So here it is-a note of hope for all those who have seen the idle, mindless, thoughtless majority scratch at the hope for progress in America. It was a note of hope; it was a moment. It was a movement of almost pure achievement. There was no selfishness, no secular thinking, just a bunch of strangers banding together without a word after being pushed around for trying to enjoy some music. It was non-violent, even with mace in our eyes and mouths. It was non-violent, even after they stomped our goals we did not throw fists, we just continued to push because all we wanted was to enjoy the music of Death From Above 1979.
Standing in line behind the Beauty Bar, my brain was surging with excitement. I had seen a lot of great shows at SXSW-all kinds of performances of different styles and emotions and not a one disappointed me. But above all I had been waiting to see a band reunite that just happened to be one of my all-time favorites. I can still remember the car ride years ago when my friend showed me the eleven tracks of some of greatest music I had ever heard. You’re a Woman I’m a Machine is an album that I can’t get over, even now. And now I was waiting in line to see said band and it felt too good to be true but most things at SXSW seemed to be like that. Even though it was thirty minutes until the band came on and I had no chance of making it in because the venue was filled to capacity, I was still excited. I was in line right in front of the fence and could see the stage clearly. I knew this would only happen once and I knew I was very lucky to see the reunion of such a powerful group. And then there it was the unmistakable noise…
Dun dun dun. I felt my heart racing; there was no mistaking it. Death From Above 1979 had taken the stage and the noise they were making was the intro to “Turn It Out”. I grabbed the fence and started jumping and shaking it. I screamed every word, “Don’t hold your breath I’m on the move.” I could feel the drum booming . It was pure enjoyment. Everyone to my right and left was having a blast, slapping on the fence, screaming and singing as I was. It was nothing disorderly; it was just a bunch of Austin locals and myself and all we were doing was enjoying ourselves. But I must have been wrong because some cop decided he was going to take control and deal out some justice behind the safety of the fence; he sprayed the crowd with mace. And this, unsurprisingly, rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because they decided to try and pull down the fence and get that can of mace so we could start enjoying ourselves again.
At this point I was still staying out of it and still just trying to listen to the music while I was coughing hard from the mace. Then one of the staff tried to hit my hand off the fence with some steel knuckles and just like that I was in it. I yelled, “This testosterone junkie is trying to break my hand!” and people to my right and left pushed the fence against him to save my hand from a horrible fate. People I didn’t even know helped me and that’s when I noticed it: It was like the fairlance system-everyone was watching out for each other. By this point it was all Austin locals, all the badge-holding journalists had split, but I was not about to abandon my unnamed brothers. I grabbed the fence, trying to pull it down and then some brave soul grabbed the top of the fence and went over to the other side where he was being punched with closed fists by cops and security. At this point we all moved as one and pulled down the fucking fence to get one of our own back, one or two of us grabbed his leg, and pulled him back to our side.
There was no fence now and it was just us and them. There were many more of us than them; we even had a champion. A man that seemed more fearless than all of us-he was a real juggernaut. He did not have big muscles or anything of the sort. He was just an average mad man, whose eyes read, “You’re not going to take me down.” He just kept screaming, “DFA! DFA! DFA!” He may of not been doing this for the right reason, but he was standing strong with us, fearless and mad with mace in his eyes. I will tell you seeing him made me sure that we were going to win or die right in this spot.
It was one line of security and cops that seemed scared as hell with their mace and tasers and one line of Death From Above fans that wanted to watch their music in peace. Now there was no fence but we would not meet violence with violence. We were going to try and push on, to take our beating but still keep standing. They kept us back long enough with the tasers to pull the fence back up and we rushed and grabbed it again. I remembered at this point the song “Black History Month” and thought how perfect the lyrics “hold on, hold on, children,” were and how it fit with what we did, we held on and things went quiet again. It felt like we had won. We all relaxed and started dancing again. I could hear that juggernaut-that werewolf screaming in victory. He grabbed my shoulder and said, “DEATH FROM ABOVE, BABY!” I put my hand on the back of his head, smiled and asked him, “Are you having fun?!” and without a word I knew his answer was yes, and that this was one of the best possible versions of himself.
Our victory was short lived as mounted police came swarming through us. I remember one man who for no reason was being punched in the face, and our juggernaut was stomped by a horse, but still we had no fear. Every time they came through us we would disband and come together again when we could. It was like when a barracuda goes through a school of fish. There was nothing they could do because in the background all you could hear was the song “Romantic Rights” and it gave us more energy; we had more fight than ever. We would not stay apart. We would not give up and just like that the police pulled out and without us throwing one punch. We had won and the band only had to stop once so we even got the full set and I will say what a great set it was. It was the perfect way to end SXSW and I will say that night gave me hope that if people in America can band together there, then they can band together anywhere to fight off oppression. It was a special moment in time and I was so glad to be a part of it. To all my brothers that were a part of it – thank you and I will see you on the other side.
Here are some videos from YouTube that captured the night:
by Josh Davis