The Temple of Music and ArtREADERS' PICK: Just remembering how close this structural treasure once came to a wrecking ball gives us the willies. From its illustrious beginnings as the hub of 1920s Tucson cultural life to its later years as an artsy-funky movie theater, The Temple of Music and Art has always breathed grace, elegance and style into the lives of weary Tucsonans. It is a genuine pleasure to see this building revel in a new era. Since reopening in 1990, the Temple has been the Tucson home of the Arizona Theatre Company, which manages the structure for the City of Tucson. The coupling of Arizona's only regional theater with one of this city's most elegant buildings appears to be a marriage made just to the south of heaven. The spacious Alice Holsclaw Theatre with its 623 seats is a marvelous place to see either Shakespeare or concerts. There truly isn't a bad seat in the house: Sightlines are good from every location, there's plenty of leg room, the acoustics are great and, yes, the chairs are comfortable. If a smaller, more intimate setting is desired for a performance, upstairs the Temple has the Cabaret Room available. If visual art is your thing, The Temple of Music and Art Gallery hosts several different shows throughout the year and is usually open during evening performances. Last August, the Temple became the new home of B&B Café. When the Temple first opened in 1927, just visiting the place was considered an event. We think it's safe to say the building has regained its former reputation.
330 S. Scott Ave.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: The head-scratching lack of quality mid-sized venues in Tucson makes the recent upgrades at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., all the more impressive. Over the past few years, walls have been knocked out, a new stage, lighting and sound have been installed, and the entire space has been re-designed to great effect. It's the only "rock" venue in town with a unified sense of style, both reflecting its hometown and a larger-world urban sensibility. The variety of acts booked by longtime scenester Dan Vinik hits a wide range of quality and genres, with most of the worthwhile touring "alternative" bands showing up on Club C's stage--if they make it to Tucson at all.
STAFF PICK: Performing artists now have a showplace for a proper display of their talent. The Southwest Center for Music has a 325-seat hall with a spring-wood dance floor. The sound is terrific, and you're never more than about seven rows away from the stage. Entertainers like Jimmy Dale Gilmore, John Hartford, Dave Van Ronk and the Austin Lounge Lizards have performed here, and the Dance Jam series makes good use of that bouncy floor. The Acoustic Café holds about 70 patrons and is a perfect room for showcasing such local talent as Elise Grecco, Stefan George, Earl Edmonson and offbeat traveling troubadours like Jason Eklund, Berniece Lewis and Monk Wilson. Go to the center, 2175 N. Sixth Ave., to hear the music the way it's supposed to sound.