AJJ's Sean Bonnette on the Craziness and Excitement of Throwing Desert Trash

Erica Lauren
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Throwing a music festival like the upcoming one-day Desert Trash event can be a sleep-losing, hair-pulling endeavor. Just ask Sean Bonnette, the singer and guitarist of indie-folk-rockers AJJ, who debuted the event a year ago.

“There’s a point,” he laughs, “where you just want it to be done and not have to think about it again.”

That’s part and parcel of planning any large-scale shindig, and Bonnette knows that it’s all inherent to the party-planning business. Rather than focus on the frustrations like band cancellations and tweaking the general logistics, Bonnette can’t wait to utilize some of the different rooms on Trunk Space’s campus to showcase a weighty blend of local and national indie rock acts. AJJ, of course, is one of the show’s headliners.

The extended roster includes the likes of Sunn Trio, Little Wings, Nanami Ozone, and Cesar Ruiz Band. Performances will happen in Trunk Space’s main venue, as well as in the large Hope Hall and the Sanctuary, the last space offering a very intimate experience with artists Stephen Steinbrink, Roar, Worriers, and Lonna Kelley.

Having multiple stages that include a private setting like the Sanctuary was a reason to switch venues from The Van Buren, where the inaugural event took place. “This gives us an intimate area that helps fulfill our goal of having a very dynamic show,” Bonnette says.

Little Wings, the musical project led by Kyle Field, is one of the acts that have Bonnette and crew giddy. “Kyle is one of my earliest influences,” Bonnette tells us, “and is still one of my favorite songwriters. I discovered him through a Microphones/Little Wings tour DVD that I got at Stinkweeds in 2004 or 2005. That same summer, I was playing Little Wing’s Light Green Leaves while I slept, allowing it to seep into my musical DNA.”

The Cesar Ruiz Band is another that gets AJJ’s excitement level cranked up several notches. “We met Cesar when he was a sideman in Diners. His guitar playing was virtuosic, yet tasteful, and his background vocals a deafening whisper.” Bonnette says. “His first album, Bb, is a masterpiece. It sounds otherworldly and fucked up, like the weird little song you hum to yourself when you’re falling asleep.”

It’s not only sonic thrills at Desert Trash. A pop-up art gallery is another piece of the festive puzzle that's equally as invigorating as the day’s musical talent. The gallery will feature work from To the Front, facilitated by Erica Lauren, a photographer that has toured with AJJ. This touring exhibition presents music and concert photography by women and nonbinary artists, and since its inception has garnered quite a bit of positive attention.

DJ A Claire Slattery will spin tunes in the beer garden during Desert Trash.
DJ A Claire Slattery will spin tunes in the beer garden during Desert Trash.
Michelle Sasonov

Local DJ A Claire Slattery will be spinning tunes in the beer garden. For hungry folks, Bonnette says there will also be food for purchase from restaurant The Coronado, and some food trucks. You’ll be able to get your merch purchases on, too, with items like T-shirts and posters.

Will there be a third Desert Trash shindig? At this point, it’s hard to say. Now’s probably not the best time to ask Bonnette — he’s still in the throes of this one, getting the loose ends tightened and tied.

“We just want people to have fun,” Bonnette says, “and to look back on the events and remember them as a great time.”

Desert Trash 2019. 4:30 p.m. Saturday, February 2, at The Trunk Space, 1124 North Third Street; deserttrash.party. Tickets are $25 to $50 via Brown Paper Tickets.

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