Charlie Levy of Crescent Ballroom: 2014 Urban Legend Award, Performing Art
In honor of the fifth annual Big Brain Awards, New Times is recognizing five Urban Legends, established creative pioneers who have made Phoenix a better, cooler place.
Heather Hoch Charlie Levy hits Urban Legend status after about two decades of booking concerts in Phoenix.
Odds are if you've seen a concert in Phoenix in the last 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 the sold-out Viva PHX festival, Levy reflected on Phoenix's music scene and what he has in store for the future.
See also: Announcing the 2014 Big Brain Finalists
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 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 a decade 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 are truly grateful for great shows. While 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 Last Exit Live is one of his favorite places to see a show and that 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.