It was a night of mixed emotions at the Trunk Space — the final show in the indie venue’s storied 12-year history. There were fewer tears than there were faces of joy amid reunions and tight hugs, but the atmosphere still felt sullen, like a funeral.
Sure, Trunk Space may reopen sometime down the road in a new location and they’ll do pop-ups in the meantime, but this is still the end of an era. For a dozen years, The Trunk Space was a unique place where you could see everything from twee pop indie bands to avant-garde puppet shows to weirdo art projects to an octopus getting crucified (which I really did witness one time.) In the interim, where the hell else can you see stuff like that? Not to mention, Trunk Space was one of the few consistently all-ages venues in town. Time for more house shows, I suppose.
The Trunk Space isn’t alone. The Firehouse is threatened to be sold off, and PPC Earthship also closed —both other venues hosted pseudo-goodbye parties on the same night as Trunk Space. Phoenix is going through a lot of growing pains lately, but that’s the eponymous cycle that this town is notorious for.
Trunk Space has eclectic audiences, but tonight was especially hodgepodge. So many kids, teens, scenesters, and a handful of folks over 60. Geeks and punks and weirdos and everything in between. The parking lot was packed with people milling about and there were a lot of familiar faces from many corners of the Valley and even from other ends of the nation, all of whom had been touched by Trunk Space in some way.
It’s not the fullest the Trunk Space has ever been — that might have been during an Andrew Jackson Jihad performance or the time Kimya Dawson played — but it was close.
The first act of the night, electroclash F/G/G/T Failur [sic] from Tucson, was one of those super weird bands that always made The Trunk Space special. You rarely, if ever, see things like this anywhere else in town — no other venues are daring enough to risk showing stuff that really challenges you. Or confuses you. Or downright outrages you. Depending on how thin your skin is, F/G/G/T Failur could do all those things to you and more.
F/G/G/T Failur’s act began with Jaime J. softly sing-speaking over dark, downtempo beats played on a Macbook, some beats almost like witchhouse, others feedback filled or speckled with plucky synth. F/G/G/T Failur sang about unobtainable perfection, good skin, and at one point, faked an orgasm.
At first, it read more like a performance-art piece, but it slowly became more dance-able. At one point, he stripped down from his bright red jacket to long underwear, then began gyrating his booty over the face of Abe Gil from Treasure Mammal. Next, he ordered everyone into a giant circle for the “world’s largest group hug”(citation needed) and began doing flips in the center. It might not surprise you that Jaime J. is a gym teacher.
After that, Morgan Evans, who MCed part of the night telling inside jokes, ordered everyone out of the building — Trunk Space was going to become a Quizno’s any minute now, he said. But everyone ignored his demands, so he began playing songs about sandwiches.
Next was Fathers Day, who opened up with a sentimental statement.
“We’ve been playing Trunk Space since the beginning,” lead singer Douglas Patton said. “And it’s just been going downhill from there.”
The dads immediately got the crowd moshing insanely to their short thrash punk songs about married life and hating your kids. The mob kept pushing these two 14-year-old boys up against the chair I stood on to take photos. I was afraid I was going to get knocked over and break my arm — or worse, my camera — but I wasn’t as scared as these two kids. It reminded me of the first shows I went to as a teen.
When Fathers Day played their song “Midlife Crisis,” they dedicated it to Steph and JRC, the two longtime venue managers. A girl gave Patton the finger and he asked her about it. When she didn’t respond, he said, “OK, this next one is dedicated to you, you little twat. It’s called ‘My Daughter’s A Slut.’”
(Full disclosure: I helped Fathers Day shoot a music video, which also happened to be filmed at the Trunk Space. Fathers Day are undeniably a band that helped Trunk Space earn its reputation for edgy, borderline-schizophrenic acts, so they can’t go unmentioned, but this review is really more about the crowd and the venue.)
The Dietrichs used to play Trunk Space often back in 2005 during the heyday of ska in Phoenix. They set up huge studio lights and several cameras to record their performance because they haven’t played a show together since 2009. In fact, Ryan Avery, who booked a lot of shows at Trunk Space over the years, asked the Dietrichs to play this night and they reunited just for this show.
I’m not a big fan of ska, but don’t get me wrong — I know a good show when I see one, and The Dietrichs were excellent. This was like ska mixed with hard rock, maybe even metal. They started out with sludgy punk riffs, then the horns entered and swelled and they soon had most of the packed room doing that awkward knee shuffle.
Soon there was plenty of fist pumping action and many smiling faces. Those trombone riffs felt so doom-y, which made me think of an alternate universe where mod street gangs did drive-bys on their Vespas. The Dietrichs are the kind of music such gangs would listen to. Everyone at Trunk Space seemed to be digging it, even the 3-year-old someone placed on their shoulders.
“It’s like nothing’s changed,” lead singer Liz Dietrich said. “It always feels like family here.”
I Hate You When You’re Pregnant played next and almost cleared out the entire room. All he had was a gorgeous shiny-red guitar plugged into an amp and he played simple songs about crying eagles and dead Baby Boomers and Quizno’s sandwich shops (the chain restaurant seemed to be a theme of the night). But what was most noticeable was Phil Buckman, who IHYWYP is fronted by, was wearing just a T-shirt and little girl’s faded pink underwear, complete with little bows. He sang like Stephen Merritt on codeine.
While IHYWYP was one of the least appreciated acts of the night, again, it’s a testament to the kind of really bizarre crap that Trunk Space provided a space for. And Buckman has gotten mentions in Wired and the New York Times for his bizarre performance, which is usually electro-pop and dancing. But the crowd did not give a fuck. Oh well — you can’t win them all.
The room was packed again for Jason Anderson, who was joined by local musicians Ben Nandin, Dave Burba, and Tyler Broderick. Jason Anderson is from New Hampshire, but has long had deep connections to Phoenix, especially the Trunk Space. On his Facebook, he posted “Trunk Space, Modified, and Arizona friends like Steph, JRC, Leslie, Golden Boots, AJJ, Stephen Steinbrink, iji, Dogbreth, Diners, et al. have been a tremendous part of my musical life for well over a decade.”
Anderson’s songs were nostalgic three-chord indie punk anthems complete with all the Whoa-Oh’s you could ask for. The feel good vibes felt like a homecoming reunion. I overheard one guy say that Anderson was “the best performer I’ve ever seen.” Everyone was singing along, swaying, and hugging. It was very "Kumbaya," but with smoother grooves.
“There’s magic tonight,” Anderson told the packed crowd. “There’s been magic in this room for 12 years.”
So now there is this void where the Trunk Space used to be which may be filled again, but not exactly immediately. Hopefully, this will make people hungry enough to open their own venues, even if it’s in their living room. There’s a serious need here, an itch I doubt will go unscratched for long. The future has so much exciting potential! Many can see The Trunk Space closure as a step backward for the local arts community, but it’s only so everyone can launch forward even further.
Last Night: Jason Anderson, IHYWYP, Fathers Day, F/G/G/T Failur at The Trunk Space
The Crowd: Friends, family, and other folks that have all been impacted to varying degrees by four walls and a ceiling. Weird how brick and mortar can shape lives.
Overheard: “That was great, Ryan. I can’t feel my back.”
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