READERS' PICK: Tucson has taken a number of major hits in the live music department over the last few years. A healthy, viable music scene tends to multiply, spawning even more options for performers. One of the mainstays forging valiantly ahead with the banner waving is the Rialto Theatre. As if keeping an endangered downtown icon alive isn't enough, the Rialto is one of the few venues offering live music unfettered by market niche or age restrictions. Through daunting technical, legal and financial obstacles, Jeb Schoonover and Paul Bear have defied the notion that downtown is dead by featuring a wide amalgam of bands and musical styles. Roots, rockabilly, ska, R&B, swing, zydeco, five-band punkfests, metal and world music all find a welcome stage at the Rialto. Ani DiFranco, Son Volt, Los Lobos and Hank Rollins are among the artists who've rocked the casbah in recent years. For the more sedate music fan, The Rialto has theater seating augmented by plenty of bootie-shaking square footage up front. Cool down and check out the crowd with an appropriate beverage from the bar in the lobby.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. This long-time Old Pueblo landmark has successfully come back from the dead, after being condemned more than a decade ago. Today it's the Tucson home of the Arizona Theatre Company, as well as a wonderful venue for concerts and lectures. In addition to the gorgeous ATC productions this past year, the stage saw excellent presentations by singer Loudon Wainwright III and poet Robert Bly, who read during the Tucson Poetry Festival. The 620-seat Holsclaw Theatre keeps the action up close. Several independent theatre troupes have also discovered the 100-seat Cabaret Theatre upstairs. Between shows, browse the art exhibits in the Temple Gallery, check out the gift shop or seek refreshment in the Temple Café.