The Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix celebrates 10 years

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Charlie Levy was living in Tucson when he started looking for a place to open his own concert hall.

After years of performing at other clubs around the state as the owner of Stateside Presents, he saw a perfect opportunity in downtown Phoenix, where he opened the 550-seat Crescent Ballroom, in October 2011.

The venue will celebrate its 10th anniversary with special shows starting at 8 p.m. on Friday October 1 and Saturday October 2.

“There was such a need for a hall of this size in the Phoenix area,” he says.

“The rhythm room and the modified arts had the smallest capacity. And then you had the Marquee Theater. But there really wasn’t anything that matched if you weren’t playing in front of 250 or 1,500 people, was there? not?”

In Tucson, you had the 400-capacity gem that is Club Congress inside the historic Hotel Congress,which opened in 1918.

In Phoenix? Not really.

He just needed the right kind of building – one with character and history, like the Club Congress or the places he saw shows growing up in the New Orleans area.

“It was important to me,” says Levy. “I always thought that if I had my own place, the physical space would be special.”

Luckily, Levy found exactly what he wanted in a space at 308 N. Second Ave.

Levy was looking for a building with character

The Crescent Ballroom home was built in 1917 and originally opened as a garage on the Dixie Overland Highway from coast to coast.

The exposed red brick ceilings and vaulted wooden beams add character to the building.

The dimensions were correct – a 7,000 square foot space with a ceiling high enough to allow a stage but not high enough to be cavernous.

While this part of town was pretty dead the night before the venue opened, it was one block from a light rail station and a short walk from the downtown Arizona State University campus. which opened in 2006.

And the price was definitely more in Levy’s budget than a place of this size would have cost in downtown Scottsdale or Tempe.

The place would never have opened its doors without the kindness of the owner, Tripta Chabra, and her husband.

“They had very kind hearts,” says Levy.

He and the Chabras met for dinner at the couple’s house.

“She cooked a wide variety of Indian dishes and I was just eating and eating,” he recalls.

“We spent maybe three or four hours getting to know each other and at the end of it she said, ‘I really want this to happen for you. “So we wrote down the terms of the building on a napkin.”

The next day, Levy brought this napkin to a lawyer friend and asked him to write a contract.

“It was literally out of a movie,” says Levy. “And I’m still satiated today with the giant Indian food spread she had.”

Levy made his debut as a concert promoter at ASU

Charlie Levy poses for a portrait, Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at the Crescent Ballroom, a concert hall he was about to open in downtown Phoenix.

Levy got into concert promotion as a concert coordinator at ASU.

In 1990 he started working for Danny Zelisko at Evening Star Productions, switching to booking shows at Nita’s Hideaway a few years later before going on his own with an advantage at the Mesa Amphitheater with Jimmy Eat World in 2002.

“When I got the tickets to proof it was written Charlie Levy Presents and I’m, like, mortified,” he says.

“I’m like, ‘You have to take this off. They say’ Well, either tell me what to put in there in the next couple of hours, or it goes on sale tomorrow and that’s what he’ll say.”

He thought Stateside Presents “sounded very professional for a guy in his living room.”

Levy has partnered with established people in the company

Once construction of his hall began, Levy enlisted Tucker Woodbury, owner of Vig restaurants and owner of the Rocking Horse, a concert hall that brought up-and-coming performers to Scottsdale in the ’90s, to lead the front of the House. and bar.

“He really walked me through the process of building, getting the permits and running a bar, all of which I really needed help with,” said Levy.

The Crescent Ballroom will reopen at full capacity in downtown Phoenix.

Woodbury was so helpful that Levy asked him to stay and be a partner in the room.

“I call him my Yoda,” said Levy.

Another key alliance that made Crescent such a success was Chris Bianco, who oversaw the menu at the hotel’s restaurant, Cocina 10, along with Gallo Blanco Chef Doug Robson.

“Chris is a huge music fan,” says Levy.

“I knew him because he used to go to Nita’s Hideaway all the time.”

Bianco came by to check on the building during the construction phase and asked him who was making the food. Levy had planned to ask a friend in culinary school but hadn’t had time to ask yet.

“And (Bianco) says, ‘Well, you want me to do that?’” Levy recalls.

Levy didn’t need to think about it.

“So Chris and his partners came up with the recipes and the Cocina 10 name,” says Levy.

“For the first year or so, our kitchen was occupied by Pizzeria Bianco. They made pizzas, then came in their Pizzeria Bianco shirts and made our food.”

In the end, Levy said, “It took a lot of luck and goodwill and people like Tripta, Tucker and Chris stepped forward and were extremely generous to make it happen.”

First bite:Here’s what to order on Chris Bianco’s new Italian-American menu at Pane Bianco Van Buren

Crescent Ballroom’s debut show featured Blind Pilot

Crescent opened on Monday October 3 with a sold-out Blind Pilot concert, starting a first month that included concerts by St. Vincent, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Liam Finn, Dawes with Blitzen Trapper, Friendly Fires, Washed Out, Adrian Belew and Deer Tick.

Levy knew he could get started with quality reservations through Stateside.

“So it was a little less scary,” he says. “And once we opened, people came to eat, drink and hang out on the patio and all more than we expected.”

Groove Theory performs on the outdoor patio of Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, Arizona on November 14, 2020.

Terry Burke, Southwestern Music President of Live Nation, considers it the first modern-era valley live music venue that was designed with music fans in mind.

“Even though there is a restaurant, it was designed with Charlie’s ‘Let’s build a concert hall first and foremost’ attitude. That’s what made it great.”

In Burke’s eyes, Crescent solidified Phoenix as a major city in the music world, a reputation Levy solidified with Valley Bar, a 250-seat space he opened in 2015 in a downtown basement. -city.

Then, he partnered with Live Nation in 2017 to open the Van Buren, a club with a capacity of 1,850 seats at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Van Buren Street.

“It marked the valley that we can develop acts in Phoenix because they can come here a few times a year and play in venues of different sizes and grow,” said Burke.

“And because they’re all in downtown Phoenix, that helped centralize it to say, ‘This is where we’re going to see some great music. “”

Crescent Ballroom is a community space

Crescent doesn’t just rely on concerts to attract people, hosting political rallies, spoken word performances, poetry slams and World Cup viewing parties.

“It’s a community space,” says Levy. “And that’s been a goal from day one, to really make this feel like this is your home in downtown Phoenix.”

This has made the shutdown for COVID-19 even more difficult.

“All we wanted to do was open our doors,” says Levy.

“It was such a tragic thing that happened to so many people and affected everyone. It was the hardest thing not to open Crescent.”

Crescent plans to celebrate its anniversary by bringing this community together for a weekend that kicks off Friday, October 1 with the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra and the reunion of Black Carl, who hasn’t performed for seven years.

Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra singer – or Leader of Rituals, as she is called – Camille Sledge is thrilled to lead the celebration on the stage where she and her band mates performed their first show in 2013.

“This is where I found out I liked this band and they saw me really depressed,” she says.

“At rehearsals, I don’t do all the craziness that I do on stage. They gave us the opportunity to do that. We were able to just dip our toes in the water. And after that show at Crescent, we were we all wanted was on. “

Crescent Ballroom is more than a stage for musicians like Sledge.

“It’s right where everyone knows your name,” she said. “The best tacos in town, the best salsa. Everyone’s been trying to steal the salsa recipe. It’s just a cozy place to feel like home. We need a place. like that one in Phoenix. “

Crescent Ballroom 10th Anniversary Weekend

With: Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Black Carl and the Stakes (Friday October 1), Shannon and the Clams, Wavves and the Rebel Set (Saturday October 2)

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday October 1 and 2.

Or: Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix.

Admission: $ 21.

Details: 602-716-2222, crescentphx.com.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on twitter @EdMasley.

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