How to Have the Best Phoenix Summer Ever

How to Have the Best Phoenix Summer Ever
Kailey Whitman
In New Times' 2017 Summer Guide, we're exploring why we love the season — and why you should, too, whether you're looking to party, get outside, or eat and drink your way through metro Phoenix.

It’s not necessarily easy to love Phoenix in the summer, but easy love rarely means good love.

While it’s tempting to succumb to the familiar lure of “Netflix and chilling” (substitute “Hulu and hang” as needed) in your air-conditioned apartment as triple-digit temperatures bear down on Phoenix, remember that our city comes alive in a special way during the summer. There’s much to love in Phoenix, to see, hear, and taste. But it’s not coming to you — you’ve got to go get it. After all, love’s an action, something you do. So get dressed — lightweight fibers, sunscreen if you need it. We’re here to help you plan out your concert-going and nightlife-living for the next couple of months.

Okay, so priorities: You’ll need a drink and somewhere to drink it, preferably someplace dark, cool, and cave-like. Hail an Uber or Lyft over to The Womack (5749 N. Seventh St.) in Central Phoenix. Modeled after the dearly departed nightclub Chez Nous, The Womack serves up classic cocktails and an upscale vintage vibe. Order a sloe gin fizz with two kinds of gin, syrup, lemon juice, and lemon soda, settle into a plush booth, and listen to the sound of Roscoe Taylor Band, whose R&B stylings were one of the trademarks of the Chez.

click to enlarge See a variety of instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. - THOMAS QUINE/CREATIVE COMMONS
See a variety of instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum.
Thomas Quine/Creative Commons
Now that you’re feeling good, it’s time to head north. The Musical Instrument Museum (4725 E. Mayo Blvd.) is situated way up in there in north Phoenix, but it’s worth the trek. Featuring instruments from around the globe, it’s home to one of the best-sounding concert halls in the state, and it’s the perfect place to see organist Dr. Lonnie Smith on Saturday, June 17. Since his days recording for legendary jazz label Blue Note in the 1960s, Smith’s been one of the most prominent B-3 Hammond organ players in the world. His greasy, playful soul-jazz influenced everyone from The Beastie Boys to Medeski, Martin, and Wood, and he’s kept things modern, recording a tribute to Beck in 2003 and teaming with Don Was and modern jazz experimentalist Robert Glasper on his latest, 2016’s Evolution.

Worked up a hunger getting down? It’s time to head downtown and swing by The Coronado (2201 N. Seventh St.) for tasty vegetarian fare and some music-centric discussion. The last Tuesday of each month, the restaurant hosts Vinyl Voices, which features storytellers sharing love letters to the albums that changed their lives. If the stories get you itching to put on a record, we suggest taking a trip over to Esoteric Audio (111 West Monroe St.). Packed with high-end audio equipment — from belt-driven turntables to vacuum power-tube driven receivers — Esoteric offers a sleek, modern environment and hosts occasional listening sessions, offering you a chance to hear your favorite vinyl records in whole new ways.

click to enlarge Local faves Playboy Manbaby get a spot on the Warped Tour’s Phoenix stop. - RIS MARKEK
Local faves Playboy Manbaby get a spot on the Warped Tour’s Phoenix stop.
Ris Markek
More interested in expanding your tastes, or at least getting a feel for what the kids are into? Grab your favorite tween-to-teen and head out to the Fear Farm Festival Grounds (2209 N. 99th Ave.) for the Vans Warped Tour on Thursday, June 22. This year’s lineup features a bevy of Arizona acts, including rapper Futuristic, punks Playboy Manbaby, and hard rockers Dollskin, alongside mall-punk scene favorites Blessthefall and American Authors. You won’t have to worry about being the oldest person there: Los Angeles’ The Dickies and Fullerton veterans The Adolescents have been playing since the late ’70s and early ’80s, respectively, bring a sense of heritage to their Warped stages, which this year are all themed after Valiant Comics characters.

click to enlarge Hall and Oates return to Phoenix in July in a co-bill with Tears for Fears. - MICK ROCK
Hall and Oates return to Phoenix in July in a co-bill with Tears for Fears.
Mick Rock
If you’re looking for a more retro pop experience, July’s a great month for nostalgia-evoking shows. On Thursday, July 6, piano pop star Bruce Horsnby brings his sophisticated adult contemporary pop to Celebrity Theatre (440 N. 32nd). In recent years, Horsnby’s cache among indie audiences has risen considerably. In 2016, he teamed with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver for a tribute to the Grateful Dead, with whom he toured from 1990 to 1992. Even bigger with the ’80s-obsessed hipster set is Hall and Oates, who team with progressive pop group Tears for Fears on Monday, July 17, at Glendale's Gila River Arena (9400 W. Maryland Ave.). The show offers a chance to hear some of the biggest hits of the ’80s, including “Private Eyes” and “Shout,” and best of all, it’s indoors, so you won’t have to contend with the sweltering nighttime heat (

Which isn’t to say the Gila River Arena won’t feel plenty hot — sonically at least — when Kendrick Lamar kicks off his DAMN. tour there on Wednesday, July 12. The Compton rapper’s latest eschews the jazz-rap vibes of 2014’s To Pimp a Butterfly in favor of raw, stripped-down G-funk (along with appearances by Rihanna and U2). K-Dot remains modern rap’s greatest storyteller, and on the album he examines social, racial, and spiritual issues through a tight lens, offering a personal and empathetic response to a world that often seems spiraling out of control. 

While critics often cite Lamar’s connection to the ’90s-era rappers like Tupac and Nas, the I Love the ’90s party at Talking Stick Resort Arena goes fully vintage on Saturday, July 22, featuring TLC, Blackstreet, All-4-One, Rob Base, Biz Markie, and C+C Music Factory (201 E. Jefferson St). Further ’90s nostalgia can be had on Tuesday, August 8, when experimental rockers Primus play the Marquee Theatre (730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe) and alternative folk group 10,000 Maniacs plays Crescent Ballroom (308 N. Second Ave.). Which show you attend will likely depend on whether your car stereo was tuned to the Edge or the Zone back in the day, but you might find a hacky-sack or two at both gigs.

click to enlarge Shock-rock legend and Valley resident Alice Cooper shares the Ak-Chin stage with Deep Purple and The Edgar Winter Group in August. - JIM LOUVAU
Shock-rock legend and Valley resident Alice Cooper shares the Ak-Chin stage with Deep Purple and The Edgar Winter Group in August.
Jim Louvau
Always been more into the heavy stuff? Get ready for a busy August. On Friday, August 4, kings of heavy metal Metallica play University of Phoenix Stadium in support of their triumphant, speed-metal opus Hardwired to Self-Destruct (1 E. Cardinals Dr., Glendale). Tuesday, August 15, sees Deep Purple, The Edgar Winter Group, and Arizona’s own shock rocker extraordinaire, Alice Cooper, bring their tour to Ak-Chin Pavilion (2121 N. 83rd Ave.). Finish the month up with the unrelenting speed-metal of Slayer on Sunday, August 20, at Comerica Theatre (401 W. Washington St.).

So get doing, Phoenix. There’s a lot to love this summer and lots of music fans waiting to love it alongside you.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.