Musicians Organize Benefit Concert for Ghost Ship Fire Victims at Aztlan Theatre

Musicians will honor the 36 victims of the December 2 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California, at a fundraiser for their families on Saturday, December 17, at the Aztlan Theatre.

“Many of my close friends are grieving hard over the losses because we are involved in a similar lifestyle of hosting and performing in spaces that are sometimes dangerously unconventional,” says Luke Thinnes, the event’s organizer and a local musician. “I know many people who were hurt by this tragedy. My friend Joel was headlining the show [in Oakland]. My friend Aja showed up a few minutes before the fire broke out. My friend Cash is now dead, someone I was in awe of and felt super-kindred to. She was only 22.”

Thinnes had originally planned to host the concert at DIY space Glob, but those plans were quickly scrapped when Glob and its next-door sister space, Rhinoceropolis, faced surprise inspections from the Denver Fire Department on Thursday, December 8, leading to their immediate closure and the evictions of eleven artist-residents.

Thinnes was one of those evicted.

"I was beyond upset during the process of displacement," he says. "I had to stay calm through most of it, but when I finally broke down, the fire inspectors just watched without reaction, much like the police officers who were filmed emotionlessly taking blankets from the homeless downtown. Here we are talking about a four-hour eviction timeline. That’s not something any person established in one spot for three years can easily recover from. The fire inspectors definitely had motives beyond keeping us safe, and used the tragedy in Oakland, that I was still recovering from, as a means of displacing us.... I still can’t understand why this is happening. It went eleven years with no major accidents, and eleven years with passed routine inspections. I don't see zoning as a valid excuse. We made it work for over a decade."

After Ghost Ship, musicians, artists and DIY communities in cities across the nation are coming together to support each other and communicate why DIY scenes are important. Following his eviction from Glob, Thinnes initially thought he'd cancel the benefit show altogether, but he says he's been blown away by the support and encouragement he's received. He teamed up with Thad Mighell of the Museum of Contemporary Art and moved the concert to the Aztlan.

"After being evicted from Glob, my phone has been constantly blowing up," Thinnes says. "The amount of love I have been experiencing is overwhelming. Right now I’m staying with friends who were generous enough to reach out to me once they caught wind of what was happening.

"More than anything, I want to show Denver that when our community is hit hard, we can organize and make amazing things happen," he adds. "Almost everybody I know was close to or one degree of separation away from multiple people who died in Oakland. As a direct correlation, our spaces are affected due to the circumstances we operate under, but it will not stop us from coming together and doing what we love."

The benefit show will feature a diverse lineup of musicians, both from Denver and from out of town. They include:
All proceeds from the concert will go to the Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit that is coordinating with the Oakland mayor’s office and the Red Cross to help victims and their families. Since the tragedy, a campaign set up by the nonprofit on the crowdfunding website YouCaring has raised more than $650,000.

“As soon as I saw the relief fund where the proceeds go directly toward the funeral, medical and health expenses for the families of those involved, I started setting up the show,” Thinnes says. “With the growing number of donations through this fund my only hope is there will be more than enough support for those directly affected to have what they need in order to restore their lives and preserve the legacy of those lost.”

For more information about the benefit concert, held at 976 Santa Fe Drive, visit its event page on Facebook. Tickets are available online for a pre-sale price of $10.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker