Local grad hopes to elevate bands with The Rebel Lounge
June 6, 2019
By Mckayla Hull
Guns N’ Roses, Green Day and Nirvana have something in common: They all played the room that is now The Rebel Lounge.
Throughout the Phoenix club’s 40 years, one thing remains the same—new and emerging artists are invited to play there.
“People say, ‘Why don’t you get bands like Nirvana or Metallica there anymore?’ We are getting bands like that. You just don’t know it yet, because we’re getting new bands who are going to be the next bands,” said Stephen Chilton, The Rebel Lounge owner and Mountain View graduate.
Local bands flock to the 300-person-capacity venue to showcase their music, and Chilton—also the owner of Psyko Steve Presents—is at the center of it all.
His goal is to introduce lesser-known bands to fans and help elevate them to concert halls.
“Hopefully in a few years, everyone’s saying, ‘Oh my God, can you believe these guys played at Rebel?’”
The venue’s original name was The Mason Jar, which was founded in 1979. Chilton took it over in 2015 and turned it into The Rebel Lounge. Since his takeover, hometown favorites Jimmy Eat World, The Maine and Lydia have graced its stage.
Walking into the venue, concert-goers are greeted to an intimate club filled with history. The musky atmosphere, dark gray walls and low stage dissolves the invisible barrier between fans and bands.
The low-key aesthetic of the venue is on purpose, as it fits all genres, Chilton said.
Since Chilton’s ownership, more indie rock, country and pop artists/bands have been played at the venue; genres that “wouldn’t have really fit with the metal and punk rock the Mason Jar was known for.”
“I want everyone to feel welcome,” he added. “We host everything in here from death metal to country to indie rock to punk rock to pop to YouTubers.
“If we have a punk rock show, we want everyone to come in here and feel like they belong here. If we have a show that’s all teenagers, I want them to come in and feel comfortable. For the fans, they’re always to feel like they belong in here.”
Helping Chilton is his 19-year career of promoting shows, which began with local gigs.
“Some of the biggest shows I have ever done have been for local acts that we’ve grown,” Chilton said.
Chilton said he thinks local bands prefer The Rebel Lounge because he treats them fairly.
Scottsdale-based rockers Doll Skin has played at The Rebel Lounge multiple times since the band was founded in 2013.
“We can just be a band there and don’t have to worry about the staff being rude or giving us a hard time,” said drummer Meghan Herring, adding the sound is amazing as well.
Fake a Home singer Seth Villaescusa agreed.
“All of the security guards are really nice and the owner there, (Chilton) is amazing,” Villaescusa added. “It’s a really safe environment, really fun place to play.
“Plus, it got us other shows because we sold it out. We have connections to the Marquee and The Van Buren because of selling out at this show.”
Chilton is taking that trend further but launching “Make It Loud,” a panel of insiders who come together and host seminars for musicians.
“We’re just trying to give local artists a chance to actually learn stuff, especially more from outside the booking. One of our goals at the start of this year was really to think about like, what can we be doing more to help the local bands that’s not just putting on a show?” Chilton said.
Helping musicians grow is what keeps Chilton inspired.
“When bands we book get an awesome opportunity to play somewhere else, we’re the most supportive of that,” Chilton says. “Go do whatever opportunities are great and we’ll be here (at The Rebel Lounge) for the next time.”