Nice Kitty

Trunk Federation front man Jim Andreas says he should have known the deal his band got on its tour van--an '88 Ford Econoline--was a little too sweet to be true. Low mileage, room for a crash mattress and gear, no serious mechanical problems, and some really bitchin,' glass-encased running lights up and down the floorboards. Hell, crack into the electrical system, put a flasher on that circuit and you've got Disco '96 in the Trunk mobile. Inexplicably, the band also had oxygen-tank hookups (drummer Chris Kennedy's suggestion that the band employ nitrous oxide for those long night drives through the Midwest was vetoed in favor of helium).

There turned out to be only one catch: The van is haunted. The first clue was the strange dreams that came to those who slept in the van--surreal visions of bat-wing doors, poker tables and whiskey in corked, plain glass bottles, all with a dance-hall piano soundtrack. "It was like a Ouija board," says Andreas. "At first none of us was sure the rest weren't faking it."

The dreams began about three months ago, when the band embarked on the first leg of its debut national tour in support of a self-titled seven-inch (out on Alias since August) and the forthcoming debut LP The Infamous Hamburger Transfer. When the group first returned to Phoenix for a short break after six weeks on the road, Andreas researched the owner history of the vehicle and discovered (gasp) that it had once belonged to Amanda Blake, the actress turned animal-rights activist who died in Phoenix in 1989. Blake's most famous role? Miss Kitty--owner of the Longbranch Saloon and Dodge City Marshal Matt Dillon's squeeze on the old TV show Gunsmoke.

Eager to appease, the band quickly christened its vehicle "The Ghost of Miss Kitty." "We're all Gunsmoke fans now," says guitarist Jason Sanford, who fought off a would-be burglar one night in Washington, D.C., when the thief smashed a window while Sanford was asleep in the van. Sanford says he grabbed the guy's hand once it started reaching around for the door handle and gave it a couple of good yanks. "He took off," says Sanford. "Miss Kitty was on my side."

Back in the Valley for one night only, Trunk played a blistering but short set at the Mason Jar last Saturday. Expecting to go on around 12:15, the band found itself starting around 11:45 after the three opening acts (the crowd was abuzz about the Les Payne Project when I arrived just after it wrapped up) blitzed their sets. On the caveat tip--the Mason Jar is growing on me, if for no other reason than it's authentic. All it tries to be is a dive rock bar with a loud sound system, chain-link decor, sticky floors and sketchy regulars, and it succeeds nicely. Trunk, by the way, busted out a couple of new songs, including "Whore Snack," a boulder-size chunk of rock that starts off with a thunder-gun drum solo by Kennedy (damn, does he hit hard). Bassist Mark Frostin confirmed the song was written in his honor, although he insisted the title referred to his passing resemblance to the Welcome Back, Kotter character Arnold Horshack instead of any alleged on-the-road activities.

End Notes
Congrats to Polliwog on the release of the ska, funk, etc., band's debut CD More Soul Than a Rabbit Factory, and a good-vibe release party at the Sail Inn last Saturday. Honey Bucket turned in a good opening set outside that would have been killer if someone had just miked the bass amp. Inside, Stone Circle had the dance floor bumping with some light-hearted funk and soaring female vocals. Later that night, the Icehouse played host to its final underground party (the city is reportedly nixing the building as a rave venue). The party was called D-Day, a combination hip-hop/rave gathering, and it was the bomb. Attendance was more than 1,300 by two in the morning. DeltheFunkyHomoSapien was on the mike in the main room, but the open-air cathedral room was the place to be. A candelabra chandelier that shot spears of flame into the sky was suspended above the packed floor, along with two dancer cages. Tasty eye candy. Sick music all night, and varied--jungle, drum and bass, and hard-core. My only complaint: the multimedia display in the main room that featured a spiraled image of Charles Manson. Charlie don't rave, know what I'm saying?

--David Holthouse


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