Former Chyro Arts Co-Owner Introduces New Tempe Venture, Venue 104

2011 is looking to be a pretty exciting year for Valley venue openings. First came the announcement of Crescent Ballroom, and now Tempe's Venue 104

When non-profit Scottsdale art space Chyro Arts closed its doors in May 2010, co-owner Michael Peck wasn't about to see his hopes for the Valley music scene disappear.

Just over a year after Chyro's demise, Peck introduces a combination art space, theatre, concert venue, coffee shop and restaurant in the heart of Tempe. Venue 104 seeks to fill a void in the Tempe local music scene by offering a space for both ASU students and professional musicians to perform. 

The space takes up the vacant gap that once housed Hollywood Video and Radio Shack at 940 E. University Dr. next to the Tempe Improv. Performances by locals Dearspeak, Captain Squeegee, Obadiah Parker, Executives, Riot for Romance and more are scheduled for the August 19 grand opening. 

The venue's new home proven to be shaky ground over the last two years, as businesses have come and gone from the strip mall complex. The location, Peck hopes, will bring ASU students and Improv stragglers in to grab some coffee and have them leave with a comprehensive Tempe art experience. 

"Opening in Tempe was insanely important to me," Peck says. "I don't understand why there aren't more music venues here." 

Despite a schizophrenic multi-art focus, Peck seems to have a clear idea of what he's going to do with the space from night to night. Mondays will be jam nights, when young bands can rent the stage for $40 an hour, invite their friends and practice in a real venue that's about the size of Phoenix's Rhythm Room. At most local venues, small time bands are instructed to sell a certain amount of tickets to obtain the rights to play. He wanted to give local bands an alternative to hocking tickets to win the right to play publicly.  

"Most bands say 'Hey, I don't want to sell anything. I don't want to do anything tableside.' They get into music because they don't want to do those things," Peck says. "Why would we make them do exactly what they don't want?" 

Every Tuesday night will host jazz programming. The rest of the time will be dedicated to theatre shows, like the upcoming "Mr. Marmalade," and concerts. 

Keeping with the art theme, Peck enlisted the help of local graffiti artist Griffin One

"I knew what I wanted to do with the place. I knew I wanted to paint the blocks in bright colors," Peck says. "And when I got done I said 'Fuck, it looks like a Harkins.'" 

Griffin One's street-style graffiti art gives the space a bit more street cred, and Peck hopes Venue 104 does the same for the local venue scene. At the risk of sounding lofty, Peck insists it's more about art than profit for him. He hopes the new place inspires other venues to pop up in the area. 

"I would love if, in two or three years, something comes along that's better than this and puts me out of business," he says. "I would love that." 

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