Parked on Santa Fe every First Friday, the Whomp Truck has become a huge success in the electronic scene in Denver. To uncover the truth behind this cult phenomenon, we sat down with one of the founders, Just Ben Travis, to get the full story on Denver's hard-thumping, foot stompin' mystery machine.
Westword: So how did the Whomp Truck come into being? What was the inspiration behind it?
Just Ben Travis: A few years ago, I bought a sound system and got sick of moving the gear around. I was looking for an easier way to move it and found an ice cream truck for sale on Craigslist. It had no power steering or brakes - more like a death trap than a vehicle, but it worked for moving gear. It was hard to find drivers for it, though; it was a beast to steer. One night, several beers later, a friend and I were loading the subs into the rear door, and they fit perfectly into the bottom of the door. We wondered it the top speakers would fit, as well, and they fit perfectly right above the subs - filling the entire rear door.
In March 2009, we asked an art gallery on Santa Fe if we could setup the truck out in front of their gallery on First Friday and play loud music - all we needed from them was electricity. They agreed, so we staked out a parking spot in front, hooked up the truck, and started playing. At first, people were confused about what was going on, but after a few hours, people started sticking around and dancing in the street. A red light would happen, and they would flood out into the street and then back to the sidewalk when it turned green.
Is this the original Whomp Truck?
No, this is the second Whomp Truck. The original truck you couldn't stand up in, so the DJ was crouched over the decks. The current truck is a 1980s milk truck formerly owned by a Colorado creamery - you can stand up in it and it has more space inside.
So what happened to the original?
I sold it on Craigslist - it's actually back in service as an ice cream truck somewhere.
So why is it called the Whomp Truck?
I wish we could take credit for it but that's just what people started calling it - and it stuck.
How do you feel about all the attention you're getting in the Denver area?
We didn't think it would - it was a lot easier than we thought it would be. The crew is a very passionate, dedicated group of people, so the success, given that, isn't all that surprising.
Who are the official members of the Whomp Crew, and how did you all meet?
The Crew consists of myself [Just Ben], Ishe, Coult45, Noah Deep, Citrus and Alert. All of us except Alert are friends who attend Burning Man together. I heard Alert one night at a show in Boulder and loved his style. I asked him to guest DJ at Sutra and ended up hiring him to do the murals and graffiti at the Would Shop after seeing his artwork. After that, he was invited to joint the formal group and that completed the Crew.
What improvements do you have in the works for the Truck?
Right now, we're fundraising to get a better sound system, as well as mechanical upgrades for the truck. We are accepting donations right now through our Facebook site and the proceeds from our after parties also contribute.
Have you ever thought about taking the Whomp Truck on a cross-country tour?
Absolutely - we're planning on it. We need to get the upgrades first, though, and make it financially feasible. We're looking for sponsorships right now, but we want them to align with our own message to be a good fit.
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Are there any guest DJs you'd love to have play?
Right now, Tipper is on the top of my list. He's a brilliant, abstract down tempo to breakbeats and glitch DJ from the UK. He lives in Hawaii now, though, so not sure if we'll be able to get him.
Any upcoming Whomp Truck appearances we should know about?
This Friday, we have an afterparty called "Ballerdo," with DJs CacheFlowe, Jantsen, Dirty Monkey, and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. It's midnight - 5:30am, and the location will be disclosed the day of the show.