The Fest, day 3

All day I heard different accounts of the “riot” that happened at the house show the night before. From different accounts I heard that people tried to tip over cars. I heard that some people tried to rough up a cop, that someone got tazed by a cop, that the cops got surrounded only to have the people surrounding the cops surrounded by more cops. “There were like 20 cop cars there,” told one storyteller. I wasn’t there so I don’t really know what happened or who was ultimately responsible for things ending up such a mess. In the end, it sucks that people got arrested, someone got tazered, the cops came away frightened with any stereotypes they had completely confirmed.

I’ve never thought of the police as an institution that helped me or made me feel safe. Assy lectures and power trips when we did get caught skateboarding, or the mixed thrill and anxiety of evasion when we didn’t galvanized this as a teenager. Hearing stories about the Fraternal Order of Police having a legal defense benefit for the Chicago detective who killed two young men while driving intoxicated or seeing the billboard advertising the FOP-sponsored gun show on the way to the Fest don’t help this. Still, I’m convinced that the vague cops vs. punks rhetoric that is so familiar does more to excite us or think of ourselves as in a certain cultural space than it does to change anything about the way police operate or the role they have in our society. Thinking of cops as a homogeneous enemy hinders accountability from both directions. First, it takes away the personal responsibility of a cop for her individual actions. She does what she does because she is a cop, not because she chooses to do something that is hurtful or unjust. Second, it overlooks the larger structural problems about how cops are trained, what motivates or forces someone to enter into a career in law enforcement, the values that our culture ties to positions of power, or the fear and separation that make the police intermediaries for resolving social conflicts.

I did see a few good sets at the Kickstand. Tubers were great. Ever since we played with them last year in Santa Cruz, I’ve really enjoyed how they make heavy, driving yet interesting music. I’m a sucker for parts that kind of drone or groove on and then break into a different part, like your head breaking through the water after you’re floating at the bottom of a pool. Theo and others had mentioned being stoked about P.S. Eliot, so I decided to go to their show. I think I enjoyed it the most of any of the sets I saw all weekend. There was just a sense of everyone in the audience being engaged in what was going on. It felt like a mutually shared experience, which is nice because the Fest always feels so impersonal to me.

While at the Kickstand, I ran into a friend that I met in Brighton when we were on tour in the UK this past spring. I told her that I was going back to school for journalism, and she mentioned that she had taken some journalism classes and was frustrated by the fact that her professors advised her class to write attention grabbing headlines that she felt distorted the story. Coincidentally, Patrick just wrote about something similar on his blog.

Everyone in Defiance, Ohio met up to eat together at Reggae Shack and I ordered the jerk tofu which was one of the spiciest things that I’ve ever eaten. It was so hot that it was this intensely visceral experience. I felt lightheaded and sweaty. It was pretty strange. After dinner, we went back to the Kickstand and tried to navigate around the huge line of people that were queuing up to get into the space. A few bands before us, the people at the gate weren’t letting anybody in and it made me feel stressed out. It was one of those situations where we couldn’t really do anything and it was probably equally frustrating for the people at the door and the people trying to get in. This was the second show we were playing and playing it to make sure we got to play an all-ages show and it was frustrating to think that people might get denied twice: for age and capacity.

When we played it was pretty fun and energetic, despite being really crowded. A bunch of stuff got knocked over, of course, and people were all over each other. I don’t know what can make this exciting in one context and stupid in another. I think the difference is about engagement. Is being at a show about a personal experience or a collective one? Is it about singing along together or being the person who sings the loudest? Is it about talking to the people who end up getting smooshed around them, or about being the person who gets to be at the front. I want to see this change somehow. I ‘m trying to not discount people’s excitement, but I want to feel comfortable myself and feel like everybody involved in a show is going somewhere together.

Oh yeah, I want to give a shout out to folks in Good Luck and Bomb the Music Industry for letting us borrow their stuff.

Photo of Tubers by Nicole Kibert via Flickr.