Big Fish Pub Reopens at Arizona Event Center in Mesa as the Big Fish Theatre

Don't look now, but the live music scene in Mesa has gotten bigger and a bit livelier recently. Yes, you read that right -- Mesa.

The often-quiet East Valley suburb, which was notoriously deemed as one of the "10 Most Boring Cities in America" earlier this year, has become noisier with the sounds of rock, punk, and hip-hop over the last couple of months thanks to some new venues, including the Big Fish Theatre.

Last month, longtime Tempe rock bar Big Fish Pub, which closed its doors in June after spending close to 20 years as a part of the city's live music landscape, moved one city over to Mesa and reopened inside of the cavernous Arizona Event Center.

And according to Big Fish owner Victor Boiseau, he hasn't looked back.

"Our lease was up at our old spot in Tempe and the landlords wanted to start charging us two and a half times what we were paying for rent," he says. "It was then that we knew we had to leave."

At the time he announced the pub's closure in June, Boiseau says he wasn't certain if he'd keep the Big Fish name going. He wanted to find a new location to run a bar and music venue, but wasn't sure if it would necessarily have the same name.

Enter Wayne Craig, owner of the Arizona Event Center in Mesa, the former home to a big-box store that has become a space for everything from raves and rock tribute nights to foam parties and even boxing matches over the last few years.

Craig suggested the possibility of Boiseau and Big Fish taking over the venue's 10,000-square-foot front room, which will leave its much larger second room available for other events.

"I came down and checked out the Arizona Event Center," Boiseau says. "When I came in, my first thought was, even if I were to find a place and build the perfect venue, I could never build someplace as good as the Arizona Event Center. They already have a great stage, incredible sound and lighting, and a big bar."

Not to mention a full liquor license to boot. All it needed was someone with knowledge of the local music scene. It was an offer Boiseau couldn't refuse. Hence, the Big Fish Theatre was born.

"For the most part, they already have everything, the only thing that they didn't have is that they really don't have a pulse on the local music scene. Since the Big Fish Pub has been doing music locally for 19 years, we definitely do.

Like Club Red before it, which moved a few miles east to University Drive and Alma School earlier this year after leaving its original Tempe home, a Mesa location offered Big Fish and its owner some greener pastures.

Boiseau says the theatre version of the Big Fish will feature many of the same genres and styles as its predecessor, including rock, metal, punk, and hip-hop. Since its soft opening in late August, its hosted sets by such bands as One Dollar Death, Elephant Gunn, Cartoon Lion, Asphalt Wasteland. The venue's first-ever hip-hop showcase on Saturday, September 20.

And alhough you might see longtime Big Fish regulars at its new home in Mesa, don't expect to see one of the pub's biggest hallmarks: its neon Big Fish Pub sign. Boiseau says was more or less destroyed while they were cleaning up and moving out of their Tempe location.

"The last event we had at the pub was a touring band. We'd been cleaning stuff out for that entire month of June. We had that neon sign up against the front window...and we had it propped up on a table. And the touring band needed that table, we moved the table and the neon sign fell and broke. On our last night," he says. "It was like, "Wow." What's funny is what broke was the tube where'pub' was, which sort of told us what was coming in a way...if you believe in that sort of thing."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.