Crowd at the Phoenix theater, by Estefany Gonzalez
Crowd at the Phoenix Theater (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)

The Bay Area is full of amazing venues, but (likely) only one can say it survived three fires and has hosted acts as diverse as Hilary Duff and Metallica.

If the walls of Petaluma's Phoenix Theater could talk, the building would have more stories than anyone would live long enough to hear. With more than 100 years of rock and roll, metal, punk, indie, and pop bands having filled it, the venue's catalog of musical acts include some of the biggest names in the music industry. Green Day, No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, AFI, Snoop Dogg, and numerous other bands have all graced the stage of the historic building.

Outside at the Phoenix theater, by Estefany Gonzalez

What makes this building special isn't its impressive alumni, but its place as an open space for those who need somewhere to go. Tom Gaffey, the building manager, opens the theater 365 days a year, including Christmas and Thanksgiving. Much like Berkeley's 924 Gilman, the all-ages club is more than just space for live music. It's a place the community depends on. “It's no one person's building,” Gaffey says. “It’s everybody's building who needs it.”

It's a community building in every sense of the word. It allows those with ideas a place to try them. "If anybody comes forward with an idea to use the building and it doesn't lose The Phoenix or Tom personally any money, The Phoenix is down for whatever," says board member and show promoter Jim Agius.

Aside from live music, the building offers a space for members of the community to take guitar, piano, and drum lessons. It's a place for kids to skate after school, work on art, or meet with friends. The theater also hosts a weekly health clinic and AA and NA meetings. "We need to have this spaces," Gaffey says. "Every community should have one or two, or three or four."

We put together a video of the 112th birthday celebration of the historic building and chatted with various Phoenix attendees to show what the building means to the North Bay community.

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