The biggest moments in Phoenix music in 2023 | Phoenix New Times


The biggest Phoenix music moments of 2023

From beloved venues shuttering to a blockbuster tour debut, plenty of big music-related things happened in Phoenix this year.
Anitta and Peso Pluma perform onstage during TikTok In The Mix at Sloan Park on Dec. 10, 2023 in Mesa.
Anitta and Peso Pluma perform onstage during TikTok In The Mix at Sloan Park on Dec. 10, 2023 in Mesa. Rich Fury/Getty Images for TikTok
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Gone are the quarantine days of watching musicians only on livestream and being cooped up at home with your record collection – this year was the first since the pandemic that felt like the world of music was back to business as usual.

In Phoenix, that meant plenty of big music moments. Here are a few unforgettable ones.

TikTok in the Mix

The video app TikTok has more than 1 billion active monthly users around the world, but when it came time to pick a location for its first-ever live global music event, it chose (checks notes) Mesa. We’re still not quite sure why, but we’re not mad about it. About 17,000 fans packed Sloan Park, spring training home of the Chicago Cubs, for the concert, which featured Cardi B, Niall Horan, Anitta and Charlie Puth as headliners. The app reports that more than 33 million people caught the show either live or in one of the replays, which puts a lot of attention on the Valley of the Sun. We hope it’s an indicator that other huge music events could be coming our way soon.

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Taylor Swift's Eras Tour kicked off at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on March 17.
Jim Louvau

The Eras Tour

Speaking of a global spotlight, the eyes of the world turned to Glendale on March 17, when Taylor Swift kicked off her Eras Tour at State Farm Stadium. Nine months later, when clips of the three-hour set are ubiquitous on the internet (and viewable in the record-breaking concert film), it’s fascinating to recall that evening, before anyone knew what Swift would be giving the fans and before Eras Tour mania truly descended upon the world. Anyone who was in the stadium that evening got a sneak peek at the defining music event of 2023.

The Lost Leaf is planning a New Year's party with more than a dozen musical acts.
The Lost Leaf

Venue changes

It’s an arrow to the heart any time news breaks of a beloved music venue closing down, and we took several shots this year. First was The Lost Leaf, the longtime bar/art/music space just off Roosevelt Row, which closed in early June. And just recently, news broke that Westside Blues & Jazz, a relatively new venue, would be shutting its doors in early January. Chars Live, while still open, went back up for sale in November and its future is uncertain. Change is inevitable, but it’s a loss for the music community when venues close their doors.

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Spafford closed out the first Luna Del Lago Festival.
Chadwick Fowler

New music festivals

As big-name concerts ramped up, so did music festivals, and there were several additions to the Phoenix calendar this year. The Wild West Music Fest debuted in October to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city, but it’s planning on sticking around as an annual event. Dreamy Draw Music Festival brought country and Americana artists to the newly revamped Scottsdale Civic Center space during the first weekend of November. That same weekend saw the debut of Luna Del Lago festival, a three-day, camping-encouraged mix of genres out at Pleasant Harbor at Lake Pleasant.

They all found their niche in a Phoenix festival calendar that’s already quite packed with events like Country Thunder, the Arizona State Fair concerts, M3F and Innings Festival.

And lest you think we won’t be getting anything new for a while, a 2024 debut has already been announced: The Smoke Show BBQ & Country Music Roundup is scheduled for March in Gilbert.

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The exterior of Shady Park in Tempe.
Benjamin Leatherman

Shady Park resolution

The conflict between longtime Tempe music venue Shady Park and its neighbor, the Mirabella at ASU retirement community, had everything: raves, ramen, NIMBYs, lawsuits and drum protests. For almost two years, the two entities battled it out in court after the senior citizens of Mirabella decided the noise from the music venue they knowingly moved in next to was too loud. Shady Park installed sound-reducing measures, but it wasn’t enough; Mirabella filed a lawsuit and won an injunction against the venue in April 2022, though it was reversed later that year on appeal.

But a resolution finally came in March, when both parties announced that they had reached an accord and would be asking the Superior Court to drop the case. The settlement terms were confidential, but according to a statement from Shady Park owner Scott Price, “this resolution will allow us to once again host proper live music while letting surrounding residents get a good night’s sleep.” All’s well that ends well, we guess.

PC’s Celebration of Life

It takes a special person to merit a tribute show, and a particularly influential and beloved one to draw 30 bands and hundreds of attendees from around the U.S. and beyond to said concert. But that’s what happened on Jan. 6, during PC’s Celebration of Life, a one-day, two-stage concert at Yucca Tap Room in honor of the late Paul Cardone, a Tempe music mainstay, legend and godfather for 30 years. Generations of Tempe music greats, including Ghetto Cowgirl, Walt Richardson, The Sugar Thieves, Dead Hot Workshop, Banana Gun and more showed up to pay tribute to Cardone, who left an impression on everyone he met – and he met a lot of people. They didn’t call him the Mayor of Tempe for nothing. The result wasn’t just a beautiful tribute – it was the gathering and celebration of the Tempe music community in a way we may never see again.
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