This is a bold move for Sette. She's losing street traffic (the new gallery space is next door to her husband's design studio but little else) and density — because even in the middle of one of the nation's largest cities, there's still plenty of empty and/or unused space. But Sette has confidence in the central corridor — mentioning that her North Scottsdale clients already drive to the neighborhood to dine at Bink's Midtown and the Tuck Shop. With Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard, and Roosevelt Row to the south and Upward Projects restaurants (among others) to the north, Lisa Sette Gallery certainly will be a destination spot in the middle.

At least one Phoenician has every confidence in Sette.

"Lisa Sette has always had her visionary finger on the sometimes very erratic pulse of the fine art world and has shown work here that we'd never see anywhere else in Arizona," says Kathleen Vanesian, New Times' longtime art critic. "She's also been selectively supportive of a variety of local artists who have gained national and international recognition as a result of her auspices and hard work.

Phoenix Spokes People, Urban Vision
Courtesy of Phoenix Spokes People
Phoenix Spokes People, Urban Vision
Phoenix Spokes People, Urban Vision
Evie Carpenter
Phoenix Spokes People, Urban Vision

"Thank God she's decided to stay open and start a new phase of her long career in an iconic midtown architectural landmark she's invested in. I would venture to say she's the Leo Castelli of the Valley of the Sun."

"I feel like things are going to grow toward midtown," Sette says with a rueful smile. "It just can't take 20 years." — Amy Silverman

Charlie Levy | Performing Art
Odds are if you've seen a concert in Phoenix in the past decade, Charlie Levy had something to do with it.

While running his own venue, Crescent Ballroom, he also books concerts through his promotions company, Stateside Presents, at almost every Phoenix and Tucson area venue, not to mention other venues around the state. Coming off the huge success of March's sold-out Viva PHX festival (New Times was a co-sponsor), Levy reflected on Phoenix's music scene and what he has in store for the future.

Originally from Louisiana, Levy moved to Tempe to go to Arizona State University back when Mill Avenue was alive with venues and the university booked huge acts like Cher, Paul McCartney, and Sinead O'Connor at its activity center. Though he majored in sociology, he worked as the student government concert director and quickly found a passion for it.

After college, Levy started booking shows on his own starting in 1995 and transformed the now-closed Tempe venue Nita's Hideaway into a beloved music hub by booking local and national indie big shots like Neko Case and Yo La Tengo.

Flash-forward almost 20 years, and Crescent Ballroom, which opened in 2011, is doing well, though Levy says it's tough to keep the momentum rolling after the honeymoon phase.

"I think the hardest thing is to not burn out," he says. "At first, you're all excited and then fatigue sets in, like on a run or in a relationship."

Levy sees the music scene in Phoenix as unique, with music fans who truly are grateful for great shows. Though he believes concerts give people the most bang for their entertainment buck with a relatively low cost and high payoff, he says more locals than ever are beginning to see concerts as the thing to do on a weekend, too.

"I think people here are true music fans — so appreciative and loyal," he says. "I wouldn't want to open a music venue anywhere else, especially not snooty places like Portland or Seattle — forget that."

Levy says that local music and venues are thriving, but he doesn't see a major hub for music anywhere in town that compares to the Mill Avenue scene in the late


90s. Instead, several venues around town are destinations. He says that Last Exit Live is one of his favorite places to see a show and he wishes the scene had more all-ages places like the Trunk Space to accommodate the state's restrictive liquor laws at venues. These laws require mid-level venues (those where maximum capacity is less than 1,000 people) to separate the drinking crowd from under-agers, which means extra cost and complication for venues looking to include younger audiences.

Despite being credited with breathing much-needed life into downtown Phoenix with Crescent, Levy doesn't have a master plan for the city's music scene. He's focused right now on taking it easy after the extensive planning and coordinating that went into huge multi-venue festival Viva PHX. The event featured such local and national acts as YACHT, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, and Wooden Indian and took over downtown Phoenix for one night with a crowd of more than 8,000 people.

Of course, he won't be taking it easy for long. Levy already is planning for next year's festival, slated for March 14, and he knows the ways he wants to expand it and streamline it to improve the experience. His ideas include everything from hosting live classical music in an old church to making ticketing lines more efficient and limiting the distance between stages for a more walkable festival. While he hopes it gets "bigger and better" next year, he says his main goal isn't to have the festival grow out of control like South by Southwest has.

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I'm going to bookmark this article to send to people who think Phoenix is nothing but tired retirees, soulless suburban sprawl, and right-wing politicians.  Lots of innovation going on in America's sixth-largest and fastest-growing city. 

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