By Benjamin Leatherman
The power was off, but the party was on at the Trunk Space.
Better than: Watching Colorstore in the middle of a hurricane.
“Holy shit! What the hell is going on outside!?!”
This profanity-laced exclamation was uttered by yours truly at around 10 p.m. last night as I was sitting at my computer in my apartment in downtown Phoenix. I was attempting to get some work done before bed, including putting together this weekend’s concert calendar; while suddenly all hell seemingly started breaking loose outside.
Although the darkened and cloudy sky had been roiling with thunder and lighting during my drive home from dinner an hour before, it just seemed like the makings of typical monsoon-season storm and nothing like the tempest-like squall that Mother Nature unleashed less than an hour later. Far from it.
I knew something was up when the deafening roar of gale-force winds (reportedly measuring near 100 m.p.h.) buffeted against the windows of my apartment, ripping down fences, tossing around garbage cans, and breaking the large acacia tree in my neighbor’s yard next in two.
A torrential downpour followed and the power in my apartment blacked out (and didn’t return until just a few hours ago). Since I wasn’t gonna be getting any work done and didn’t want to sit around in the dark, I hopped in my car and cruised over to the Trunk Space to see if the power was still on there.
It was absolute fucking madness outside. Sheets upon sheets of rain were pouring from the sky. There were downed power lines in my street and as I pulled out of my driveway an overhead transformer exploded in a shower of sparks. Gnarly.
Tristan Andrew Jemsek, and others huddle inside the doorway at the Trunk Space.
Things weren’t as chaotic at the Trunk Space. Co-owner JRC was standing by its door with a flashlight and several other people -- including Tristan Jemsek of Haunted Cologne -- were crowded around watching the rain. The lack of electricity didn’t stop the musicians scheduled last night -- like Houston indie band O Pioneers!!! -- from performing.
By the time I arrived, Ben Gallaty and Sean Bonnette of Andew Jackson Jihad were just starting their headlining set. JRC asked them if they’d like a flashlight or some security lighting. “We’re wanna play without any lights, because we’re cool like that,” Bonnette responded.
They began their 30-minute set with a few of their favorites, like “Candle in the Wind (Ben's Song),” “No More Tears,” “Brave as a Noun,” and “Survival.” There were no breaks in between, as one song seemed to flow into the next.
As per usual with a Jihad performance, the crowd of around 20 people obediently sung along with each song in their set. They were packed together around the tiny stage, and didn’t seem to mind the sweaty and damp environs of a hot rainy summer night of hanging out at the Trunk Space without electricity (and thus, without air conditioning). Bonnette later described the evening as a “very, very special night,” and he was right, as the lack of electricity seemed somewhat fitting for a band who’s old-timey sound is rooted in folk. It was pitch black, save for a few audience members who were texting or playing games on their cell phones, which Bonnette mocked them continuously for doing.
The damp denizens of the Trunk Space seek shelter from the storm outside.
Also during one of the few breaks between songs, a couple of fire trucks raced past, causing bassist Gallaty to remark, “It’s Armageddon outside! There’s going to be no one left by the time we get done with this show.”
At one point, Bonnette also asked the crowd what song they should play next, causing one attendee to loudly request the band’s “Fuck White People,” a caustic-yet-humorous song about race. Bonnette didn’t seem to be in the mood to play the song, replying to the dude, “If I knew you better, I’d throw this [bottle] at your head.
“How could you even try to spoil the dark and nice moment of like, ‘Hey cool it’s a quiet dark show at the Trunk Space,’ with ‘Fuck White People?’” he says.
After the humorous moment, Bonnette and Gallaty settled things down by performing some rather laidback numbers, like “Sense, Sensibility” and “Guilt: The Song.” The set also ended rather serenly, in stark comparison to the chaos that was going on outside, with Bonnette saying quietly, “So you guys should O Pioneers and Gunshy’s merchandise…Thank you, very much…Goodnight.”
Large aluminum buckets catch water leaking from the ceiling of the Bikini Lounge while drinkers catch a few brews at the bar.
Next door at the Bikini Lounge, the lack of power didn’t curb anyone’s drinking habits, as the dive’s bartending mainstay Westley Nieto continued serving drinks with flashlight in hand. DJ Shane Kennedy also continued got to still perform his job, albeit with a Apple laptop with a battery backup instead of on the record decks.
DJ Shane Kennedy, unplugged.
Following my stop at the Bikini, I decided to check out the damage that had happened in and around downtown Phoenix. It was unreal.
Don't screw with Mohter Nature.
Trees were uprooted everywhere (even towering, 80-year-old pines in the Willo neighborhood), massive amounts of windows were broken, and an apartment building near Encanto and Central Avenue had part of its roof ripped off by the wind (and ended up getting draped across the light rail lines on the street below). I also heard that a bunch of telephone poles on Seventh Street were felled by the storm. Nutty.
A few hours prior, this roof was part of a downtown Phoenix apartment building.
At least it answered a longtime query of mine: what would it’d be like if a hurricane hit Phoenix? Now I know. Thank heavens we're not a port city.
Random detail: At one point, Sean Bonnette asked if anyone had night vision goggles and could find him a bottle of water.
Personal bias: I’m only happy when it rains.
The setlist: 1. “Candle in the Wind (Ben's Song)” 2. “No More Tears” 3. “Brave as a Noun” 4. “Survival” 5. “Bad Things” 6. “People II: The Reckoning” 7. “Bang! Bang! Bang!” 8. “All the Dead Kids” 9. “Unicron” 10. “Sense, Sensibility” 11. “Guilt: The Song”