Steve Chilton runs lean operations at both his venue The Rebel Lounge and his promotion company Psyko Steve Presents. The Arizona-based promoter likes to be part of every aspect of his business, from graphic design to talent buying to attending any and all shows at the 300-cap Rebel.
“I prefer to have a hand in everything for my shows. I like to know what’s going on with every piece of them,” Chilton told Amplify. “I enjoy being at the shows and making sure that everything is okay. I enjoy working on all the marketing. I like all the aspects of putting on shows.”
Taking on every aspect of a show isn’t a skill set that comes overnight. Chilton has been putting on shows since he was 17 years-old helping his friends set up gigs at DIY spots around Phoenix. All those years ago his friends thought it would be humorous to put his nickname, Psyko Steve, on the flyers he was handing out and the name stuck.
“When I started doing my own shows, attaining multiple skills was a necessity,” Chilton explained. “I learned graphic design because I needed to have a designer. I learned every piece of the shows just by doing them. I did work with some other promoters along the way, but a lot of it was, someone needs to do this and that means I need to do it.”
Through putting on his own shows, Chilton got an internship at AMJ Concerts and The Nile Theatre. That lead to job’s with Nobody In Particular and The Marquee Theatre doing street team, being a runner, and all kinds of odd jobs. He also worked with Vagrant Records and eventually began working with Charlie Levy at Stateside Presents. As Stateside expanded, the demand to work for both Levy and himself was too much, so Chilton left to focus on Psyko Steve Presents.
Since then the company has opened The Rebel Lounge and has seen continued growth for the last two years.
“The Rebel is going really well. We’re managing to keep it booked most nights,” Chilton said. “Even though it is small, it really is a venue where if we don’t have an event we’re not open. We’re doing a really good job right now of keeping it booked every night. We’re booked every night in July and we only have a few dates left in August to book.”
The Rebel is one of many new venues in the booming Phoenix music scene, but the influx of playable rooms is only adding business for Chilton. Psyko Steve constantly works with other venues and promoters in the area, including his old boss Levy.
“Me and Charlie compete a lot, but we also work together a lot. I do a lot of shows in his venues and Stateside does a lot of shows at my venues,” Chilton said. He added “It does make it a lot more difficult when there are a lot of good options. It’s not like you can say those aren’t good options because the same agents I am trying to convince to go into my room are the same agents I do shows with in the other rooms. It’s comes down to finding the best option when you have a bunch of good options.”
Amplify sat down with Chilton to learn about five of the best shows he has seen over his still-growing career.
At The Drive-In & Jimmy Eat World at Boston’s in Tempe, Ariz.
I talk about this show a lot. It was right after Jimmy Eat World’s “Clarity” came out, but before ATDI’s “Relationship of Command.” Before either had really been on radio or MTV yet. I was 16, Jimmy Eat World were one of my favorite bands and home town heroes just starting to succeed, and ATDI seemed to be everywhere underground. You couldn’t go to a small show and not see that iconic radio shirt on some one. But this was before Napster so even though I kept hearing about ATDI, I had still never listened to them. I didn’t know a single song. I had no idea what I was about to see and they blew my mind. The energy was insane, like nothing I had seen before. That never happens anymore because with streaming and YouTube I can’t imagine hearing a lot about a band and not checking out the music. But back then it wasn’t that easy.
The Get Up Kids Farewell Tour at House of Blues Sunset in Los Angeles
June 4, 2005
I spent the summer that year interning at Vagrant Records in LA. The Get Up Kids were one of my favorite bands and the band that first attracted me to Vagrant Records in the first place. My good friends in the band Limbeck opened. Even though it was kind of sad they were breaking up, there was a very celebratory vibe of the hole show. The band was going out on top. The show was so great I managed to go see it the next night at Glasshouse in Pomona.
The Flaming Lips at SXSW in Austin, Texas
I had gone to SXSW a number of times, but had always gone without a badge. This year was the first time I was tour managing a band and had a wristband/badge or what ever real credentials they gave. I was just walking down Sixth Street on my way to something I would never end up seeing and saw a line at a small weird venue and wondered what it was. The sign just said “Special Guest.” I asked the door guy who the “Special Guest” was and he said The Flaming Lips in the most unenthusiastic tone ever. He seemed completely surprised I knew who they were. It was at a restaurant with a pop-up stage that maybe held 500 people. It probably should have held less than were in it. The Flaming Lips came out, filled the room with giant balloons and opened with a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody. The place went insane. It was the first time I had seen them and what a great way to experience them. Really the best of SXSW. Not a huge branded stage or ton of people. Just a great band in a tiny room and great music.
Dec. 9, 2009
Modified Arts was the 150 cap volunteer run DIY art space and venue I first started doing shows at. In 2009 after 10 years of great shows they decided to stop doing music and continue on as just an art gallery. That was the result of growth and gentrification in Downtown Phoenix. I was asked to help put together the last four nights of shows. Four nights of all the local acts that had played there. The goal was not to try to book the biggest shows, but just have the people that had really been part of that scene. Through Reubens Accomplice we reached out and asked if Jim from Jimmy Eat World would do something. He said yes, but he didn’t want it advertised. He would just show up and be part of it and play a few songs. That was just what we wanted too. A week before, I found out that the whole band wanted to play, but again didn’t want anyone to know, especially the club’s owner Kimber. They wanted it to be a complete surprise for just the people who were already there. Of course that day the word broke online and we had 1,500 people show up and line up to try and see a $5 show in a 150-cap room. I had to tell a lot of friends I couldn’t do anything to get them in. The show was amazing and the best send off for Modified. We had never talked money before and at the end of the night Jim came up and said he had talked to the bands and wanted the whole door to go to all the volunteers at Modified. That was a really great gesture to everyone who had helped out there for years for free.
Frank Turner at Wembley Arena in London
April 13, 2012
I think Frank Turner puts on one of the best live shows of anyone playing right now. I had been booking shows in Phoenix for Frank for a few years at this point. Started with 30-ish people at Modified Arts and was really growing fast. The day we sold out a 250-cap club in Phoenix was the same day Frank announced his first headlining show at Wembley. He spent most of that day on social media or replying to all the press around the show announcement. Here I am excited about selling out a small club with Frank and he is announcing an arena show in London. I have a lot of family in England and knew right away I needed to go to that show. I took my uncle and teenage cousin to the show. I am normally not a big fan of huge shows. I rarely go to shows in arenas, but this show was truly special. I heard that they sold tickets to people from 43 or 44 countries? A sold out arena and everyone in the room had some story about the house show, or DIY spot, or dive bar they had first seen Frank in. Strangers just talking with whoever they were next to about some basement in Scotland or a record store in Germany or an art gallery in Arizona. I still have never heard a crowd sing as loud as at that show, and not just the hits–every song. During his last song, “Photosynthesis,” the whole crowd sat down without instruction, everyone just knew what to do. One of the best endings to a show I have ever seen. After the show, I got to introduce my cousin to Frank at the afterparty. It was kind of a cool industry moment for me to impress my cousin.