"It's definitely safe to say both labels are mutual fans of each other," says Sacred Bones co-founder Taylor Brode. "We just let Jes run with it, as far as setting up this festival, 'cause we trust his taste and wanted an excuse to do a show together."

The idea has been brewing for some time. Aurelius met Loke Rahbek of Lust for Youth in Copenhagen while on tour with Marshstepper. Rahbek, who runs a label as well — Posh Isolation ("aesthetically akin to Ascetic House," Brode says, "being a highly curated esoteric cassette label") — expressed a desire to visit the desert and shoot guns with the A.H. crew. ("Shooting guns is fun," Jarson says laughing while describing the time he hauled a load of unsold vinyl records out to the desert for target practice).

The idea stuck in the back of Aurelius' head, and when he met Brode in New York (where Destruction Unit played the night Hurricane Sandy hit), she told him the five-year anniversary party put everyone in close proximity.

J.S. Aurelius (left), Alexander Jarson, and a "friend."
Ascetic House
J.S. Aurelius (left), Alexander Jarson, and a "friend."

"I think that a lot of people are starting to connect the dots that there's actually interesting things happening in Phoenix," Aurelius says. "Because it's been so isolated, it's hard for people to pick up on."

Ascetic House-associated bands don't necessarily eschew the local club scene, but their shows often run like an undercurrent to it, starting after-hours gigs at 2:30 in the morning. It's a matter of necessity.

"That kind of thing exists in pretty much every city — even in major cities — but I think it's different here," he says. "You have to do it that way. If you want something to happen, you have to do it or it's not there.

Instead of complaining about Phoenix, its lack of culture, or lack of ideas, Aurelius, Jarson, and their friends are practicing a non-New Age-y (or at least a kind of New Age open to harsh, bit-crushed noise and desert firearm sessions) form of self-actualization. They're creating while others are content to moan. It's inspiring — and in its own way, an approach rooted deeply in Phoenix history.

"If stuff like The Feederz, Sun City Girls, Consumers could happen back then . . .," Aurelius says, shaking his head. "It's a hostile environment now, but I can't imagine what it was like back then."

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