Get to know Tucson's music scene

Steven Spooner | The Daily Wildcat

Punk band Starving Wolves ends their set setting the way for Dayglo Abortions to take the stage. "I'm so glad to be touring with Dayglo and for them to have taken us under their wing," said David before the end of their set.

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The University of Arizona is located about eight minutes from downtown Tucson, which is considered the heart of the city's nightlife. Brimming with bars, restaurants and local shops, downtown provides the pulse of Tucson at night.

Along with eateries and shops, downtown is also home to several concert venues that host weekly shows for music lovers. With each one a little different from the rest, here is a guide to what each spot brings to the Tucson nightlife.


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Rialto Theater
The Rialto Theatre is a concert and performance arts theater. It is located in Downtown Tucson on Congress Street.

The Rialto Theatre

The Rialto Theatre, located at 318 East Congress Street, was built in 1920 and started as a silent film house before turning into a music venue. 

The theater hosts weekly events that range from local musicians to more extensive bands and works with artists from all over to help have their presence available for the community. 

“We maintain relationships with artist representatives, promoting entities and other organizations that wish to hold events at the Rialto,” said Curtis McCrary the executive director of the Rialto Theatre. “It's a fairly complex process of calendar management, negotiation, and being hospitable but we do our best to make the event or show happen.”

The Rialto Theatre Foundation operates the Rialto, R Bar and 191 Toole — another music venue in town. 

McCrary said he believes music is the sound of the soul and works to make the music venues something the community as a whole can enjoy. 

“[Music] is how we express ourselves or understand others' expressions of themselves, in a way that reaches deeply into one's soul. And the sooner young people realize the importance of that, the better — always be seeking whatever you can find that moves your emotions,” McCrary said. 

The Rialto Theatre offers a 10 percent student discount with a student ID and holds several ticket sales throughout the year. They also partner with PCC and the UA by offering internships and work opportunities for students and community members. 

Upcoming shows will include Foster the People coming in September, Dirty Heads coming in October and Puddles Pity Party also in October. For a full schedule you can visit the theater's website.

“We strive to make the venue as friendly, comfortable and accommodating as a 100-year-old building in somewhat rough shape can be, but the truth is that people come because they want to see who is performing there, or attend a community event or fundraiser,” McCrary said. “We like to think the Rialto has soul and authenticity, and that of course contributes to the ambiance, but it's really about the programming.”

191 Toole is an intimate live music venue that offers a wide variety of bands. They host local, national, and international bands.

191 Toole

Named after its street address, 191 Toole is a non-profit where audiences can see local and other live shows year-round. 

As a sister location to Rialto, this venue's goals are similar: to provide a great music experience to the community and be as engaging as it can be. 

The location has a bar and snacks provided for most shows and will include a student discount on certain events. 

Some live events to look forward to include Steven Page on Nov. 27, The Mountain Goats on Sept. 10, Dan Soder on Oct. 6, Coco Montoya on Oct. 22, Of Montreal on Nov. 9 and Advance Base on Dec. 14.

Fox Theatre
Tucson’s Fox Theatre is almost 90 years old and was originally built to be a vaudeville/movie theatre. From musicals to plays this venue offers a large venue for all type of performances.

The Fox Tucson Theatre

The Fox Tucson Theatre, located at 17 West Congress Street, opened in 1930 and originally started as a dual vaudeville/movie house. 

The theater hosts a variety of events, including live concerts, comedians, dance groups and classic films. It is known primarily as a concert venue but still keeps its tradition alive by screening classic films throughout the year, according to Carina Garcia, the public relations and marketing director of the theater.

“Music is good for the soul. A single note, a certain instrument, even the sound of an artist’s voice can trigger an emotion deep inside you,” Garcia said. “Music has the ability to help shape you: your thoughts, your feelings, your overall well-being.”

Their shows vary in price, and sometimes the theater offers a student discount. The theater hires university and Pima Community College students as interns and participates in community events like the Tucson Festival of Books and charity walks. 

“We have a beautiful historic venue that is rich in Tucson history. In my opinion we have the best acoustics in Tucson,” Garcia said. “You absolutely should see a concert at the Fox because it sounds better than hearing that band live anywhere else.”

The theater has a full bar, concessions and a balcony. With only 1,164 seats the intimate setting allows the audience to get a full experience at the events. The theater has high ceilings and a chandelier that “highlights the auditorium.”

“There is no better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share your feelings and energy, losing themselves in the music,” Garcia said.

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The Rock

The Rock, located at 136 N. Park Avenue, originally opened its doors as Stumble Inn around 1974, then became Mudbugs, eventually becoming The Rock after more name changes.

The venue features both local artists and “mega bands,” according to Kent van Stelle, owner of The Rock.

“I believe the music scene is very important especially to younger people because it allows each person to be a part of something in which they can express themselves and their ideas through music and lyrics,” van Stelle said.

What attracts people to the venue is not only the various types of bands and music but also the closeness in which the audience is able to be right next to the stage or their favorite artists, according to van Stelle.  

Depending on the event, student discounts and/or free food has been offered in the past. The venue also hosts college events such as date dashes and theme parties. Their venue will host Skinny Marz in September, Hed P.E. in October, followed by D.R.I also in October. For a full list, you can visit the theater's website. 

Centennial Hall
Centennial Hall was built in 1937 and was originally named, The Main Auditorium, before it’s renovation in 1985. It hosts a wide variety of performing arts including musicals, plays, comedians, ballets, and more!

Centennial Hall

Centennial Hall, located on campus at 1020 E. University Boulevard, is considered a more classical setting for music and theater events. 

The historic venue hosts classical and jazz performers, comedians and stage actors, as well as Broadway plays and musicals.

With student discounts available, the venue is located within a short distance of Main Gate Square, which offers several restaurants for pre-show dining. 

Upcoming events include Les Miserables from Sept. 4-9, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis on Oct. 5 and Scotty McCreery on Oct. 24.

Other concert Venues

Other concert venues around the city are AVA Amphitheater, Club Congress, the Tucson Community Center, 

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