Rialto Theatre, Tucson

Cozy Up to Live Music at Arizona’s Smaller Venues

By: Jessica Dunham

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Intimate concert venues across the state welcome indie and nationally known bands.

About the author

Jessica Dunham

Jessica Dunham

Jessica Dunham is a travel, food and fitness writer whose work has been published in PHOENIX Magazine, Runner's World, Phoenix New Times, Valley Guide, Phoenix Travel Guide, Modern Luxury Scottsdale and more. She is passionate about all things Arizona, especially spontaneous Saturday daytrips around the state. She can be reached at dunham-media.com.

Arizona is no stranger to arenas featuring chart-topping musical artists. Nor are we immune to crowd-pleasing music fests that rival the likes of Coachella. But what about those small venues that let fans and musicians get up close and personal? Sure, there's fun to be had at a stadium concert, but you’ll need to read on to find out where the real music magic happens.

Hops on Birch, Flagstaff

There's a lot to like about this Northern Arizona bar. A: It's dog-friendly. B: They offer 34 craft beers on tap. C: Music lovers can enjoy a live show four nights a week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the lineup at Hops on Birch includes local and regional bands that span all genres, while Monday night's open-mic program lets you discover Flagstaff's newest talent.


The Rialto Theatre, Tucson

A 2014 performance at the Rialto in Tucson, Arizona, ends with large balloons.Credit: C. Elliott for Rialto Theatre

Often named one of the best music venues in the country, The Rialto's storied past dates back to the 1920s. Over the decades, the downtown Tucson space has existed as a vaudeville theater and a movie house, and now operates as a classically styled venue for the hottest acts in music. From indie darlings to country greats, some of the best musicians of modern times have graced the stage.

Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, Tucson

You don't have to be a hotel guest to enjoy the nightly live music offered at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in the foothills of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains. Jazz, piano, classical guitar—the idyllic setting is perfect for soothing tunes that pair with small bites and a bottle of wine. To take it up a notch, don your best duds and check out Mister Bing's, the resort's supper club, which features Golden Age-era entertainment, music, dancing and food.

Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix

In the heart of downtown Phoenix, this former auto garage turned hipster music venue has a lot going for it. The Sonoran eats, for one. The free shows in the lounge, for another. And let's not forget the killer acoustics in the main concert space, which draw top bands with major indie cred. Tickets to shows sell out early, so stalk the calendar in advance if you want to score standing-room-only spots for groups such as Of Montreal and Sofi Tukker.

The Van Buren, Phoenix

Indie-pop band, LANY, perform at The Van Buren in early 2018.Credit: The Van Buren

Newly opened in Phoenix—and therefore still under the radar—The Van Buren's concert calendar is a little more genre-blending than that of Crescent Ballroom's, even though both venues are owned by the same team. High ceilings and a roomy lobby bar make the space seem bigger than it actually is. Once the music gets going, make your way to the stage for up-close views.

The Quarry, Bisbee

The folks in this former mining town in Southern Arizona love their live music. In the fall, bands from around the state flock to Bisbee for the Sidepony Music Festival—three days of free shows at all hours of the day and night. But if you miss the music fest, hit up The Quarry. This cozy bar/pub likes to showcase experimental musicians and bands that push the envelope, musically speaking. Prepare for a raucous and wild time.

Whiskey Row Pub, Prescott

Ther's nothing like toe-tapping tunes in a dark bar with strong drinks. If that's the scene you're looking for, head to Whiskey Row Pub in Prescott, about two hours north of Phoenix. The high-energy of the local bands that take the stage will have you out on the dance floor in no time, rubbing elbows and making friends with the locals.

Sound Bites Grill, Sedona

This restaurant-slash-music venue in Sedona has everything: stunning red-rock views; premium steaks, fresh seafood and a vegan menu; and live music from Delta blues and groove jazz to world-class singer-songwriters and pianists. You can enjoy the restaurant for dining, or eat in the Celebrity Show Room during ticketed entertainment events. Book in advance to secure your spot, or be left singing your own blues.

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