Music News

Viva Crescent: Venue Celebrates an Enduring Scene

Though its name has become nearly ubiquitous on concert flyers and Facebook invites, it's important to note that it hasn't quite been a year since Crescent Ballroom, the 400-capacity venue spearheaded by indie promoter Charlie Levy and his Stateside Presents company, opened in downtown Phoenix.

Why is it important to note? Because it's been a very good almost-year for the Crescent, which flung open the doors on Monday, October 4, 2011. Those doors have hardly closed since, as a lineup of powerfully varied musicians has shuffled through them, including St. Vincent, Iron and Wine, Destroyer, Jonathan Richman, Santigold, Miniature Tigers, Jonathan Davis of Korn (under his J. Devil moniker), and more.

What's more is that the venue has served as a hub of music action, with some shows — Kongos, Mergence, The Technicolors, What Laura Says, The Through and Through Gospel Review, and more — drawing fans and lines that wrap around Van Buren Street and leave some eager would-be attendees getting turned away. There's never been a lack of passion in the Valley music scene, but there's clearly an energy centered around the club.

And so, it's time to party. An extravaganza dubbed Los Dias de La Crescent, which features Black Carl, Dry River Yacht Club, Mergence, Ladylike, Factories, Source Victoria, Vinyl Station, Roar, Future Loves Past, DJ Seduce, and DJ Dana on Friday, August 17, and Sergio Mendoza y la Orkestra, Minibosses, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, Mariachi Luz De Luna, Bad Cactus Brass Band, Salvador Duran, Whisperlights, Stan Deveraux and The Funky Suns, Flamenco Por La Vida, Fatigo, Snow Songs, Djentrification, and Sean Watson on Saturday, August 18, is all about local love, Levy says. "A lot of people leave [Phoenix] during the summer," Levy says. "This is celebration for those who stay."

"It's important to have that sort of home base," says Reubens Accomplice songwriter Jeff Bufano, whose band played a packed gig at Crescent to celebrate the release of their third record, Sons of Men, earlier this month.

In a lot of ways, Bufano finds himself reminded of the early- to mid-2000s heyday of local music, when Jimmy Eat World led a pack that included Reubens, The Necronauts, Peachcake, and The Format (all but that last band are still active, and singer Nate Ruess of The Format formed an even bigger band, fun., after moving to NYC).

"Yeah, it reminds of me Nita's Hideaway," he says, comparing the Crescent to Levy's earlier venue triumph. But as Nita's has faded into the annals of Phoenix music history, the Crescent appears as though it will have remarkable staying power, as evidenced by the lineup of Los Dias de la Crescent, which unites arty downtown fare like Fatigo and Roar with Tempe-centric heavyweights like Dry River Yacht Club and ties together the disparate strands of the Valley's DJ scenes. (Where else are you going to find Sean Watson spinning indie house and dance tracks and Djentrification pulling out obscure chicken-scratch/Waila records?)

The music scene in Phoenix feels strong, indeed. Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale's lines have never been more blurred, and the cross-pollination has been most exciting to witness: DJ Dana's long-running country and Western night Valley Fever and the hip-hop showcase Blunt Club (both held weekly at Yucca Tap Room) have expanded to include occasional nights at Crescent as well.

And though competition between such establishments will always be natural (and good), the Crescent's success serves as an indication that music in greater Phoenix is alive and well.

"It's so essential to have that one club in town that your favorite bands play at," Bufano says, "but you play at, too, and your friends."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.