A car wash in Brooklyn packed with people on a chilly October afternoon. All the kids with beanies rolled up just so as Fitzcarraldo was projected on the walls. I remember remarking on the non-space that still exists here- still space for the lungs of the city to stretch its membrane over steel ribs. Like this venue, wedged between freeways and subway viaducts in a place nobody actually knew the name of- was it Bed-Stuy? Was it Williamsburg? Bushwick?
The line-up was nuts. Perfect Pussy, LVL UP, Porches, Pity Sex, Sheer Mag, Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Destruction Unit, and a band from Providence called Downtown Boys. We had to play show later and I remember going to Champs for food but we really wanted to see Destruction Unit. We hustled back and Downtown Boys were just starting. I’d heard of them while looking for bands to play with this on this east coast tour but nothing could really prepare me for what happened next.
At the time the United States were in the midst of the Primaries, but, at the same time, it still felt like it was on the cusp of some sort of revolution. The neoliberal project was clearly failing, and the energy that had sparked Occupy was still abundant. That Trump would be elected just wasn’t an option. It just wasn’t. But that’s a year away. We’re here now in a car wash and a woman is controlling the stage.
I’ve never been so aware of my privilege. My whiteness. My cis-ness. And it was fine. I was welcome. But I still remember a pang of fleeting uselessness that overcame me. Here we are, five white dudes in a punk band soaking it in like a fucking Hard Times article. What are we hoping to achieve? Can art legitimately have any positive, lasting effect on our political predicament?
Which brings me to a Vice article I would read a couple months later. Titled 17 Albums That Aren't as Deep as You Think They Are" it was a typical listicle that just happened to hit hard when it came to Rage Against the Machine. Craig Jenkins writes; "We really thought the music had the power to help us change the world. I've had 20 years to mull it over, though, to watch what happens to youthful rebellion, and it ain't pretty. Decades on from Rage's landmark self-titled album, the wingnuts are nuttier, wars still rage, and cops are still trigger-happy. Rights aren't all equal yet. Mumia is still locked up. Youthful rebellion without focus, without organization, disperses. Disintegrates. We had it, and they fucked us, and we lost."
And there you have it. Social movement will be co-opted and absorbed by capitalism and then sold back to us. I hope I’m wrong, I hope I can be a part of the post-capitalist world, but for now it seems hopeless. Sorry.