event) without missing any of the action, courtesy of a pair of high-definition jumbotrons on either side of the stage.
Civic Space Park
424 North Central Avenue
Whether you think it's strange, scintillating, or unsightly, Janet Echelman's astounding midair sculpture, Her Secret Is Patience, is one of the many unique elements that help make Civic Space Park one of the most distinctive outdoor venues in the Valley. Ditto for its array of illuminated columns, vintage buildings, uniquely shaped canopies, and ideal location in the heart of downtown Phoenix.
And then there's its large stage and ample grassy areas, both of which have been amenable to the numerous concerts both large and small that have taken place here since it debuted in 2009 (including 2014's excellent Los Dias de la Crescent festival). All have had an extra aura of cool thanks to the park's urban feel and otherworldly art.
Desert Botanical Garden
1201 North Galvin Parkway
When it comes to picturesque views, you really couldn't ask for more beauteous surroundings than the Desert Botanical Garden and its verdant collection of native flora and fauna. During the months where the weather is nicer (read: the spring and fall), the patio-like Ullman Terrace hosts a diverse and curated selection of local ensembles and acts of more of an instrumental nature and world music bent, ranging from Latin and Celtic bands to blues and Americana offerings.
Perched on the edge of the garden and situated at the foot of a saguaro-lined butte, performances at the 400-person venue get especially eye-catching around dusk, when amber rays of sunset and dramatic lighting of the plants and cacti add extra spectacle to an already striking scene.
Fear Farm Sports & Entertainment Complex
2209 North 99th Avenue
Aside from RC racing, futbol games, pumpkin patches, and the annual scare park, the Fear Farm Sports & Entertainment Complex – a.k.a. Sheely Farms, Fear Farm Festival Grounds, or just Fear Farm – is a 26-acre site typically buzzing with activity. Recently, it’s become something of a throwback punk rock stomping ground.
Fear Farm holds major music festivals like KUPD’s Brufest (which has featured The Offspring, Pennywise, and Atreyu), and has now joined spots like the Peoria Sports Complex, Camelback Ranch, and Ak-Chin Pavilion as the host of the Phoenix stop during the summertime Vans Warped Tour (bringing acts like Every Time I Die, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and New Found Glory to the West Valley).
Margaret T. Hance Park
67 West Culver Street
When the organizers of the annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival moved the event to Hance Park in 2013, it was widely applauded due to the fact that it offers a lot to concertgoers. Not only is it centrally located and adjacent to both light rail and a major freeway, it’s also the largest park in downtown Phoenix and boasts a wealth of space and diverse variety of settings for live music.
There's more than enough room on its sprawling acres of green grass for big-stage concerts like MMMF and various fests, as well as the different venues contained within or next to the park, such as the Japanese Friendship Garden, Irish Cultural Center, and Phoenix Center for the Arts. Heck, local folk-punker Travis James even put on DIY festivals underneath the Central Avenue bridge.
Read on for more of Phoenix's best outdoor music venues.