A look back at five of the Valley’s most classic music venues.

And the Bands Played On

Written by Nikole Tower Category: History Issue: March 2017
Group Free

Orpheum Theatre
Since opening in 1929 in Downtown Phoenix, The Orpheum has played many roles – and had many names. It was better known as The Paramount in the ’40s and Palace West from the ’60s until its restoration in 1984, when it was purchased by the City of Phoenix. An example of Spanish Baroque design, the building features curved walls and elaborate, decorative murals on the inside to de-emphasize the feeling of being indoors. Over the years, it’s been the spot to catch the best vaudeville acts, a stop for touring Broadway shows and a movie house for Spanish-language films. Today, it’s a destination for operas, comedy acts and the odd music concert.

203 W. Adams St.., Phoenix, 602-262-6225, phoenix.ticketforce.com


The Nile Theater
The “World Famous” Nile Theater opened as the Valley’s first movie house in 1924 in Downtown Mesa. It stopped screening films in 1951 and the space was later used as a retail store, church and – most famously – punk rock venue. The current owner, Michelle Donovan, bought the property in 2010 and embarked on a series of improvements, including the transformation of the building’s basement. Dubbed The Underground, the space can fit 300 people for intimate shows, while the Nile Theater proper accommodates roughly 700 more for higher-profile acts. Sadly, little of The Nile’s formerly ornate edifice remains – strolling past the theater, one wouldn’t guess there’s a musical haven just beyond the door.

105 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-559-5859, niletheater.com


Celebrity Theatre
Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre was originally built in 1963 as a conference center but was repurposed to become a concert venue – a duty it fulfills to this day. In the ’70s and ’80s, it was visited by some of the most iconic rockers of all time, including David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. Music acts like Jane’s Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins were later attracted to the unique “in the round” layout with the revolving stage in the ’80s and ’90s.

440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com


Mason Jar/The Rebel Lounge
The Mason Jar, now known as the Rebel Lounge, became the “it” venue for rising garage rockers when it opened in Phoenix in 1979. Bands like Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana performed there when they were just starting out. The early 2000s ushered in a more diverse group of musicians and bands from genres ranging from soft indie to metal. The small stage faces a cavernous rectangular room with a padded ceiling to help create mesmerizing acoustics. In 2015, music promoter Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents bought the venue and re-christened it The Rebel Lounge.

2303 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-296-7013, therebellounge.com


Mesa Amphitheatre
Mesa Amphitheatre has been rocking since 1979, hosting classic punk and rock acts The Clash and Pearl Jam on its grassy tiers during its prime. Due to onerous city sound ordinances, aging facilities and rising competition in the Valley, the Amp struggled to stay on its feet, nearly folding in 2011 during a revenue crisis. Extension of the light rail into Mesa in 2015 and sponsored shows and festivals from radio station ALT AZ 93.3 have given the unique property a second life – as one of the few outdoor venues in the Valley, it’s ideal for a show on a balmy spring night.

263 N. Center St., Mesa, 480-644-2560, mesaamp.com

— Nikole Tower


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