Drive about 40 miles north of San Francisco, and you’ll find the town of Petaluma, CA. Nestled in the downtown region of the town is The Phoenix Theater, a local staple when it comes to live music in the area, particularly in the realms of punk and alternative rock. Just one look inside the theater’s spacious realm and you’ll immediately think, “this is so punk rock”. Originally built in 1896, and officially opening in December of 1905, this building has gone through numerous changes and metamorphosis over it’s over-hundred years of operation. It’s played to host to everything from the opera, cinema, a teenage youth center, and a rock venue.
The venue today is, unfortunately, under threat of being closed down. Now is a more important time in history than ever for local music and a “scene” to exist within a community, and the members of bands like Swingin’ Utters, Western Addiction, and many others know this. They’ve organized a benefit show that will be taking place at the theater TONIGHT (Saturday, February 9th), with all of the proceeds going towards the renovation and cost of upkeep that the theater needs to stay open. In particular, a new sprinkler system is needed above all, as part of a fire code regulation for the safety of all patrons in attendance. Without it, the doors will shut.
Tony Teixeira is the bassist in Swingin Utters’, and the guitarist in Western Addiction. A Bay Area native who got his start going to local punk shows in the area at places like The Phoenix Theater, he (along with his band members and the members of The New Trust, Cash Pony, and Pagan Holiday) understand the principle and importance of hosting a local music scene within a community. Teixeria took some time to chat with us prior to the show about the reasoning behind the benefit show and some of his memories of The Phoenix Theater. If you can, head out to this tonight (click here for more information). Local music needs us now more than ever.
The Phoenix Theatre has truly become a staple in live music within the Petaluma music scene over the years. With as much of your insight as you can give, given that you've played in Bay Area punk bands (two of which are on the bill on Saturday), why is fostering a local music scene and having a venue like The Phoenix so important to communities?
Some kids grow up and fall in love with sports, some dream of being a fireman, a celebrity, a cop, a doctor, an actor, or an astronaut. When i was a kid, I never knew. I had no clue where I fit into this world. Honesty, it was frightening. What was my passion? What was MY love? What the fuck was I going to do!? I was in the 7th grade when I got dragged to my first punk show at the Phoenix. Immediately I knew I was home. The graffiti-covered walls, the blue-haired punks smoking clove cigarettes, the blistering sound, the fury of the circle pit, the heat, the cathartic explosion of music. I knew then and there, and I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life, I was home. This would be the pursuit that I would follow. Since that day I’ve worked hard to be a moderately successful musician. I’ve seen a good portion of the world, I’ve written and recorded some records that I am very proud of, and (trying not to sound like an ass) I've been able to move some hungry young soul searchers like I once was at the Phoenix so many years ago in my silly homemade punk outfit. THIS is why supporting local music scenes and having venues like The Phoenix in our communities is so very important. Some of us weren’t meant for this world, but hopefully, there will always be a special place where we can escape, be ourselves, and feel safe.
Would you care to share one or two memories with us about your experience with the Phoenix Theatre? It could be about a time you performed there, saw a show, etc.?
The first few shows I played were at the Phoenix. I’ve never been more excited to take the stage as I was back then. We SUCKED, I mean, think of your jr. high school band, we were one hundred times crappier. None of that mattered I knew the stage was where I belonged. I knew the PHOENIX stage was where I belonged. I dreamt of it. I loved it. Even though there were only six people there, it felt like 600. I come back to those memories of early shows at the Phoenix often. They humble me and bring me a lot of laughter and joy.
I also saw some incredible shows there growing up. Most notably, Link 80, AFI, Siren, Los Blockheads, and Space Case.. the list can go on and on. Those bands blew my mind.
Well, both my bands are playing, Swingin’ Utters and Western Addiction. Pagan Holiday is opening, and it’s their first show! They’re from Santa Rosa (like me), and I’ve heard really good things about them. I want to emphasize that people check out Cash Pony. They RIP! They’re playing in the lobby, and I assure you they will fuck you up. Some of the best musicians I’ve ever known. This show is incredible!
Given that it's a benefit show for the theater, what are the proceeds specifically going towards in an effort to save the theater? Is there a specific service that the money is going towards (maintenance, up-keep, etc.), rising rent prices?
All of the above really. I know specifically, they need a new sprinkler system which, for a building as old as the Phoenix is very expensive. There’s always work to be done. But without this sprinkler system, the doors will shut for good.
How else can people help raise awareness about this cause, in addition towards raising awareness about the importance of local music and arts in the community?
Talk to people. With your mouth not your iPhone. Donate money to this cause. And yes, go on your social media accounts and promote this cause online. Come to the show! Go to more shows in general! Not just shows run by enormously rich butthole companies, but shows at locally owned small business and non-profit venues. Pay to get in. Start a band. Follow your heart. The world is cold, cruel and awful. Create something to make it a better, warmer, safer, more loving place.