10 Best Places to Enjoy Live Music in Tucson



With a large college student population and a hip downtown scene, it's no surprise that Tucson has plenty of great live music venues.

Our top honor goes to The Rialto, a downtown institution that hosts popular national touring acts. The historic theater is both charming and cool, bringing together music lovers from all walks of life. The parade of colorful murals on the side of the Rialto's wall, plus an always-changing marquee of eclectic acts, makes this one of the coolest venues in the entire state. 

Across the street from The Rialto is another local institution: Club Congress. The dance and live music venue is part of the historic Hotel Congress. The club hosts local and touring acts, as well as DJ theme nights.

For a sophisticated yet super-relaxed night of dancing under the stars, head downtown to the charming La Cocina restaurant and bar, which hosts a regular live music calendar. 

If you're looking for big names in music, head just south of Tucson to the AVA Amphitheater at the Casino del Sol Resort. The large outdoor amphitheater regularly hosts the biggest names in music.



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"Cafe by day, solar powered astronomy bar by night." That's the Sky Bar, in a nutshell. This unique Tucson cafe and bar is 100 percent solar-powered and is outfitted with powerful telescopes so you can observe the cosmos after dark. The bar regularly hosts open mic nights and live music. Plus, there are even DSLR photography nights where you can bring a camera and snap amazing pictures of the night skies. At midnight, there is a special 15-minute happy hour where you can order $1 well drinks seven nights a week. Every Wednesday there is a popular open mic night, where local and traveling musicians come together for music under the stars.


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Solar Culture


 

A non-profit art gallery and music venue, Solar Culture is the brainchild of artist Steven Eye and a group of compatriots. Many years experience in the art and music industries has given the group a keen appreciation and knowledge of the alternative music scene. Closely allied with Club Congress until 2003, the Solar Culture team books a diverse array of music (punk, alt country, folk, alt-rock, reggae). Tickets are sold the night of the event only, so plan to arrive early for big-name shows. Bring your own snacks and beverages. Solar Culture doesn't sell any. Great for adventurous music lovers.


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This long-running Tucson rock club opened its doors in the 1970s and was originally known as The Stumble Inn. It has seen its fair share of hard rock, metal, punk and pop acts over the years, and continues to welcome local, national and international touring acts. Although a bit frayed at the edges, the small venue, located just south of the University of Arizona campus, is a sure bet when you're looking for a wild night of rock 'n roll. The venue is all ages, although a partition separates the bar and the over 21 crowd. This intimate venue ensures the the band is never more than a few feet away, so put on your black leather jacket and get ready to rock!


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The AVA Amphitheater, also known as the Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater, is one of Tucson's leading live music venues. The large live music amphitheater is located in south Tucson at the Casino del Sol Resort on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation. The outdoor venue has nearly 5,000 seats. The amphitheater has 1,779 reserved seats and more than 2,700 lawn seats. Some of the major artists to grace the stage at the AVA Amphitheater include Gwen Stefani, Tobi Keith and Van Halen, and the venue regularly hosts regional music events and festivals. There's a full concession menu on site. Beer, wine and specialty cocktails are available with proper ID.


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Tap & Bottle is a beer-lover's paradise. The intimate tap room at this beloved Tucson bar is home to one of the city's best-curated selections of craft brews. Tap & Bottle celebrates home-grown Southern Arizona beer, as well as many of the best regional and international brews currently being made. The brew pub atmosphere is lively and friendly, making this a great place to rub elbows with locals and fellow beer connoisseurs. Tap & Bottle even hosts its own monthly curated "Beer Club" dedicated to pleasing the palate of even the most ardent beer snob. There's no food menu at the bar, but the city's best food trucks regularly feed the hungry masses at Tap & Bottle.


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Maverick, King of Clubs


 

Country and Western music is extremely popular in Tucson, and this honky-tonk is a classic example of where locals meet up for conversation, drinks, and a few spins on the dance floor. The simple, country-style interior is always full of regulars in their best Western gear. Live music sometimes featured. Great drink specials and a friendly, laid-back vibe. This is a great destination if you've ever wanted to learn how to two-step like an authentic Tucson cowboy. The dance floor is packed on the weekends, and the venue regularly hosts dance lessons. The kitchen opens at 5 pm daily, so it makes a good dinner spot too.


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You can't miss The Hut - it's that funky place on Fourth Avenue with the giant Tiki head. The Hut has real bragging rights when it comes to it's Tiki head: it's the largest Moai Tiki head in north American, weighing in at about 40,000 pounds, according to the folks at this always-lively venue. Since it opening, The Hut has quickly becomes one of the most popular beer gardens in town, and also one of the most active live music venues in Tucson. On any given night, you'll find a young crowd enjoy tropical drinks, craft beer and swaying to the sounds of the always-revolving line-up of local and touring musicians. With its prime Fourth Avenue location, just a stroll from downtown Tucson, The Hut is not to be missed - if only to snap a killer Instagram photo.


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Che's Lounge is located on Fourth Avenue, Tucson's hip thoroughfare strategically situated between the University of Arizona and downtown. There is a decidedly youthful atmosphere at Che's, but you'll also find plenty of old-timers sitting at the bar. The bartenders are the star of the show here, delivering stiff flavorful drinks and seasonal specialties. The jukebox is eclectic and hip, and there is free live music every Saturday night. A good place to catch up-and-coming bands who are passing through town. Did we mention the people-watching? This is one of the best places to sit back and enjoy the downtown crowd.


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Club Congress


 

This upbeat dance club offers a wide range of popular theme nights, with some of the best DJs in the area spinning nostalgic tracks or the best alternative music of today. Club Congress is also a popular live music venue for touring national acts. Mondays are 80s nights, Friday is live music, and Saturday night DJs spin music for Tucson's hippest crowds. Club Congress is located inside the historic Hotel Congress, which offers plenty of atmosphere for a night out in downtown Tucson. Club Congress has also been named one of the country's best rock clubs by numerous publications over the years.


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This venue, located in the heart of downtown, had a fascinating past as a vaudeville theater. Now the refurbished facility is a great place to catch a touring band. Many styles of music, from blues to salsa to alternative, are represented, and big names often perform. Located across the street from the Hotel Congress, the Rialto Theatre is a hub of activity on any given night. Bar concessions are available during most shows. Recently, the management at the Rialto have started to paint temporary murals on the side of the venue to advertise upcoming shows. The venue has stand-up general admission for most shows, although chairs are set up for some performances.


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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