Ben Gallaty (left) and Sean Bonnette of AJJ.EXPAND
Ben Gallaty (left) and Sean Bonnette of AJJ.
Erica Lauren

AJJ's Sean Bonnette on What You Can Expect at Desert Trash

Multimedia parties have a storied history in Phoenix. The members of Arizona-based folk-punk band AJJ can tell you all about them.

The Icehouse’s sensory-stimulating Culturautonoma in 2004 and yearly parties like New Year’s Eve at the Compound in Tempe or the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts (PAPA) inspired the band to start Desert Trash, a one-day art, music, and skating bash debuting at The Van Buren on Saturday, February 3.

Well, that legacy played a part — along with something else.

During the last decade, the band have toured extensively, which has helped earn them dedicated fans. Traveling in the winter, though, is something singer-guitarist Sean Bonnette says they can happily cut down on.

Ironically, given that line of thought, Bonnette says that he realized after booking the fest that it falls on the tragic anniversary known as The Day the Music Died, when old-school rock and rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash during wintry weather.

While Desert Trash gives them a chance to stick around the desert in the colder months and have a party, Bonnette says they’re more excited to “provide a stage for our friends and heroes: people that have inspired us over the years.”

One of those acts is California’s Xiu Xiu. “We haven’t played with them since 2005, at Modified,” Bonnette says. Local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Robin Vining is another artist on the bill who takes Bonnette on a trip down memory lane. “Robin played our first show, before we were a band, when we all worked at the Willow House together,” he recalls. “And it’s great getting to come full circle with people who have inspired us; that’s pretty cool.”

Since the planning began, the lineup of performers has been evolving. There are those aforementioned acts, as well as lots of locals like Diners, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Chris Farren, Sundressed, Karima Walker, and Kolezanka.

Don’t worry, AJJ aren’t just masterminding Desert Trash, they’re also performing.

AJJ will headline Desert Trash.
AJJ will headline Desert Trash.
Erica Lauren

In fact, they’ll be playing their 2007 album People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World. The band celebrated the record’s 10th anniversary last year with a tour and a string of sold-out shows at The Trunk Space.

Besides music, the show will feature Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall as its host. AJJ are longtime fans of the comedian and grew up watching the sketch comedy show. They were excited to find out the feeling was mutual when he sent them a fan letter last year. Now, they’re thrilled to have him emceeing throughout the event.

Visual art is also on the agenda. Exhibitions of local art curated by Valley-based creative J.J. Horner will be displayed throughout the venue.

This multifaceted party won’t be confined to the indoor space. Things will be lively outside, too, as Cowtown Skateboards will be on-site with a pop-up skate park.

“If all goes well,” Bonnette says, “we hope to make it bigger and better next year.”

Just like those prior Phoenix events inspired the band, Bonnette says he hopes Desert Trash will have an impact on up-and-coming creatives.

“I’d like people to leave with a sense of wonder and the urge to get out and do something,” he says. “It would be cool if this could be like a recruitment event for the art scene of Phoenix, and Arizona as the greater whole.”

Desert Trash is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, at The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street. Tickets are $20 for those 13 and older, but access is all-ages with a parent or guardian. Visit The Van Buren's website.

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