AZ Hot Spots for Live Music

By: Nora Burba Trulsson

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July 3, 2011

Listen up! From restaurants to bars to gardens, Arizona is abuzz with live-music venues.

About the author

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Sunset, Arizona Highways, Vegas Seven,, Valley Guide, Scottsdale Magazine, United Airlines Hemispheres, Westjet's Up!, Renovation Style, Beautiful Homes and other publications and websites. She can be reached through

Tuning in to the radio or listening to your iPod mix is just fine, but the energy level is not the same as watching musicians perform.

Luckily for visitors and residents alike, live music in Arizona is thriving. Plenty of bars and restaurants around the state offer everything from classical music and jazz to country, alternative and rock, plus a little room for dancing, too.

Like your live music in the sunshine or under a canopy of stars? Check out Arizona’s outdoor music festivals and concert series.

Live Music in Phoenix, Scottsdale & Central Arizona

In Greater Phoenix and Central Arizona, live music abounds in every city.

In Cave Creek, rustic/chic Cave Creek Coffee Company celebrates live acoustic guitar music and hosts concerts by nationally known musicians in its bar, C4, and in “The Camp,” the adjacent outdoor amphitheater. Past acts? Rickie Lee Jones, Michelle Shocked and Sugarland.

Further south, Rusty Spur Saloon boasts of being Scottsdale’s oldest saloon (1958), where the swinging saloon doors embrace two kinds of music – country and western. Keep a lookout for country music celebrities who sometimes stop by this pocket-sized bar after concerts.

In central Phoenix, the Rhythm Room keeps toes tapping with nightly rhythm and blues acts. Grove to a little boogie-woogie piano or a blues harmonica showcase, not to mention such vocalists as Leon Russell or Arizona’s own Big Pete Pearson.

For outdoor music in Phoenix, try Desert Botanical Garden’s Music in the Garden concert series autumn through spring to hear salsa, rockabilly and more.

Live Music in Flagstaff & Northern Arizona

In Northern Arizona, Flagstaff’s The Museum Club has been a popular roadhouse along historic Route 66 since 1939. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson played here, and live country music still echoes to the rafters of this massive log building.

In historic downtown Flagstaff, Charly’s Pub at Hotel Weatherford is a great local watering hole and site for blues, folk and rock music. The lively music keeps the circa-1900 hotel’s patrons – as well as its many purported ghosts – happy.

Further east, music wafts through the pine trees during the annual White Mountain Bluegrass Music Festival, a weekend of outdoor music in August at the Hon-Dah Festival Grounds near Pinetop-Lakeside.

Live Music in Prescott, Sedona & North Central Arizona

North Central Arizona’s town of Jerome boasts its own friendly spirits, namely the Spirit Room, a popular, rowdy bar. The building dates to 1898, and the bar has been rocking out with live blues, rock, rockabilly and bluegrass since the 1960s.

Not far away, Prescott’s The Raven Cafe celebrates all arts near the town’s old Courthouse Square. You’ll find art exhibits, movie viewings and live music, including classical, jazz, folk and rock performed by local and regional musicians.

For music with a gorgeous red rock view, try Sedona Jazz on the Rocks, an annual outdoor jazz festival held in October at Sedona’s Poco Diablo Resort. Past acts have included Tony Bennett, Norah Jones, Sonny Rollins and Branford Marsalis.

Live Music in Tucson & Southern Arizona

Southern Arizona’s alt/indie music lovers make a pilgrimage to downtown Tucson’s Club Congress, in the historic Hotel Congress, where live music has been attracting the town’s creative community since 1985. The club/bar’s Pueblo Deco decor has served as the backdrop for performances by the likes of rock bands Nirvana and No Doubt, as well as Tucson’s own Linda Rondstadt.

Nearby, Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant, in downtown Tucson’s historic Barrio Viejo district, offers the sounds of cool jazz – either within the bar’s warm adobe walls or, weather permitting, out on the cloistered patio.

In Bisbee, the weather always seems to permit The Bisbee Blues Festival to take place in glorious sunshine. The annual September event features local and national blues acts for a day of wang dang doodle at historic Warren Ballpark.

Live Music in Yuma & Arizona’s West Coast

Along Arizona’s West Coast, guests gather early to snag seats and visit with the resident macaws at Julieanna’s Patio Cafe in Yuma before the Yuma Jazz Company starts its bimonthly gigs. The tropically themed café also hosts occasional concerts by Yuma native Pete Pancrazi, a jazz guitarist and vocalist.

On balmy desert nights, soak up more music during the weekly Village Jazz Series, held outdoors in winter and spring at Yuma Palms Regional Center.

Up the Colorado River near Parker, you’ll need a GPS, MapQuest or good local directions to find The Desert Bar, which lies down five miles of dirt road. That’s part of the fun of this seasonal, solar-powered folly, also called the Nellie E Saloon, where you dance to country or classic rock bands in the middle of the Arizona desert.

As you head out to enjoy Arizona’s live music, don’t forget to call ahead or visit websites to check times, dates, cover charges and ticket prices – not to mention what great acts will be taking to the stage.

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