Best of Phoenix 2021: our favorite venues
Live music is a big part of what makes the Phoenix Metro such a vibrant and exciting place. Here are a few places we like to go to see a concert, as originally published in our Best of Phoenix 2021.
Best large music room
It can be difficult to keep up with the stadium name changes, but whether it’s called America West Arena, US Airways Center, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix Suns Arena or now Footprint Center, there is no location where we would prefer to see a big show. This year, the largest indoor sporting and concert venue in downtown Phoenix finally got a makeover to match its many nickname changes; the $ 230 million renovation completed in early 2021 includes new levels of suites, more comfortable and stylish black leather seating, a family dining room in the upper lobby, a state-of-the-art sound system and new video screens. With a capacity of over 18,000, this is the best place to see the biggest national and international touring groups, from the Eagles and Guns N ‘Roses to Twenty One Pilots and The Weeknd.
Best mid-sized music room
The Van Buren
We like to think back to when The Van Buren was a car dealership. Could the owners of the Phoenix Motor Company have imagined that decades later their building would be one of the best concert halls in bustling Phoenix? There is no trace of the old life of The Van Buren when you enter the building for a show, just chandeliers, desert murals on the walls and space for around 1,800 spectators to listen. local artists like Playboy Manbaby and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra as well as national artists like Gogol Bordello, Lord Huron and Cold War Kids. We love the feeling of space at Van Buren; the outdoor patio and the indoor area near the bar are spacious and open, perfect places to see and be seen. In 2021, car dealers are a dime a dozen. We’re glad The Van Buren got the concert hall upgrade.
Best small music room
Yucca tap room
So here’s what we love about Yucca Tap Room, a staple of the Tempe music scene since the ’70s: open mic, metal showcase, and desert rock from Tempe. Introduce yourself a few times and you’ll get to know the staff and regulars, making sure there will be a friendly face or two every time you go. The drinks are cheap and strong and the bartenders pour them out. And when you need a break from the musical onslaught, you can head to the lounge side of Yucca, where you can take a break and grab a bite to eat (we love the golden wings and bulgogi bao).
Best Hidden Gems Music Venue
Old Town Tavern
We’re really lucky to have so many places in the valley to hang out and see live music, but one of our favorites is a bar that just doesn’t have enough love (in our opinion) . Old Town Tavern is tucked away in central Scottsdale, and most nights of the week you can walk in and enjoy an intimate set from some of the city’s best musicians. Pistoleros alumnus Mark Zubia and Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela are regular performers, as are Wyves’ Corey Gloden and local music legend Shawn Johnson. The small interior of the Old Town Tavern puts you in close contact with the musicians, and the bar has a tight-knit community of patrons who will make you feel like part of the gang.
Best place to see a metal show
This is only our opinion, but we love to listen to heavy metal in a spacious atmosphere, where raucous drum solos and guitar shredding can echo off the rafters. The high ceilings and concrete floors of the Marquee Theater create an almost industrial atmosphere, which blends perfectly with the intensity and savagery of the metal. English band Cradle of Filth perform here, as do Great White and Steel Panther. Marquee is also a frequent host to metal tribute groups such as Noise Pollution: The AC / DC Experience and The Iron Maidens. We recommend you get to Marquee early to create a little space for yourself to bump into our local Metaldome.
Best blues bar
Western blues and jazz
The West Valley isn’t exactly known to be a hotbed of the blues. A few places scattered around the area have hosted jam sessions or occasional live music by musicians, of course. But a place dedicated to showcasing the genre and its artists on this side of town hadn’t been tried until Cindi Jackson and Paul Vincent Perez opened Westside Blues & Jazz at Glendale Market Square in April. The retired couple, both longtime blues-worshipers, have built the club as a temple to the art form, with excellent acoustics, plush seating and underground bar decor. Their faith in the project, which cost about $ 500,000 to create, was shaken when COVID-19 delayed its debut for an entire year. Once opened, however, it became a hit. Local blues / R & B greats like Lucius Parr, Francine Reed and Big Pete Pearson frequented the stage, as did jazz stalwarts like Delphine Cortez, Sandra Bassett and We3. It even received endorsement from local blues guru and Rhythm Room owner Bob Corritore. Great praise indeed.
Best bar to see a punk show
There’s a lot to see at Chopper John’s, from the line of pigs outside (it’s, of course, a biker bar at heart) to dollar bills stapled all over the ceiling and memorabilia from the group on the walls. But the main attraction is whoever is on stage, which is often one of Phoenix’s beloved punk bands. We caught the posters here, as well as JJCnV, Some Jaywalkers and many more. Other genres are also often on display here, including rockabilly, trash-a-billy, and more. If you’re looking for cheap drinks and a lively crowd while listening to loud, fast-paced, angry music, Chopper John’s is your place.
Best place to see a hip-hop show
Like other local music venues, live hip-hop in the valley took a hit last year when the pandemic forced concerts to go virtual or evaporate altogether. Once the crowds were able to catch the shows again, promoters, artists and hip-hop fans flocked to Aura in Tempe. The 9,500 square foot Mill Avenue club has become a staple of its kind. Why? Its equipment is tailored to the needs of the stage: the large main hall can accommodate superstars like Wifisfuneral one evening or work in tandem with a secondary stage in the Aura lounge for local mini-festivals the next. Its bookers work with promoters big and small (Justus Samuel of Respect the Underground swears by the place). The premium sound system means you can hear every bar you speak, even if it’s a SoundCloud rapper mumbling into the mic. And, unlike other local venues looking to maximize alcohol sales, Aura will occasionally host shows for all ages. Younger fans can taste the fun while teens get the chance to shine, like when Phoenix rapper Xander (aka XaniMonsta), 17, brought the place down in August.