Valley concert promoter Stephen Chilton (a.k.a. Psyko Steve) has been more than a little busy lately. Besides gearing up for a trip to South by Southwest and nailing down details on any number of upcoming local shows, he just got done helping out behind the scenes with Viva Phoenix this past weekend.
Then there's the other project that taken up a "significant amount" of his time recently -- opening a music venue of his own. It's called The Rebel Lounge and will be located in the onetime home of fabled Phoenix rock bar The Mason Jar.
According to Chilton, who announced the venue's opening on Tuesday, it will be a mid-size spot with shows from a range of different genres (from punk and metal to indie rock and folk) when it launches in late April or early May. In other words, the same sort of concerts that he's been booking around the Valley over the past 15 years.
Chilton has been a fixture in Phoenix since be began putting on shows in 2000 under his aforementioned moniker, Psyko Steve. He's toyed with the idea of becoming a venue owner himself but never made the leap until last year after the right opportunity presented itself. Namely, the fact that the old Mason Jar building was up for sale.
"It just seemed like kind of the next step to take and the opportunity was right. Last year, I booked just shy of 200 shows and most of those would fit in this room, so it seemed logical," Chilton says. "I had looked at other venues [in the past] and it just never seemed right and this one did. It seemed like the right time to do it."
And one of the reasons it felt right was the building's lengthy and legendary stint as the Mason Jar from 1979 to 2004. Like many local rock aficionados, Chilton was a fan of the bar, which was an infamous metal and hard rock haven and also hosted gigs by relatively nascent versions of Nirvana, Tool, and Pearl Jam in the early '90s. Chilton fondly recalls first going to The Jar as a patron for shows by Against Me! and Lucero before later returning to promoter his own concerts there.
"Some of the my early shows I had were at the Mason Jar, especially some of the first legit shows I did there with Avenged Sevenfold and Noise Ratchet and Open Hands . . . like booking real national acts," he says. "Everybody in Phoenix is a little sentimental [about the] place."
Especially after it closed in 2004 and spent the next decade as LGBT-friendly joints Velocity 2303 and the Anvil. Chilton purchased the property in late 2014 from its longtime owner Franco Gagliano and had the 3.060-square-foot building stripped down to its bones in preparation for a compete renovation.
The Rebel Lounge will boast new sound and lighting, Chilton explains, as well as a new look that's heavy on exposed brick and rafters. "Its got a completely redone everything," he says. That includes a new bar and stage, each of which will be in roughly the same spots as they were inside the Mason Jar.
Although no opening date has been announced, Chilton has booked about a half-dozen shows at the Rebel Lounge, including GBH and Total Chaos on May 26, William Elliot Whitmore on May 30, Dustin Kensrue on June 6, and Agalloch on June 11. The DJs and artists of The Blunt Club will also pay a visit on June 12.
Chilton says he'll have many of his shows there but will continue to promote gigs at other local venues like Rhythm Room, Crescent Ballroom, and The Pressroom.
"Hopefully, this just grows the number of shows I do," he says. "Will this [place] be the preference? Of course, but I don't intend to stop working with anybody."
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