April 20 is a big day for Ryan Avery.
The artist and Vovomeena barista is one of three people putting on The REAL Coachella, an annual event of music and performance art by Phoenix artists held at the Trunk Space on Grand Avenue.
Flyers around downtown, a Facebook event page and The REAL Coachella website advertise that some big names in the indie music world will be playing. Grimes, Local Natives and Wu-Tang Clan are just some of the names listed on the performance bill.
Now, the chances that all these bands and more would play one night at a reasonably small venue are slim.
“Every year I have to deal with idiots asking if Wu-Tang will play at the Trunk Space for five dollars,” said JRC, Trunk Space co-owner.
However, Avery is quick to offer a response to those questions.
“What are you talking about?” he asks back. “There is an artist called the Wu-Tang Clan that will be there.”
The REAL Coachella was started by Avery and friend Andrew Jemsek in 2005 as a way to create a show where many local bands could play in one night.
“We were pissed. We hated ourselves,” Avery said. “We liked doing what we did, but we thought it sucked.”
The event has been held at the Trunk Space since 2006, mainly as an ode to tradition, said JRC.
“It suits the aesthetic of The REAL Coachella, which is to be authentic, not over-sized,” he said.
Avery said he usually refers to the popular two-weekend music festival in Indio, Calif., as “the ‘other’ Coachella.”
While JRC said this is done as a way to say the Coachella Music Festival has left its independent roots, Avery and Jemsek said that is too serious of an answer.
“If people get a different meaning out of it, that’s fine, because that’s the way art works,” Avery said.
Once the bands are selected to perform at The REAL Coachella, a few of the artists choose to change their names to that of a current famous act.
“We give them the option of playing an artist that is playing at the ‘other’ Coachella,” Avery said.
Avery said one of his favorite moments was when a duo called itself “Paul McCartney” and proceeded to play an entire set of Sex Pistols songs.
This gag has gotten Avery and the Trunk Space some hate mail and angry calls over the years, mainly from people confused as to whether these acts are actually playing there.
“Not a year goes by when we don’t get an angry email from someone,” JRC said. He mentioned a particular time where the Scissor Sisters’ management emailed him after learning the Scissor Sisters was playing at The REAL Coachella.
Avery and Jemsek received plenty of hate mail when Phoenix concert aggregator websites listed that seminal ska band The Specials would play at The REAL Coachella, Avery said. He said some of the band’s fans were even planning on flying out to Phoenix to see the show.
JRC said the Trunk Space is quick to let confused people know that some of the show bill is a joke.
“We let it be known that this is a gag,” he said.
Avery and Jemsek, however, rarely tell people that the big bands they think will be there are just local bands taking their names for a night, JRC said.
“If you talk to Ryan, he will tell you straight up, ‘No, those bands are going to be there,’” JRC said.
This has drawn complaints from some local music promoters, including Faux Show Director of Operations Jared Alan.
“I don’t like seeing people lied to so someone can get a few extra bodies in a room,” wrote Alan in the Facebook event page for The REAL Coachella. Alan could not be reached for immediate comment.
Avery said this kind of response and angry emails are exactly what make him feel the gag is working.
“It’s people like Jared Alan that encourage me to keep this going,” he said. He added that the people who do attend the event know exactly what kind of show they paid to see.
“I’m willing to bet zero people are going to show up for Local Natives or Grimes,” Avery said.
Jemsek said he thinks many of those who complain do not know the point of the show.
“If I talked to (Alan) on the phone and told him what the deal was, he would be fine,” Jemsek said.
Despite the jokes, JRC and Avery said The REAL Coachella is an entertaining event for downtown Phoenix.
“If it was just the joke, it would be done,” JRC said. “But the fact is that The REAL Coachella is a fun party.”
Avery said approximately 18 local groups are signed up to perform, including “Aladdin” pop-punk tribute band The Aladdin Posse and a special collaboration by Pete Petrisko and Kevin Patterson. The event will also hold a date auction.
Avery said he would continue to plan The REAL Coachella as long as people continue to be introduced to the joke.
“If there is a year when no one complains, I’ll say, ‘Boy, we are losing it,’” he said.
The REAL Coachella is this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Trunk Space. Tickets are $5 and will be sold at the door.
Correction: April 18, 2013
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Andrew Jemsek’s last name.
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org