This should win as the best-named venue--but we digress. In truth, there is nothing like seeing good music in a good outdoor venue, and this one does the trick. In stark contrast to Phoenix's Desert Sky/Blockbuster/Cricket/whatever it's called this year Pavilion, the 5,000-seat AVA is everything that place (and Phoenix) is not; most important is its sense of space and intimacy. Reserved seats under the roof are close enough to feel special, while the general-admission lawn seating is a great place to spread out without feeling miles away. The folks in charge have also consistently brought in top acts at reasonable prices. It's not exactly located in midtown--but it sure beats driving to Phoenix.
2. DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, Reid Park, 22nd Street and Country Club Road, City Parks & Rec Web site
Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., 623-6024, oldtownartisans.com
St. Philip's Plaza, 4250 N. Campbell Ave., 529-2775, stphilipsplaza.com