Andrew Jackson Jihad and More, Trunk Space 8th Anniversary, 6/5/12

Andrew Jackson Jihad, Liam and The Ladies, Dogbreth, Good Amount, The Brass Lung Trunk Space Friday, April 6, 2012

By Benjamin Horowitz

In recent years, the Trunk Space's anniversary parties have been a low-key. Snacks, a cake, an iPod loaded with local tunes. Folks gathered around tables, catching up and telling stories about things they'd seen at the tiny art gallery/music hall/movie theatre/performance venue.

This year the venue's eighth birthday was different. Around 250 people showed up in full force, and five bands were tapped to rock them. Anticipating the large crowd for headliners Andrew Jackson Jihad, the T-Space set up a stage in the large dirt lot outside. Local vegan joint Green was on hand doling out complimentary eats.

While the big crowd and free food were notable, there was another change in the usual Trunk Space protocol that made the night special. Owners/operators Steph Carrico and JRC typically operate in the shadows of the venue, taking care of everything from the coffee cart to the sound board. They deal with the bands and the agents, with the press and the audience. They book the shows and the artists, but they rarely draw attention to themselves.

Last night, though, they took the stage before Andrew Jackson Jihad to thank the bands and the crowd. JRC spoke with a voice on the verge of cracking, dropping props all around downtown Phoenix -- on other venues, on other cultural spaces, on people and groups that had inspired him.

"Steph and I wanted to stand in one place and hold a torch," he said. "We did that, and people came, and the best part of that is that many of them carried on torches themselves."

It was a truly touching moment of the sort that is tough to explain on paper. See, the Trunk Space has always been special because it offers up a venue to almost anyone willing to express themselves. It isn't anti-commercial in the ostentatious manner of a pimply teenage punk; it is anti-commercial in that it is run by two people who care very deeply about supporting the artistic community in Phoenix. While the Space's stage does not shy away from hosting buzz bands or well-regarded touring acts, it also welcomes nervous first-timers. It is a space where people can succeed, but, just as importantly, it is one where people can fail and still be allowed to try again.

Seeing Carrico and JRC get the applause last night - even if not everyone knew the extent to which they worked - was special because of that. And the diverse lineup was icing on the cake.

There was good noise from Good Amount, a project by Christian Filardo (hilariously contrasted by the singer/songwriter playing across the street at the sparkly new Oasis Apartments).

There was a set from Liam and the Ladies that was impossible to watch without a huge grin as the eponymous Liam, the literal former neighbor of the Space, jumped from the stage to join the skanking kids.

There was Tristan Jemsek, playing with the Ladies, then taking the stage with his own band Dogbreth, showing off alternative punk-inflected songs that are light-years progressed from the songs he first started playing at the Trunk Space when he was too young to vote (and those songs were good, too, so these new ones -- fantastic).

There was a surprise segue from The Brass Lung marching band, fresh off from having their tickets for playing in Target dismissed.

There was the finale: a set from Andrew Jackson Jihad, comprised of Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty on acoustic guitar and double-bass, respectively. They were accompanied for the last half of the set by Preston Bryant on banjitar (note: an actual instrument). The band played to an audience that sang along -- like they have for most of the past eight years.

There was the crowd, slow to disperse, full of Trunk Space rookies and Trunk Space veterans. And there was all of us, hoping for eight more years.

Last Night: The Trunk Space's 8th Anniversary

The Crowd: The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads--they all adore the Trunk Space.

Personal Bias: I've been going to the Trunk Space for 7 years, and somewhere along the way I kinda fell in love with it. I've been bandmates, tour mates, and just friend mates with nearly everyone involved in last night's celebration.

Overheard: "I'm trying to buy some acid." "Why?" "Because I want to do some acid." Seen over someone's shoulder as they texted.

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