The Vanishing Show in Tempe's Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson neighborhood is a novel response to Tempe's strict noise ordinances. The event, which had its second annual show Saturday night, acts as a moving house party with bands playing no longer than 20- or 30-minute sets. The idea is that by the time police respond to a noise complaint, the party will already be wrapping up.
"The Vanishing Show is put on for two reasons," said event co-organizer A Claire Slattery in a statement provided to New Times. "1. To have fun. It's probably the largest event organized in greater Maple-Ash, and the novelty of having the show move around helps strengthen our community. 2. We also organize this event to stand up against Tempe noise ordinances and laws against partying and unlawful gatherings."
This year's Vanishing Show was divvied up between four residences. The first location was posted on Facebook about 15 minutes before The Darling Sounds' start time. No other addresses were posted online; the event functioned purely on word of mouth from then on.
All of the residences were located in the Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson neighborhood. Most attendees were neighborhood residents who traveled back and forth via bike.
A handful of attendees traveled on foot, but for the most part, the MAFW neighborhood sprung to life with more bikes than a Critical Mass event.
Band: The Darling Sounds
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Noise Level: Medium
Time Frame: 7-8 p.m.
Parking was easy to find, due to the hordes of bicycles. It was a great thing to see, making Tempe feel like a bike-friendly community like Portland or San Francisco.
This house felt like a college house party without all of the obnoxious bros. It had the feel of a Phoenix house show, only tucked away minutes from ASU. The attendees were all nice and sociable, and very excited to be there. The owner greeted me almost immediately and encouraged me to have a great time. Free beer was also easy to come by.
On my approach from my car, I could hear the music from a couple of houses away. The band started playing at 7:15, and police did not receive a noise complaint at that location, according to Tempe Police Sgt. Damon DeSpain.
The Darling Sounds lived up to their name and performed a charming set. The vocals reminded me of Lemuria's Sheena Ozzella paired with warm, fuzzy guitar that rivals summer bands with Pacific coast themes (Best Coast, Beach Fossils, etc.).
The Darling Sounds quietly wrapped up and the second location was revealed over the microphone.
Band: Couples Fight
Noise Level: Seismic: quiet with loud spurts
Time Frame: 8-9 p.m.
The second location was my personal favorite. The bike brigade traveled a few blocks over to a popular apartment complex, where the Vanishing Show attendees crowded into a courtyard area. The event grew substantially more crowded at this point, with fans making creative use of space.
Couples Fight arguably had one of the worst experiences of the night. From breaking guitar strings to a malfunctioning PA, Couples Fight had quite the Murphy's Law evening. The band played no longer than perhaps a minute before something went wrong, but what was remarkable was the fact that the crowd still cheered them on and remained patient.
It helped, though, that the crowd had balloons to play with.
Andy Warpigs was generous enough to lend the band a guitar, but things still continued to go wrong.
When the third location was announced, the event organizers encouraged guests to use this time for a restroom or a food break because the next band wouldn't start for at least 30 minutes. I took this time for a food detour, and in the five minutes or so it took me to call in my order, three police cars passed me on the way to the second apartment complex. The moments where Couples Fight succeeded were on the loud side, but the music was sporadic enough that I was surprised to see the police responding.
Vibe: Teen movie house party
Noise Level: Medium-loud
Time Frame: 9-10 p.m.
The third location was the most crowded. I'm not sure if it was due to a smaller venue or word of mouth, but attendees were packed in pretty tight to see surf rock trio Boogienauts.
This part of the night was really cool because once again, it felt like an authentic house show. The show had the vibe of a cool party you hear about but aren't quite cool enough to attend, yet once again, the people you meet are totally authentic and also having a great time.
This location was a little on the loud side. The band played a short set and promptly wrapped up.
We were told to reconvene at the next house in half an hour.
Band: Red Tank!
Noise Level: Quiet as a mouse
Time Frame: 10-11 p.m.
I moved my car from the first location to the fourth and immediately noticed how well the group cleaned up. I was able to find parking right outside of the fourth house between two police cars. Around this time, Butthurt Tempe posted on the event page to "hang low" and wait. I sat with my windows rolled down and overheard many attendees growing anxious and confused. Around 10:30, the event was updated to say that it was broken up by the police. When I drove away, I saw two police officers standing outside of the residence.
Organizers were baffled that police were at the fourth location before the crowds arrived. They concluded that police planted someone at the third location, and that person leaked the fourth location to police.
"The cops showed up at the fourth [final] house before we even arrived," Slattery said. "There was an unmarked car outside of the third location, and since we do not post on social media any house locations but the first, we can only assume Tempe PD had someone planted there so they could be proactive and shut down the last show before it even started."
The event moved to the after party location of Taste of Tops and went off without a hitch.
Slattery was not happy to see the fourth location broken up pre-emptively by police.
"The officers surrounded the house and kept peeking in through the backyard," she said. "I believe Tempe PD used intimidation tactics on the hosts of the last show. At the time when the police showed up, nothing illegal was actually happening, but due to their presence, there was nothing we could have done but to shut the show down early and move on to the after-party."
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We reached out to Tempe police for comment. DeSpain, the public information officer, confirmed that cops received two noise complaints in MAFW on Saturday night, one just after 9:30 p.m. and one just before midnight. Neither incident resulted in either an arrest or a citation.
Was this year's police presence a deterrent for next year's event? Not in the slightest.
"Regardless of how the last house went, I definitely see Vanishing Show II as a win," Slattery said. "We had a much bigger turnout this year, and the spirit of Tempe was alive. Butthurt Tempe and MAFW will continue to organize the Vanishing Show annually. We do this because we love music and parties. We do this because we live in a college neighborhood. We do this because we love Tempe."
Butthurt Tempe also posted an eloquent statement about the police presence on its Facebook page.