David Minton/Staff photographer

By Ken Sain | April 13, 2022

If you’re looking for live entertainment in the Valley, then Downtown Chandler is the place to go.

So says Mary Murphy-Bessler, the executive director of Downtown Chandler Community Partnership. She has held similar positions in both Tempe and Scottsdale and says they can’t compare with Chandler.

In the past year, five new businesses have started, or announced they will, showcasing live music Downtown. They are The Stillery, Recreo, La Rista, Peddle Haus and The Uncommon. That brings the total number of venues offering live entertainment Downtown to 14.

“We’ve seen that live music has become an integral part of what’s happening in Downtown Chandler,” says John Owens, the city’s downtown redevelopment specialist. “It’s become a hub for the Southeast Valley.”

And nearly every type of music is available most weekends, from folk to jazz.

Looking for some country music, then Bourbon Jack’s has someone on stage nearly every night. If rock is more your taste, you can usually find a band playing at Murphy’s Law Irish Pub.

If you prefer a comedy show, then head over to ImprovMANIA. If you want to see a drag show, get tickets early at Black Sheep because they go fast.

“They post it, and it’s sold out in 10 minutes,” Murphy-Bessler says. “Who knew?”

West Alley BBQ and The Stillery have earned reputations for bringing in performers with national followings.

“The Stillery it’s so packed on a Friday, Saturday night, (the owner) said that the overflow goes on the grass over here, and people just dance on the grass,” Murphy-Bessler says.

There’s Latin music at La Ristra, and blues and R&B at West Alley. All those options have have helped Chandler claim to be the place to go for live music, even more so than a college town like Tempe.

“Mill (Avenue in Tempe) used to be known for the music, it transitioned over here,” Murphy-Bessler said. “I think Mill … transitioned to the deejay thing, which is more the student kind of vibe.”

Another trend she said she has noticed is that Chandler’s Downtown bars and restaurants are following the lead of one of the nation’s hotbeds for live music.

“A lot of them have kind of created this sort of Nashville style, where they’re putting the stages up in front, so when you’re walking the sidewalks if you’re coming up, you can literally see the band, hear the band and decide which venue you want to go in.”

The Uncommon, which hasn’t opened yet, is currently building its stage on the sidewalk outside the building.

All that music brings out the crowds on weekend nights.

“Packed,” says Samantha Jackson, the DCCP’s events and operations strategist. “I wouldn’t even say like Friday night, Friday afternoon you start to see people who just left work, or you have people who are doing like a long weekend, and staying at either the Hilton or San Marcos and they’re just making a weekend out of it.”

Another draw is that people can come as they are.

“I love that everybody is comfortable too,” Jackson says. “You don’t have to necessarily get dressed up to go somewhere.”

Murphy-Bessler says Chandler’s music scene recovered quicker than most other cities from the pandemic. One of the keys is there are several outdoor venues, so once the summer of 2020 ended and temperatures came down, they were able to put on shows again.

“I think we were the first city to really get the street patios out there, so we allowed all the restaurants to be able to build street patios, to kind of expand and spread people out. I would say we were definitely in the sooner crowd.”