Tom Gaffey was sitting on the hot dusty gravel out behind the Phoenix Theatre picking through a tangle of instrument cables and connectors when I first met him back in 2007. He was so intent on his project that he didn't even notice me standing over him. I was there to discuss a project of my own, which was to throw a Stratocaster guitar off the roof in a new gig bag designed by a local importer of musical instrument carrying cases... a company I was working with at the time.
I had no idea what the Phoenix was about back then, thinking it was just another concert venue for that younger generation I lost track with a lifetime ago. Tom was so easy to talk to I was almost suspicious, having arrived fresh from the swamps of the Los Angeles music business where jaded is a way of life. However, I soon became a fan as he listened to my hair-brained idea and simply said yes. The end result was a "corporate" video that went viral, helped sell thousands of instrument cases and ultimately won 1st Place in the music product industry's international "Show Us Your Tubes" contest... and is still going strong today. In return, the Phoenix Theatre received a truckload of free instrument cases and Petaluma gained the sort of international exposure that money and all the planning in the world might never buy. I don’t think I have ever had so many positives spring from one guy’s willingness to help in my entire career, and probably never will again. That’s Tom’s vibe and whole reason for being, and it shows.
Of course, I also learned the true meaning of the Phoenix Theatre Center and came to appreciate what Tom Gaffey does for the young people in our community. Day in and day out, this guy plows through the challenges of keeping that place alive and thriving on a shoestring and literally saves lives in the process.
Next time you drive by the Phoenix via Washington Blvd., steal a glance into the back parking area where you might see him painting a bench or unloading a delivery truck. If you're heading up Keller to Washington, look up at the marquee above the main entrance where you might see him changing the letters to advertise the next series of concert events. He's a tireless, silent, hands-on community advocate.
This "Gala" video was produced about 4 years ago and I dusted it off and updated it a bit because I believe it still captures much of what the Phoenix and what Tom's dedication to this place means to all of us. The benefits are many and we thank you Mr. Gaffey. You are a hero.