The Last Concert at a Storied Phoenix Underground Venue Canned by Cops, 7/26/14

Well, it was bound to happen anyway. As one Facebook commenter put it, "They were responding to a call they got in the goddamn '90s." I'm talking about W___ S____, a South Phoenix storage unit turned underground show space that's been hosting shows for nearly two decades -- and was finally broken up by the police on its final night.

Maybe we can mention the venue name anyway, since it's not really much of a secret at this point (thanks, Google) and of course, the cops are keen now. But I'd rather not, just because this "venue" tends to get passed down like a DIY-scene heirloom, and I respect the few shreds of anonymity we're allowed in this post-Snowden era. Saturday night was supposed to be the venue's final night, unless someone else took it over. When I asked one of the organizers what was next, that person shrugged, saying, "No one knows yet."

We arrived a little after 9 p.m. to a street lined with cars, but the space was completely darkened. People stood around in the dim light, holding hushed conversations, like this was some kind of dark vigil. Maybe it was. I couldn't make out anyone's faces, so I ended up standing by the dumpster, chain-smoking cigarettes and waiting for the second band, Stressors, to finish setting up. I missed the first gig, but was eager to see Destruction Unit, Gay Kiss, and especially Sleep Money, which I hadn't heard in over a year.

From San Diego, Stressors were a pretty decent hardcore group with a really large guy for a singer. I'm being kind -- he was pretty obese. But that just made him more fun while he thrashed about as some kids threw firecrackers into the crowd. This pissed off this round, screaming fellow, who spat and said he'd had more fireworks than that thrown at him. "Only two more songs left," he growled. "But if you don't care, there's the fucking door."

He was, of course, reacting to the low level of energy in the humid, smelly room. I don't have much to say about the music except it was loud and made me want to punch things. For the last song, a small semblance of a mosh pit broke out, but it was pretty much over as soon as it began. The mic was thrown down and everyone filed outside to smoke in the dark again. That's when the Stressors frontman went to his own merch booth and angrily started snapping his band's vinyl 7-inchers in half.

Soon after that, the cops rolled up. I'd spotted them earlier when we first arrived; plus, some security vehicles kept cruising by, but they both left eventually, so I wasn't sure what to make of it. I guess they came back. The crowd collectively sighed and the officers marched around, demanding to know who was in charge. As a reflexive precaution, I pulled my memory card from my camera and hid it on my person, neglecting to get any shots of the patrol cars. According to one musician, his guitarist was shoved and intimidated by the cops, but I didn't see any hassles. The cops basically told everyone to GTFO and so we did.

You could cut the disappointment with a butter knife. As one person on Facebook put it, "Always disappointing when from the perspective of law enforcement: some people standing around watching bands in a storage space is prioritized over, literally, ANYTHING ELSE that is going on [out there]. Was really looking forward to the rest of that show." I couldn't agree more.

A monsoon storm was rolling in and would soon prove to be one of the most destructive gales of the season. With nothing else to do, we went to Lost Leaf. I bumped into Hotrock Supajoint, who told me he'd just finished a set at Joe's Grotto before the power went out, so with nothing else to do, he came there.

After all that, I wasn't really in the mood to drink in a bar, so my friends and I killed a 12-pack or two in the street. It rained heavily, so I put my camera away and didn't get any more shots of the night. Instead, we let the warm rain rain soak us and watched the lightning dancing across the valley, clapping, cheering and whooping whenever the sky burst brightly. Maybe that's dumb, but we were drunk and it felt like what people used to do before fireworks were invented.

We went back in the bar in time to see Andy Warpigs begin his set. Personally, I think he killed it, but I might be biased. Andy has been a friend of mine for a while now, ever since I first heard him cover "The KKK Took My Baby Away" on ukulele at a house show. He played that cover again, much to my delight. When he learned it was a drunken girl's birthday, he began chanting "Happy birthday motherfucker, hell yeah, smoke weed," until Supajoint heard him, rushed onstage and the two sang Hotrock's song together. Andy was also joined by Bbieu for "Everybody Likes You Now" and a few other songs.

I don't want to talk too much about my friend's performance, because it speaks for itself, but I think everyone found the best alternative for the night in spite of everything being ruined, either by storms or bored public enforcers. For me, the absolute highlight of everything was smoking a joint in the rain as the wind picked up and threw branches at my face and soaked my clothes and ripped the fence down at Aside of Heart. It was the closest I would get to being thrust into a mosh pit all night, which is all I wanted. But maybe someone else will carry on that legacy someday.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: NOT Destruction Unit, NOT Gay Kiss, NOT Sleep Money, Stressors at ??????.

Andy Warpigs, GunSafe, Robby Roberson, Hotel Radio at Lost Leaf.

The Crowd:

Mystery venue: Decked out in black, everyone seemed kind of sullen and reserved. This felt more like a funeral than one last kick-ass send-off. But maybe we didn't get a chance to get that toasted, so I dunno. The Lost Leaf -- You know those people who like drinking beer on Saturday nights? That's the people who were here.

Overheard: Mystery venue: -- "My favorite lyric was 'BRRRRZZZZZTT.'" The Lost Leaf -- "You know how you know you're in Mesa? When you sniff, and go, 'Is that the smell of racism?'"

Personal Bias: Cops haven't really given me a good reason to ever like them, but notice I refrained from the "P Word." It really bugs me that I went to two different venues and the results (live music, some drinking, and drug use) were the same, but one didn't get hassled because they can afford a liquor license. The state only cares about who can fill their coffers.

Troy Farah does twits on the twit machine.

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Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah