Whatever other issues exist, no one can knock downtown for its live scene. Principally, this thriving scene is thanks to two venues: The Crescent Ballroom and The Trunk Space.
The Crescent Ballroom, on 2nd Avenue just west of Van Buren, is a great mid-size venue with a remarkable variety of acts, including local and national acts. In a beautiful brick building adaptively reused from a garage dating back to 1917, Crescent hosts music every single night.
The one notable hitch of the Crescent is its frequent 21 and over shows. Now, to be clear, these shows are completely understandable, because a patron that can buy alcohol is going to be a better customer for the Crescent. But the 21 and over barrier for upcoming shows like James Blake and Janelle Monae have been a source of much consternation and grumbling to people I know under that age. Then again, both shows are sold out, so I’m sure Crescent is no worse off for the quiet desperation of those under 21.
The Trunk Space is a great venue for independent music, but it’s more than that, billing itself as a place for “music, experimental theater, performance, storytelling, music, puppets, weird stuff, circus side show acts, fine art, handmade gifts, & espresso drinks, as well as being a meeting place for artists, curious people and weary travelers.” With a prime location near the intersection of Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue, The Trunk Space is the heart and soul of the local music scene.
The Trunk Space doesn’t boast as many national acts as the Crescent, but where it shines is as a repository of local and underground acts, making it invaluable as a place of discovery. The REAL Coachella is one of its most prized events, an annual fake-out (posters around downtown advertised appearances by Grimes, Local Natives and Wu-Tang Clan, none of whom showed) that is one of the most exciting spotlights of Arizona music. It’s where you go to find your new favorite band that you’ve never heard of before—which is easy, since their calendar is almost always booked to the brim. Plus, the Trunk Space is the only place that you’re likely to find, say, Taiko drumming downtown. The venue is also remarkable for its engagement with the arts community; it recently hosted the landmark “We Got Power!” 80s punk art exhibit.
Photos by Brandon Kutzler/DD