Merry Kinchmas

Christmas in the desert isn't like it is in other places. There's no snow, it doesn't get that cold, and novelties like warm fires and cups of hot cocoa serve no practical purpose the way they do in the east. So even if we're not huddling for warmth, one of the only aspects of the season that we can still apply to our sun-drenched lives is togetherness. (Cue pathetic "awwwww!")

For the third year in a row, Kinch will be throwing their annual holiday show: Kinchmas. Though the kitschy name may seem an afterthought, it was actually the excuse to put on the event.

"It was definitely one of those things where someone comes up with a title for a movie, and then decides to write a movie for that title," says singer Andrew Junker.

The show is a way for the band to celebrate not only the Christmas season, but also the local music scene. Unlike your average show, which features a headliner with two bands before it and one after, Kinchmas constantly encourages groups to play with one another and trade out members — both planned and spontaneously. The songs you hear are a mix of originals, covers, and quirky Christmas classics.

What results is a communal feeling. That may surprise some, because Phoenix is always targeted as a place with a struggling music scene and a desperate lack of cohesiveness. For Junker, defining the "scene" and its connotations isn't important.

"I'm not even really interested in the idea of what it is — even talking about a good music scene or not a good music scene, or anything like that," he says. "It's more like once you've put a show together — and it's at a good venue, and it has good bands, and you pack it in as a fun night — then you see that there is an actual sort of community, and for lack of a better word, music scene."

They get that atmosphere from a relaxed vibe that seems more like guests having shown up at a really big house party than at a venue. You walk in, inevitably see a handful of people whom you know, and wind up hanging out with a few new faces. There are cheesy decorations, endearing tipsiness, and even family members of the bands in attendance.

And all the good fun goes to an even better cause. The proceeds of the show benefit a nonprofit organization called Ozanam Manor. The Manor is a transitional house run by St. Vincent de Paul for homeless people over the age of 50 (or younger, if they have mental disabilities). It provides mentorship and job training to assist in moving people to independent-living situations.

"We didn't want to make money off of a fun party that we wanted to throw," says Junker.

So even if Phoenix doesn't usually have the bonding, the winter, or the propensity to be charitable, Kinchmas does have family, donations to a nonprofit, carols, and drunkenness. If that ain't the stuff Christmas is made of, who knows what is?

Thu., Dec. 23, 8 p.m., 2010
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Sarah Ventre