Hilary Duff

North of San Francisco Bay lies the quiet suburb of Petaluma, Calif. Its main street is known for antique stores and old-town feel. The local coffee shop is supported by the community because it sits across from the invasive Starbucks (which gets its share of visitors as well).

Petaluma Blvd. is also the backdrop for the cruising scenes of “American Graffiti.” Are we painting a picture?

On that street is the beautiful 475-capacity McNears Mystic Theatre. Van Morrison and Santana have played intimate shows there (in fact, the venue was the site of one-half of a two- show Morrison U.S. “tour”).

And then, a couple miles down the road and far from the main street is a place called the Phoenix Theatre. It will bring in acts like Alien Ant Farm as well as regional punk rock bands.

It’s a basic, bare-bones facility and actually has a skate park under its roof in the same room as the stage. It’s not exactly the place where you’d normally see moms dropping off their kids for a teen-pop show.

But that’s what our cover artist chose for one of her first live performances. That’s right: Hilary Duff, movie star, Disney’s Lizzie McGuire, teen idol, Top 10 best-selling musical artist, the face on the Hilary Duff VISA Gift Card and, OK, name brand, played the scruffy Phoenix Theatre.

The booking contact, who goes only by Fatt Matt, told Pollstar the theatre couldn’t believe it when Duff’s booking agency, Evolution Talent, called them.

“We were just like, ‘Are you sure you want her to come here?'” he recalled. “We were trying to figure out if they were confusing us with other venues. They said, ‘No, we want to do the Phoenix Theatre.’

“It was her very first tour and she wanted to try it out on a small venue, a small stage,” Matt said. “That’s how artists are formed, pretty much.”

The club has a higher capacity than the Mystic (it can hold approximately 1,000 kids) and the all-ages format was certainly a factor. But Evolution told Pollstar that Duff wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll clubs. The night before, she played the more upscale Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

Since then, Duff’s box office gross and venue capacities went up, up, up. In November, she sold out two shows on the same night at Wilkes-Barre, Pa.’s 1,800-capacity FM Kirby Center. In December, she sold out Florida’s 2,528-capacity Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

“We’ve actually been doing more than that,” Duff told Pollstar. “I did a tour for about a week after the big tour and it was more like 7,000 to 8,000 seats.”

Duff was referring to radio shows, where she was the headliner. An upcoming concert at the Los Angeles area’s Universal Amphitheatre sold out so fast that a second was quickly added for the same day.

“I had no idea how much work it takes to put on a tour, not just for me, but for everybody,” Duff said. “Everybody’s job is so critical. And thank God the team that [manager Andre Recke] put together around me is so great, my tour manager and everything. Everyone really has it all together.”

Hilary Duff

Duff is known for her affable and talkative interviews, and was quick to continue.

“There is so much critical stuff that goes on. The monitors have to be in the right place or I’ll feedback, or the booking of the show, or how to keep everybody organized. It really does blow my mind but I learned so much.”

Evolution’s David Zedeck and Craig Bruck share booking responsibilities. Dates for “the real tour” are being shored up for July and August. In between, Duff is doing concerts piecemeal, working around her filming schedule.

Duff’s a busy young woman. She did this phone interview during the first day of filming the next Duff vehicle, “Heart of Summer.” Along with learning to drive, she is designing a line of clothing for Target called “Duff Stuff.” Details are sketchy, but the young talent has signed on to a reality show project with MTV and has a comedy pilot deal with CBS.

So, the question is: Can Duff do a tour, a full-on, 100 percent committed, gritty bus tour?

“I won’t be working on a film or anything, so it will be all about the music, which I’m really excited about because I love music so much and I love being onstage. It’s such a great feeling and I’m really excited. We’re doing bigger venues and stuff like that.”

Recke is also executive producer of Duff’s multiplatinum Metamorphosis album and also manages her sister, Haylie, who has appeared in several movies and TV shows and has her own pop band. Hilary said she met Recke about three years ago.

“It was backstage at a concert and I was interested into getting into singing, and my mom met him. He’d done a lot of stuff before, he’s from Germany, and he was really, really nice and really eager to help us, and the relationship kind of started. We’re really good friends. We talk about everything.

“It’s a really open relationship. We all have a big part of it. It’s not just Andre telling us what to do. We’re all in collaboration with each other.”

The night before Duff kicked off her tour at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., she sang at the American Music Awards, with Recke’s help.

“I was like (crying) ‘Andre! C’mon! I can’t believe you’re making me do this! I don’t wanna do it! I don’t wanna do it!’ I was so, so scared. Then I got out there and it was just, like, a lot of fun.”

Upcoming shows include the Cox Arena in San Diego January 25th and a night at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay February 7th, the night before she presents an award at the Grammys in Los Angeles. Dates for the summer tour are yet to be announced.

Booking Agency Evolution Talent David Zedeck / Craig Bruck 212.554.0300

Management Boo Management Andre Recke 323.850.9550

Record Company Hollywood Records 818.560.5670