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One thing Flagstaff doesn’t run short on is barometers for local culture.
And as is the case with most cities and towns, live music is one of them. But it would be unfair to say we have just onevenue where great concerts happen. Instead, truly memorable shows—be it local, regional or national, and of almost any genre—can be found all around town. In the last decade, promoters Greenhouse Productions, Red & Black Productions, and the Orpheum have helped push the scene, and as Flagstaff continues to grow, so does its ability to offer great live music. Here are eight favorite venues worth checking out.
If you were to pick a “premier” concert venue in Flagstaff, the Orpheum would most likely be the top choice. A downtown Flagstaff staple, its history for live performances dates back to 1910, and historical appeal aside, it houses the majority of the bigger shows that roll through town. And what really sets it apart is the scene it creates. When big names show up, it’s not just another concert, but an all-out local affair. The Orpheum is a cornerstone for bringing some of Flagstaff’s most unforgettable shows.
Largely still referred to by locals as “Pine Mountain” (its previous name), the Pepsi Amphitheater is easily the most beautiful setting for a concert anywhere in Arizona. Shrouded by ponderosa pines, it’s Flagstaff’s go-to venue for throwing down a blanket, kicking off your shoes, and catching live music under the summer stars. Shows pop up from late spring to early fall, and the season is capped by local favorite Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass & Acoustic Music Festival. Camping is available just beyond the gates at Fort Tuthill County Park.
Firecreek Coffee Co.
Trendy coffee hangout by day, by night Firecreek’s back room turns into one of the hipper spaces to catch live music. Located in the heart of downtown on Route 66 across from the train station, it has quickly become a hub for local and regional artists to hold album release parties, resident DJs to host groovy house nights, and touring indie acts to throw down. Factor in the artistic ambiance, and it’s a venue worth entertaining. More and more great musical moments in Flagstaff are happening here.
Coconino Center for the Arts
Slightly off the beaten path of downtown is the Coconino Center for the Arts, northern Arizona’s leading performing arts center and exhibition space managed by the Flagstaff Arts Council. It also features an intimate, half-round theatre that offers a listening experience unlike anything else in town. Their concert season runs from September to May, and typically delivers everything from traditional music to indie folk bands and singer-songwriters. It’s a nice escape from the everyday “rock” concert.
With origins dating back to ancient Greece, and popularized during the 18th century Classical Era, the experience one gets at the symphony is still one of the most powerful music can offer. And when it comes to the symphony, Northern Arizona University’s Ardrey Auditorium is like no other in northern Arizona. Designed with excellent acoustics and great sight lines, Ardrey has welcomed renowned artists from around the world, as well as the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, currently celebrating 70 years.
Plain and simple, the Museum Club is a Route 66 icon. Before becoming a nightclub in 1936, “The Zoo,” a nickname coined by locals that has stuck to this day, operated as a museum and taxidermist shop when it was built in 1931. It wasn’t until the 1960s that former owners Don and Thorna Scott (who are said to haunt the place) turned it into a popular country western bar and roadhouse. Over the decades, legends like Don Wills, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson have stepped through the doors, a pedigree carried on today by rising stars like Cody Jinks and Paul Cauthen, and country lifers still kickin’ on stages.
Once an old highway watering hole on the outskirts of Flagstaff, it remains a throwback to western sounds of the Mother Road.
Monte Vista Lounge
As old Flagstaff fades away, along with it have gone some of the town’s most beloved downtown dive bars. But one remains. Part of the Monte Vista Hotel, and signaled by the neon “Cocktails” sign out front, the “V” can best be summed up by the rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly sounds that often grace its stage, as well as the monthly ’90s and weekly karaoke nights that give it its energy. Those intimately familiar with the space will tell you that it’s one of the best rooms to play or catch a show in Flagstaff.
Honorable Mention: Flagstaff Brewing Co. Summer Sunday Patio Parties. About as local is it gets!
Andrew Wisniewski is a Flagstaff native and journalist with a deep love for the outdoors, music, and burritos.