The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.
– Paul Robeson
Why do we think that we never have enough with just what’s inside of us? Today, today we must scream at the top of our lungs that we are Brown, we are smart, that nothing that they do can push it away!
– Victoria Ruiz, Downtown Boys
Paul Robeson was a seasoned actor, both in Theatre and Film productions, as well as a popular singer in the early 1900s. He was so talented, he was considered the 10th most popular star in British Cinema in 1937. Robeson was also a very outspoken activist against racism, fascism, and even the United States government itself for its imperialistic practices. He went so far as to put his career aside to concentrate on advocating against the fascist side of the Spanish Civil War. He used the platform he earned as an artist to advocate for the political and social causes he believed in. This, among other things, got him blacklisted by the US government during Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare, and subsequently, denied a passport. This rendered him unable to work, and by the time his travel status was reinstated years later, he had already moved into retirement and isolation due to his dwindling health.
That was almost 100 years ago.
You would think that the world would be in a better condition by now, wouldn’t you? 100 years is a long time.
After all, plenty of science fiction writers thought it would be possible, didn’t they? They dreamt of an end to problems like hunger, war, and poverty. That without these kinds of issues civilization could finally move on and be perfect. That our greatest obstacles should exist no further than the constant entropy of the universe and maybe even just getting over this whole “mortality” thing in the process. This was the future they imagined and expected. Hell, it just plain made sense. Right? This was science, you guys. Not eugenics, oh no no no nooo.
Well, here’s the funny thing about those writers–and I call it funny because it actually makes me laugh, haha–the sweeping majority of them, if not damn near all of them, were 1. White and 2. men. So, when it came to naming the definitive titans of dilemmas that were keeping our “great human race” from thriving on this planet in peace and harmony, racism and sexism didn’t make the cut.
That’s like saying “Traffic? What traffic?” when you’re the asshole facing the open road blasting Nugent going 56 in a 70 one-lane-one-way with everyone else stuck behind you slamming their horns with their heads.
The fucking nerve.
Well, as time progresses, some people smash open some new lanes. A good chunk of them don’t survive the jump, but have made way for other cars to get through nonetheless. Despite this, the first car keeps trying to stay in front of the others. It doesn’t get why the other cars are trying to pass it. It hears their honking and thinks they’re being rather rude. It then takes it upon itself to try and run them off the road. In some cases, it succeeds. And so, the Struggle continues.
But, in this day and age, the voices of struggle are louder. They reverberate from all corners of the world, and make the planet tremble with fever. Some write, some paint, some speak, and some sing.
Some even scream.
Downtown Boys are a beast of a band hailing from Providence, Rhode Island. They play a charge of punk so electrifying it’ll short out your senses. The guitars sound like they’re coming out of a fucking tesla coil, the drums are a sonic beating, the two saxophones in the band bring the songs to an entirely new wavelength of expression, and above all else, the vocals. Victoria Ruiz leads Downtown Boys with an unapologetic snarl that is meant to rouse even deaf eardrums.
Things that Downtown Boys actively oppose and fight against include: “the prison-industrial complex, racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds, eyes and hearts”.
The quote at the top of this post is taken from their new single, “Monstro”, which you can stream on YouTube below. The full-length it comes from, Full Communism, is out May 4th on Don Giovanni.
Their earlier releases are also available for purchase/download/streaming at their bandcamp. They go everywhere from jazz freakouts to Kleenex/LiLiPut style insanity. They even do a great cover of one of the greatest punk songs a lot of people haven’t heard of, Pekinska Patka’s “Poderimo Rok”. I’ll be crossing my fingers for them to play that one at Galax Z Fair IV.
As a music lover, Downtown Boys’ music fills me with a whole universe of emotions. But as a person of color, their music makes me glow from within. I’m filled with a radiant light of courage and purpose. I feel validated and empowered. I hope everyone reading this listens to them and goes to see them at the Fair. Especially people from my neck of the woods, the Rio Grande Valley. I really think you’d dig this.
Get your tickets here or at Melhart’s Music in McAllen.
So lately I’ve been watching the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It’s reminded me just how much of a fan of questions I am. I love mysteries and solving them. Something about solving a problem is very gratifying for me. I especially love questions that don’t as of yet have answers. The infinite space of “what could be” is so damn intriguing and exciting, aching to be explored, in my eyes.
I’m reminded of a time in my life when I had nothing but questions. Questions about my body, about who I was, who I was “supposed” to be, and whether anyone was really “supposed” to be anything. From the ages 12-18, I was plagued with a ridiculous pressure to take my fluid and shapeless form and mold it to something that would have helped me be a more palatable person in the eyes of my peers. Being in the oldest child in my family, I didn’t have an older sibling to influence me, and I don’t think my parents had much more of a grasp on who I was than I did myself, which didn’t help me in terms of “figuring myself out”. This is a formative period in any young person’s life. You’re still a sponge, but a much more picky sponge. Guidance is essential in whatever shape and form. Like most kids my age, I’d find my guidance in bands I listened to. Certain songs would make sense of everything in the world no matter how convoluted it all could really be. But I have to admit. Not once in my younger years did a band hit me as hard as Makthaverskan has in my now mid-twenties.
The way vocalist Maja Milner sings “Fuck You, Fuck You” near the end of the first track on their latest full-length, Makthaverskan II, has so much blood and guts in it, it should have teeth. Throughout the album, the same honest and brave voice occasionally sheds its outer shell to get some fresh, vulnerable air. It’s a much more confident and empowered sound than what I initially heard on their self-titled debut, which is still amazing, but somehow doesn’t shake its fists at the sky quite as uninhibitedly as their second album does. Makthaverskan is exactly the kind of band I needed when I was trying to figure my shit out as a young kid, or to at least feel like I had a grip on things. Especially at that age, when the feeling of control and being empowered, even if for a second, lasts a lifetime in memory. And at a point in my life when that wasn’t something I really knew, it would have been so amazing and helpful to have had it in such a pure and powerful form.
Listen to Makthaverskan II in its entirety from their bandcamp page here.
Musically, Makthaverskan takes pop structure to anthemic proportions with an approach which rivals that of every great emo/pop-punk band I could have fallen ass-over-tea-kettle for. The guitars, drums, and bass are all geniusly written; take the simple and elegant “Something More” for example. It begins on such humble notes and bursts so beautifully like a star that can no longer contain it’s pressure. That kind of grace is rare in a band. Every twist and turn throughout this record is a moment of pure illumination. I honestly can’t wait to see them at Galax Z Fair IV this year. I can’t wait to bear witness to this beautiful band.
Not to mention, they’re making one hell of a journey to get here. Poor Makthaverskan has JUST RECENTLY (like yesterday) gotten their travel visas approved. They’ve already missed dates on their tour. And they’ve posted on their Facebook page apologizing for it! I don’t know about you, but that means something to me. These people just really want to come over here and play. All the way from Gothenburg, Sweden. Here’s a file called “Makthaverskan is this far away.jpg” to give a little geographical perspective.
They’ve also started an Instagram account (@maktmaktmakt) that you can follow to join them on their journey. It’s quickly become one of my new favorites, seeing as I’m on there quite frequently as well. Here’s the first photo:
If you speak the language of feelings, I recommend you come feel this band at Galax Z Fair IV.
I say to you, those still searching for purpose and belonging, but whom have yet to taste their fruits with your tongue: your heroes will arrive in 5 days.
Below are the rest of their tour dates w/ Self Defense Family (ALSO playing GZFIV this year!) Finally, is it really fucking cool to see McAllen on this thing or is it just me?
Off to feel up a storm.
One such band that I would like to put the spotlight on is this incredible four-piece from Nashville called Heavy Cream. They’re signed to Jeff the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat Recordings and have released a few 7″s, a split with RTX, and a full-length titled Danny.
There’s a lot of bands out there playing their hearts out right now, and this is definitely one of them. You’ve got Mimi slaying on guitar, Seth killing it on bass, Tiffany banging it out on drums, and Jessica kicking out the motherfucking jams on vocals. It’s like the Ramones fucked MC5 in the back alley of the venue they recorded their first record at. Posted a couple of my favorite tracks below.
Fucking wig out to this shit!
Heavy Cream – Summer Bummer
Heavy Cream – Deadbeat
Can’t wait to see these girls (and guy) tear my face off at Galax Z Fair. I don’t know if the event itself has announced them yet, so consider this a ‘leak’ of sorts.
This makes me happy for several reasons. Mainly, I fucking love of Montreal, and seeing them in my own neck of the woods will be amazing, as I’m sure watching your favorite band in your home town must feel for anyone in that situation. However, this means something for the Rio Grande Valley. Allow me to elaborate.
These are the posters that I’ve seen around UTPA promoting Galax Z Fair. Each poster has a ‘quote’ on it that reads “The valley never gets kewl bands”.
There was once truth to those words. I must admit I’ve said them myself before. However, that grim veil of obscurity has not touched down in the Rio Grande Valley for quite some time. This is because people took initiative; people who believe in this place and it’s potential. These people made efforts to push away the dark cloud of doubt that made this place seem so very desolate and thanks to them, things began happening here; things we hadn’t experienced yet; special things. Before we knew it, bands we’ve grown to know and love as fans and friends began sharing stages with their influences. The ‘unthinkable’ was now very much thinkable. Our world is growing ever larger. To use a Legend of Zelda reference, bit by bit, our world map is slowly being lured out from under the clouds.
Citizens of the Rio Grande Valley, we are in an age of enlightenment. At the current pinnacle of that enlightenment is the Galax Z Fair with of Montreal at the forefront. This is the beginning of something great. I can feel it in my bones. I can’t wait to see how this all comes together. I can’t wait to see who else is playing this event. I can’t wait to get my ticket tomorrow at the early bird pre-sale. I can’t miss this for the life of me.
in between two walls of final projects that are due this week. Yes, my dear readers, the dreaded
is upon us and I’m up to my neck in my third-to-last semester of college’s coup de grâce. However, I have just acquired some information that is bigger than finals week, bigger than the biggest mother ever referenced in a ‘yo momma’ joke–hell–even bigger than the planet Earth itself.
Come March 14th of next year, 2012 (the supposed ‘final’ year of humanity), the Rio Grande Valley music scene is going to be hit by something the likes of which it has never seen. Something of galactic proportions, if you will.
Local ghost promoter Galax Z Bear has announced that he will be having a day-long music event that will feature an eclectic array of ‘nationally-established artists’, which, as cryptic as it is, is pretty exciting. Now, while all of this is really great on it’s own, my favorite part of this little gem of news is this: he’s calling it
I don’t know about you, but I want to know absolutely everything there is to know about this event. So, here’s what I’ve gathered from this flyer and some related Facebook posts:
-the event will take place at Sofie’s Saloon in McAllen, Texas. This is one of the oldest–if not the oldest–bar in McAllen. The outside area in the back is huge and has motorcycle parts hanging from trees. I remember calling it the ‘Narnia of bars’ from time to time.
-there will be an ‘early bird’-type pre-sale on Tuesday. Tickets will only be $20. I’ve a strong feeling that this will go up a bit once some names from the bill are dropped, so it would be wise to scoop these up while you can. No word of full ticket prices at this time.
This is pretty exciting. So far, Galax Z Bear has proven to bring down some pretty great bands to this neck of the woods. (The Strangeboys, Air Waves, Miniature Tigers, and most recently, NOBUNNY to name a few) I can’t wait to see who he’s bringing down for this event. Space bands? Do those even exist?
I’ll post more information as soon as I get it. Keep your eyes peeled and make The Photon God your browser’s homepage in the meantime. Also add the Facebook Group if you haven’t already. Also, if you hear of anything regarding “>Galax Z Fair, send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, back to my leaning towers of final projects. This goes out to all of my night owls either working on final projects or studying for final exams out there. Courage, friends.
Tijuana Panthers – “Creature”