Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Essen, Germany- Euro tour '12, day 6

The venue where Angry Youth Fest was taking place would be better described as a compound. There were 2 levels: upstairs contained the stage, a bar, a kitchen, and warm, clean backstage #1, then downstairs there was backstage #2 (this one a bit cold, a little grimy, and filled with Germans smoking cigarettes), showers, and concrete hang out rooms (stocked with beer and soda.) Germany can always be counted on to feed you right, and tonight was no exception. Coconut curry, vegetable stew, rice, and fried spring rolls. (Vegan, of course.) We ate until we we'd reached the rolling point then all spread out across the venue. I went below to freshen up. While blow drying my hair in the bathroom I was walked in on 3 times- by an Italian, by a German, and by an American. Ahhh, the diversity of a European festival!

Upstairs some kids sold cheap vegan sandwiches, the 7 or so bands on the fest (which in America would just be a show) sat behind their merch tables, and I had a reunion with some old friends from Belgium. After awhile I excused myself to go downstairs and workout in one of the empty chambers of the compound. I could hear members of another band in an adjacent room having what was perhaps one of the most embarrassing discussions about girls I've ever been witness to- and keep in mind I've been on many tours with/around many single and DTF dudes. But these guys were different. Rather than sounding like your average tryna-slip-it-in-er, they sounded like a bunch of 6th graders with only a vague idea of what a nipple looked like which was somehow grosser and lamer. They talked about going to see Oathbreaker not because they liked the music, but just to look at the singer. (Classy!) I heard one of them say something like, "Girls in Europe are like coffee- so many varieties!" When I was done working out I walked through the room they were in and they all fell silent. Usually I introduce myself to like... everyone... but fearing these dorks might cum in their pants if I made direct eye contact, I walked by without saying a word. It's possible they're still talking about it today.

Get It Done who I was unfamiliar with before played an awesome set, and then Wrong Answer played and got one of the best reactions of the night. Mad moshery and such. It's nice when people like the right bands. Actually while I'm on the topic of Wrong Answer, let me just say: They're great. In fact they're kind of the definition of great in regards to a hardcore band. Right riffs, right attitude. They care enough about what they do to make something with depth and quality, but care little enough to keep it fun and punk.

Awkwardness blew over our set like a thunderstorm over a Floridian summer day- quick, fast, and hard. It was excruciating. A set that would never end. A horse shoe so big you could build a house in it. Stares so blank that I wondered if people were taking open-eye naps. Yawns. If you've ever seen us you'll know that I'm rarely at a loss for words, but between songs I bumbled, rambled, and made next to no sense. Ouch. 

Back at our table, Dave got his first chance on tour to use his German skills. Dave, for the record, speaks 7 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, and Chinese... no big deal.) I walked up as our friend Zeger and his friend Mascha were listening to him in awe. Mascha told me how amazed she was at his accent, and then whipped out her phone and said she had to video tape it for her friends because no one would believe it if she just told them.

After the fest was over, we were all hungry. Kevin and I went out to get fries for everyone, and the only place that was still open was a pizza shop run by German-speaking Italians. (Man, where was Dave when you needed him?) After trying to pantomime "fry" for awhile and using every word I've ever heard them called "frite? french fry? potato? ... pomme frite?" they understood.... and told us they could not oblige. They offered us pizza instead. We shook our heads and stood there for a moment wondering what to do while they spoke in fast Italian behind the counter. "Ok, we make." Staying open 20 minutes passed their closing time, these guys made 8 $1.50 orders of fries, packing each one carefully and wrapping it in tinfoil, keeping the orders that came out first in the oven so they wouldn't get cold. This would never, ever happen in Philly.  Maybe there's somewhere in America where this would happen (Kansas?) but there is no pocket, no corner, no single shop in Philly where the workers would have the patience or desire to help foreigners, and even if you visited Philadelphia in every single parallel universe it exists in, there would not be a single one in which anyone would stay open late to make fries.

Back in backstage #1, both us and Wrong Answer had laid claim to various floor spaces (leaving the smokey downstairs for the smokers to sleep in), setting up a little fort here, taking over a couch there. Deafheaven, also wanting to avoid the cold and smokey annals of the compound came in with their stuff as well. The promoters from the fest brought in and assembled cots for everyone, and then we all did what we do (the dudes went on Chat Roulette, I did pilates and wrote, Justin hung on his phone, Dave read) while in the background Deafheaven talked amongst themselves. I overheard the singer, George, saying something about someone confronting them earlier at the show, and curious to what happened (and always loving a good old European honesty story) I asked.

There was a photo of their drummer, he explained, wearing the shirt of a band called Hate Forest while they were playing that surfaced on the internet. Hate Forest is NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) and for those who don't know, The National Socialist Party is literally the extended name of Nazi (Nazional-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) and those involved with that particular movement are fascist neo-nazis. At Angry Youth Fest, an attendee has approached George to ask what the meaning of wearing a neo-nazi band's shirt was, and George explained that Deafheaven is from San Fransisco where these things (fascism, neo-nazism) don't mean the same thing, because they are like, "so far removed" and like "super liberal", but he "like" understood "why he would be so sensitive" about it "given their history and everything."

Let me tell you a story. A friend of mine used to be a racist skinhead. The way he got involved with that scene is through seeing someone he thought was cool wearing shirts of racist bands, bands which he then checked out. He spent several stupid years listening to his friends read from Mein Kampf and talking about how blacks and Mexicans were a serious problem, then thankfully wised up, saw the err of his ways, and lives now with his shameful past (where he has to do things like tell the outspokenly anti-fascist Jewish girl he's out on a date with about his neo-nazi tattoo.) He was floored when I told him about Deafheaven wearing the shirt and downplaying its significance, importance, and meaning. Deafheaven is on Deathwish Records, and maybe you heard, but that's like kind of a big deal. Despite that it was their first European tour and much more popular bands played the fest (certainly not us, but AYS for sure) Deafheaven headlined. A lot of kids are going to be looking to these dudes and KIDS NOTICE EVERYTHING. Look at my friend. Nothing you do is insignificant no matter who you are, but your actions become especially significant when you are in a band, and even more so when you are in a band that's getting popular.

When you wear a shirt promoting fascism, you are promoting fascism. No one is removed- not in "like, super liberal" San Fransisco, not in Essen, Germany, not in the fucking Bermuda triangle. It's so ignorant and second-hand embarrassing that Deafheaven defended and made light of promoting fascist bands (especially because you know they're doing so ironically- though if accused of that would claim the band had some killer riffs or something) when over here in Europe fascist hardcore, metal, and punk is huge, and neo-nazis are a real and constant threat. (When we played Fluff Fest in 2009 there was a display of all the people neo-nazis had killed recently... it was a very large display. We've also played shows that were attacked by nazis, and seen kids have bottles broken off their faces for being anti-fascist.)

Struck dumb by George's words, none of us said a thing. It was too surreal. It reminded me of a few days before we left for tour when I watched a man get attacked outside of my house. He screamed for help over and over and over while a guy threw him into the street and I stood there frozen at my window, watching in the dark, totally transfixed by the insanity of it all. It wasn't until the next day in the van when we all started talking about it that the gravity of what has transpired hit us. Is it kind of lame to write about it here without talking to Deafheaven first? Perhaps. But this blog goes in sequential order and we're not playing together again until later this week and I see no point in stopping the presses for them.

Later, Dave told me that after our set George had come up to him to ask how it went (admitting to not even checking us out, thanks dude) and then said that he "gets the same feeling" watching Oathbreaker as he did from us. Later Justin said, "What feeling? That there's a girl in the band?" Uh, yes. That George has a keen, keen eye. Especially for someone who doesn't watch other bands. Watch out world.

(Also this has become a joke on tour- if anything has a girl involved with it, it "really gives us the feeling of like, seeing Oathbreaker" or, like Kingdom.)

The next morning I retold the story of the Hitler mask in Denmark to another dude in Deafheaven, and he said, "Woah, a Hitler mask? I like, thought they were like sensitive about that over here..."

.....sigh.

These dudes didn't seem like bad dudes, just dumb. And Europe, they're on tour right now. If you see them perhaps you could explain your "sensitivity", they don't seem to quite grasp it.

5 comments:

  1. thank you very much ! yesterday evening was my best evenening ever!

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  2. Wow. What a total moron. Will not be checking Deafheaven out.

    I agree with you that when you wear shirts of racist bands you're promoting racism. For some reason people who like Black Metal can never understand this. I have a friend who I have been sort of starting a band with who for some reason thinks I (a black guy) want to hear about what a genius Varg Vikernes is, racism aside.

    Also for the record you guys don't sound anything like Oathbreaker.

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  3. Your Tourblog is always a must read. Thx for that.
    Like the parts about us euros and our habits.Can't wait to see you finally in Berlin - to bad it's the last tour day and you'll be fucked up and all.

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  4. That was an interesting read. Interstingly, I posted about this on last.fm when I stumbled upon said photo. I didn't know the kid was a member on last.fm himself up until this point, so to my surprise he replied in my shoutbox:

    Deafheaven guy:
    "Just noticed your shout on the deafheaven page, and wanted to mention that I (along with the other members of the band) agree with neither the politics nor the ideals behind hate forest. However, I find the music to be some of the best in black metal. Sorry to offend you."

    My reply:
    "i see the point that you can't always agree with the ideals of a band you're listening to. the least thing you should do is wearing one of their shirts, when you don't want to be associated with the idelogy of such a straight up racist / national socialist band. which makes it hard for me to have an understanding for this. people are always gonna judge you on what you're wearing, since most people dress to express themselves."

    Deafheaven guy:
    "Despite their message, I feel they have influenced the genre in a positive way. For that reason, I have a certain degree of respect for them. I'm not going to refuse to listen to a band or refrain from wearing a shirt because I don't agree with the lyrics. To me, music should be a free form of art and shouldn't have to be 'politically correct' in order to be appreciated. Two nights ago I saw a black dude wearing a burzum sweatshirt. Obviously he has respect for the artist in ways other than the ideology behind the music, and isn't ashamed of it."

    My reply:
    "well, i personally think that seperating music / art from its ideology is a mainstream thing, but that's just my point of view. i've been growing up in the metal and hardcore punk scene with the understanding that it's a counter culture to pop culture, and that always included a certain mindset connected to the music. we could argue forever if not being racist excludes listening to national socialist bands or wearing their shirts, but in the end we're not gonna be on the same page about it, i guess. wear whatever you wanna wear, dude...it's up to you. all i'm saying is that it's gonna offend people, especially over here in europe, where the scene is very anti-racist and wearing shirts of such bands is a no-go."

    Got no more replies. The stuff this guy wrote gave me a real hard time. I tried to be liberal with him, because he simply didn't seem to know better, or he was just too stupid. I hoped he would maybe understand my points a little bit, but he didn't. It's a shame that so many things the undergrond scenes used to stand for just disappear, because many of the young bands today are just plain stupid random kids, playing music for the sake of belonging to something that will make them look cool.

    Peace.
    S.

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    Replies
    1. I can understand where each of you are coming from, but the Deafheaven guy is still wrong.

      In a sense this is kind of like asking if a non-vegan non-straight edge person is allowed to wear an Earth Crisis shirt. They're an influential band with a large fanbase, and not everyone who likes their music agrees with everything they stand for.

      It's a bit different though, because Earth Crisis never stood for something as despicable as racial supremacy...

      To the Deafheaven guy's credit -- There are countless famous and influential artists and historical figures who have had their despicable qualities, yet their legacy lives on to be appreciated despite that. This is true.

      At the same time -- As Punks and Hardcore Kids, our scene is completely about politicizing everything and only supporting things that reflect the ideals of a world we want to live in, and the kind of future we want to build. Racism has no place there, that point has been made countless times by countless bands.

      He's wrong because he should have had enough appreciation for the hardcore scene to know not to wear shirts of racist bands at a hardcore show, where a band's message is *everything*, and people judge you based on your ideals.

      At a Black Metal show it might be different, because the context is different. It's hard to fully appreciate Black Metal without getting into racist bands, just because so much of that genre has been pioneered by racists and still is. This has been the major barrier for me, personally, as I believe that when you support racist bands you support racism -- I also believe that in 2012 we should be more evolved as a species than to entertain racist ideas.

      One major error though is to assume that Black Metal and Hardcore are the same. They're totally different scenes with totally different norms and ideologies.

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