Few things are better than live music, but you know what is? Free live music. Here are 10 places in Arizona's capital city to hear cover-less bands in the flesh.
10. The Vig Uptown
It’s no secret that The Vig is a popular hangout spot. All you have to do is walk inside; at any given time, it’s most likely a full house. From brunch to late night, their menu is loaded with a bunch of tasty dishes and drinks, including enticing “Vignature” cocktails. The musical backdrop keeps things lively. Sometimes it is live music with bands like Vinyl Station who play indie rock geared toward fans of U2 and Coldplay. A lot of DJ’s with clever names are on the schedule, including DJ Riot Earp, and DJ Proper Villain.
9. Lawn Gnome Publishing
This downtown Phoenix bookstore gets a medal just for being one of the few bookstores still standing; they have a few years under their belt promoting literacy and culture through a host of happenings. They are particularly fond of indie lit and music, poetry, and zines and often have special events where you can see writers read and see a spotlight on independent publishers and their goods. They also have a nice backyard that has a stage that sees a good amount of live music. Acts that have graced the stage include indie band Currents and nerdcore duo Snailmate.
8. Slow Down Saturday at Timo
The name of this weekly event is a nod to the song “Slow Down” by British trip hop group, Morcheeba as much as it is a reflection of the chill vibe that DJ Andres brings to Saturday nights at this restaurant and wine bar. Timo specializes in wood-fired eats and they have pretty lush and relaxing indoor and outdoor settings where you can enjoy the food, drink, and tunes. Andres keeps things on the mellow side with a blend of seductive styles that you can groove to, like trip hop, electro-lounge, and nu jazz, and then intensifies things by playing deep house tracks.
7. Beats and Brunch at Jobot
Arizonans love their patio drinking and dining. When it even remotely seems like some sun is in the sky, or will be, seats get filled. Jobot is a popular destination on Sunday mornings for Beats and Brunch, which is exactly what it sounds like. Local DJ Just Chris, and sometimes a guest DJ, sets up shop and plays beat-driven music to create a lively, jumping atmosphere for hearty plates of breakfast foods, like carrot cake pancakes with cream cheese frosting, and breakfast sloppy joes with feta fries. Enjoy your eats and beats while you peep the happenings in the Roosevelt Row ‘hood.
6. Funky Friday at Bikini Lounge
When the clock hits 10 p.m. on Friday nights at the Bikini Lounge, a DJ takes over. Twice a month, that duty goes to DJ Jazzmaster Jax, who commands the turntables at Phoenix’s oldest and most authentic Tiki bar. Jax is also known as Jackie Cruz who, when she’s not DJing, sings and plays guitar in local bands Man Hands and Jade Helm. At this regular event, she is prepared to mix it up. You will get your ears treated to a diverse mix of punk, folk, ska, reggae, garage, new wave, and goth, just to name a few of the genres she spins.
5. Copper Star Coffee
Located in the heart of central Phoenix’s Melrose District, Copper Star Coffee is reminiscent of the old school, pre-Starbucks coffee shops with the type of homey environment that encourages you to lounge, enjoy the art on the walls, and people-watch. It becomes even more inviting when live music is added to the mix, which is often the case on weekends. The venue mixes it up – one day you might come in to find sweet pop band The Darling Sounds, and on another day it could be acoustic, indie-folksters Brothers Too. Walking in on a blues jam is a definite possibility.
4. Desert Ridge Marketplace
This North Phoenix shopping mecca has more to do than just spend your hard earned cash. There are a couple of spots at Desert Ridge to catch live bands – the District Stage, and the AMC Fountain. You can find something happening at either or both on most Friday and Saturday evenings. They offer a good blend of local sounds from different genres. Upcoming acts include indie rockers Almost Awake, outlaw country act the Eddie Joe Clark band, and We, Beloved, a rock band with punk leanings.
3. Handlebar J
There aren’t too many places where you can work off the calories from the giant steak you wolfed down by engaging in a little two-stepping. Luckily, this place, going strong since the mid-196s has live country music for you to do just that every night of the week. Every Wednesday through Sunday you can see the Herndon Brothers Band perform. Part of the family that owns this establishment, the band of brothers has been playing weekly for the last 15 years. You can also see other acts like the James Parks Band, and the Tony Martinez Band. Line-dancing lessons will get you ready to properly strut.
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This spot is one of the highlights of downtown Phoenix’s diagonal Grand Avenue. ThirdSpace already was a hot destination, with its full bar and tasty menu items like grilled cheese sandwiches with cheese on the inside and the outside. Speaking of the outside, ThirdSpace boasts a killer patio — there’s even a window for bar service so you can stay outside and keep drinking. When ThirdSpace added live music events to its schedule, it ramped up things in a big way. You’ll find things on the calendar from touring punk legends like JFA to area favorites like JJCnV and Grave Danger. Most music events are free, but every now and then a cover charge is involved.
1. Lost Leaf
Any night you walk into this downtown beer and wine bar — also fine art gallery – something musical is taking place. The area where bands play is set to the side of the main room is awesomely intimate. There’s no stage, so bands play at floor level with the audience right in front. If you like getting caught up in the band’s energy and having a close-up view, it’s worth squeezing yourself into this area. The music calendar features diversity. Could be folk punk musician Andy Warpigs in one slot, and the Effects playing reggae and ska in another. Some nights are DJ-only, but in any case, there are always good sounds that abound.