The Precedent

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The Van Buren combines music and history in downtown Phoenix

Outside of the Van Buren at night

Outside of the Van Buren at night

Ian Graham

Ian Graham

Outside of the Van Buren at night


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Last year, Charlie Levy announced plans to open a venue for live music in downtown Phoenix. Levy’s vision for the space was to create a stage for large acts to perform on, in a theater capable of holding over one thousand fans. Renovations ensued, acts were booked, and the Van Buren was set to open in August.

The Van Buren, located on the corner of Fourth Ave. and Van Buren St., is Levy’s third music venue in Phoenix, succeeding Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom. Unlike the Van Buren, these two venues are much smaller, usually housing local bands or more discreet touring acts.

“I think it’ll be neat for bands to play Valley Bar [and] Crescent, and then a year or two later play this venue on Van Buren. Ten years ago I would’ve said, ‘No, it’s probably not needed,’ but in 2016, I think it’s needed,” Levy told Phoenix New Times in an interview earlier this year.

The theater is housed in an old Phoenix Motor Company building, originally in use in 1939. Levy and his team redesigned the space to give it more of a venue feel, yet many of the original walls of the auto shop can still be found.

In the lobby of the Van Buren, round chandeliers cast light on a patterned tile floor. The ornate stepping stones extend throughout the whole space, wrapping around bars and a stand for performers to sell merchandise. The stage sits high above the audience, surrounded by Phoenix-inspired murals.

The grand opening of the Van Buren took place on Aug. 23 with a concert from the California band, Cold War Kids. Former Perry student Casey Van Shaar was among the sold-out crowd for this first performance.

“The crowd on opening night was pretty rowdy, it seemed like everybody was excited to be there and excited to see the new venue,” Van Shaar said. “It’s the first venue of its kind in downtown Phoenix and it’s been anticipated for a while now since they announced is opening.”

In September, acts like Seu Jorge, Death Cab for Cutie, and Jared & the Mill will perform at the Van Buren, adding to the young legacy of this new venue in downtown Phoenix.

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The student voice of Perry High School
The Van Buren combines music and history in downtown Phoenix