It’s the last legitimate rock venue in the North Bay. Not a posh theater with comfy seat cushions and a platinum-card ZIP code. Not a bar where adults suck down libations and stake their claim in the local meat market. But an honest-to-God, rough around the edges, punk emporium where waifish teens with angsty expressions, tattoos and drooping ear gauges rule the mosh pit.
The Phoenix Theater in Petaluma reeks of the same authenticity that permeated those stifling San Francisco nights at Winterland and the seedy Mabuhay Gardens when that long-defunct punk club resounded among the strip clubs and adult video stores that line Broadway in North Beach.
Built in 1905, the Phoenix Theater was originally an opera house. It featured Harry Houdini, Enrico Caruso and Lillie Langtry. It’s burned down twice. For a while it was a movie house. But since the ’80s, rock has reigned supreme. The venue struggled for financial solvency and stayed alive through the sheer willpower of local cabbie Tom Gaffey, who has helped manage the venue.
Over the years, the Phoenix has served as a steppingstone for Green Day, Primus, Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More and many others.”
– Greg Cahill (2/13/09 edition of Pacific Sun)