Before I go too deep into the abyss here, allow me to preface this piece by explaining, perhaps unnecessarily, that the thoughts that follow are mine. I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else on the Dying Scene staff, past, present or future.
With that out of the way, I’m going to do a bit of stating of the obvious for a second; shit, right now, is pretty fucked. The catalyst for this piece, as you might have guessed by now, is the lead up to — and fallout from — whatever took place on the Barb Wire Dolls/Svetlanas/57 tour last week that resulted in two of the three international bands jettisoning that tour just after the halfway mark. I thought it was important to clarify a few points from the initial story that broke, to shut down a few of the more quantum leaps that have been made about what happened, and to expound on a few of the points that I made personally that I think are particularly salient but that might have been lost in the noise.
Dying Scene was not present at Jewel Nightclub in Manchester, New Hampshire, last Friday when the aforementioned tour rolled through. I, myself, was present the night before in Somerville, MA, where the photo gallery you may have seen on these pages came from. (Another writer was present at, and took pictures at, an earlier show on tour.) I interacted positively with members of all three touring bands, and saw them interacting positively with one another (including Svetlanas’ drummer Diste and Barb Wire Dolls’ drummer, Crash, collaborating to help fix a broken kick drum). I enjoyed the hell out of the show. I can – and did – attest personally to the passion that both bands have for their own respective music, as both bands play just as intense whether they’re in front of a crowd of 50, 500, or 5,000. I can attest personally to how passionately Barb Wire Dolls, Svetlanas, and 57, the latter of whom totally caught me by surprise, believe in their product and their music. Based on how the night went, I strongly contemplated heading north the following evening for the show in Manchester, my old stomping grounds. In hindsight, I wish I had gone; not because I could have done anything to fix the situation that I certainly didn’t see coming, but at least to accurately quantify what did, and did not, happen.
According to statements made by both Svetlanas and Barb Wire Dolls as bands and by their individual members, there seems to be consensus that there was an individual that was wearing, at least, an SS skull patch, in addition to what seems to have been an anti-Communist back patch. Again, members of both bands seem to be at odds about a lot in the last few days, obviously, but at least seem to be in agreement about that. Both bands also seem to be in agreement that death threats were made by this individual toward Svetlanas and toward 57 following a confrontation at the show. I wasn’t there, nor were the vast majority of people reading these words. But, statements released by members of both bands who were present seem to support those facts.
I made a comment in the story I posted over the weekend that I was saddened, but not surprised, that an individual wearing an SS skull patch would show up to a show in New Hampshire. I’m not surprised, because I’ve seen it before. Not at Jewel, to be sure, as I’ve never been there. Traditionally, the show calendar at Jewel has trended to the more metal end of the spectrum, which isn’t my personal cup of tea, so I haven’t had the occasion to go. I don’t think that Jewel is a hotbed of Nazi-related activity by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never heard rumors to the effect that such individuals hang out there, and in fact the word on the street about the place has been increasingly positive since they changed management a while back. I don’t pretend to know the identity of the patch-wearer and subsequent threat-maker in question, and by all accounts, it was an isolated, unfortunate incident that snowballed for myriad reasons. The vitriol in the comment sections here and elsewhere on the internet — I know, I know…don’t read the comments — ran the gamut from praising one band, excoriating the other (and of course vice versa), calling them fake punk, calling Svetlanas fake Russian (is that a thing) and stating that Dying Scene was going to get rolled if we continue support Commies. Gotta admit, I’m still a bit flummoxed by that last one. And all of it — all of it — misses the point.
No, I said that I was saddened by not surprised because I’ve seen it before in other places, and in other isolated incidents. The swastika spray-painted on the synagogue that family friends in my hometown in southern New Hampshire worshipped in when we were kids were isolated incidents. The racist graffiti that would get scrawled in the dugouts of the Babe Ruth League dugouts we played in from time to time were isolated incidents. The racist graffiti scrawled on the side of a memorial to two of the first professional African-American baseball players in my old hometown was an isolated incident. The Nazi graffiti found on college campuses in Keene and Durham in recent years were isolated incidents. The racist graffiti scrawled across various locations in Concord a few years ago by a local tattoo shop owner were isolated incidents. The individuals that I’ve seen – with my own eyes – walking downtown Manchester with swastika patches, or the incident of racial hatred and subsequent retaliation by fairly well-known anti-racist group that I witnessed outside now-defunct venue in Portsmouth were isolated incidents.
You know what else were isolated incidents? Boosie Badazz last weekend. The church in Texas last weekend. Las Vegas a month ago. New York City a couple weeks ago. The Pulse in Orlando. San Bernadino. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. The Bataclan. The Ariana Grande show. Dimebag Darrell. They were all isolated incidents. They all happened in places that people are supposed to feel safe and to find solace from the day-to-day bullshit that we all deal with for however long we’re lucky enough to actually be alive and a part of this planet; concerts, schools, churches, movie theaters, shopping malls. The frequency with which events like those above and countless others have occurred with has left some of us – many of us – feeling desensitized; saddened but not surprised.
We tread into murky waters sometimes in the punk rock world because, at the core, the scene is rebellious, especially in the northeast; let’s not forget that some people’s patron saint of all things punk rock, GG Allin, was not coincidentally born and subsequently laid to rest in New Hampshire. It’s a home for the homeless, a beacon for those who feel disenfranchised. It’s confrontational. It encourages you to fuck authority and confront bullshit and question the answers. Hell, one of the things I praised about the Svetlanas gig in Somerville last night was how aggressive and brazenly in-your-face Olga is. That’s part of the draw, and part of what makes them the most “dangerous band in punk,” just like it was part of the draw to have a Korean band and an outspoken ex-Russian band touring the USA – Donald Trump’s USA – with a band formed by natives of Greece. Confrontation and provocation are not uncommonly part of the deal, and that’s fine.
So if a band or any of its members or an audience member or a club owner or a movie theater patron or a church patron feels a little spooked by somebody or something at the place they go – we all go – to find solace and support and shut off the outside world for a while, that’s important, and it’s valid and for god’s sake it happens all the time in all walks of life, and so you can’t blame them anyone for getting spooked.
Look, gang; we’re all in this together – showgoers, band members, promoters, club owners, photographers, soundboard operators, stage crew, bartenders, coat check staff. We have an obligation to stand up to hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia. We have an obligation to look after each other and to take care of each other and to keep giving voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless and to be a beacon for the disenfranchised. We have to talk to each other and listen to each other and more importantly go to bat for each other by speaking the fuck up and shining a light on the intolerant bullshit. That’s the only way this all works. Shit’s fucked, but it doesn’t have to be.
Peace and love