Border Crashers

Red State Riot waves the black flag

It was Labor Day morning, and I was labored out(Fats-speak for "I didn't feel like lifting an arm"). Either way, I did little more than read my e-mail and MySpace account for any last-minute goings-on I might want to check out. After denying the tenth friend request from a "hot girl" named "Jenny" (Net-speak for a male cop named Chaz), I checked the MySpace bulletins for useful, music-related information. Sure enough, there was a posting by Red State Riot, Palm Beach County's political thrash-punk trio. I knew the band had been on tour in Germany (after a so-so tour of the East Coast), so I figured this was an update of sorts. But it was mostly to announce that the group filmed a video for its song "Bring Down Their Borders." A link took me to Red State Riot's website, where the video was embedded above the band's photo-filled tour diary, which contained this nugget:

"The first show of the RSR European tour was out of control," guitarist/vocalist Pete Gross wrote. "About 50-60 punks not only beat the crap out of the Bop Bush blow-up doll, but also riotgrrls humped him to death, then ripped his head off. Then the crowd tried to actually light the remains of Bush on fire!"

Well, then, I thought, it is settled — Fats needed to hear more about this most excellent adventure. I met with Gross later that day, and his feelings about the two tours were about what I expected: The German tour was better.

"In Germany, the promoters and club owners give you really good food every night," Gross said, noting that the band's German-based label, Friendly Cow Records, helped with most of the tour. "They give you a place to stay at night, and when you wake up, they have breakfast ready. That's just the way they do it over there."

They didn't treat you that way in, say, Philadelphia?

"In Philly, some hardcore kid threw a trash can at us for playing 'Bring Down Their Borders,'" Gross said. "He had some friends with him, but they didn't seem to stick up for him. After he threw the can, we yelled at him, and he ran out of the club. His boys didn't do anything."

All right, so there are some reactionaries in the hardcore scene — it's nothing new. RSR's drummer, Dean Vincent (who sat out the German tour), once played in Method of Destruction, fronted by the right-leaning, politically incorrect shit-stirrer Billy Milano. The real shock came when RSR played in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"I thought it would be a right-wing, good-ol'-boy crowd, but it wasn't at all," Gross said. "We were a little nervous onstage because no one looked too happy. But afterward, most of the people we talked to agreed with our politics."

What's so strange about that? If hardcore kids can be right-wingers, why can't Southerners be lefties? Pete?

"The thing is, after the next band played, we found out that a lot of the people there were into white power," Gross added, still wondering how RSR made it through the night unscathed.

Indeed, everyone seems to be hating on Dubya. It's like... Europe.

"In the mid-'90s, it was cool to be an American band touring Europe," Gross said. "Everyone wanted to be an American. Their bands wanted to sound like us, they wanted to dress like us, and a lot of them wanted to move here. Now it's the opposite. They're sick of us, sick of our politics. And they appreciate their own culture more. You can walk around Berlin and hear people from France or Norway talk shit about us."

Of course, being foreigners, they do all their Uncle Sam-bashing in English, Gross noted. If you're wondering just how much they loathe us, here's a quick comparison: Gross got less shit for his Italian cap than for his American accent — and this is after the World Cup. But if nationality is a handicap, it's not the only one.

"A lot of European promoters are getting away from booking smaller tours," Gross said. "It's harder for small bands like us to go through there now. But at the same time, when you're a small band playing small towns, they're very appreciative. They're amazed that an American band would bother to travel to their town. A lot of times, it's the coolest thing that happens to them there all year."

Yes, especially when it's an event called "Slut Fest" and it's held at a city hall in Bavaria. Of course, getting to play any state-sponsored venue is cool, sluts or not — gotta put those tax dollars to work, you know.

"We played at a youth center, which was funded by the government," Gross said. "You don't see too many government-funded punk shows in the States. When you're not blowing all your money dropping bombs on people, you'll have a little left over for the arts."

And even though money and touringare mutually exclusive for a DIY band like RSR, it's what they live for. So, yes, another tour of Germany is planned for the winter. But first, there's another place the band wants to tour.

"Texas," Gross said. "We know some people there."

Ah... Bush country. Talk about taking the fight to the enemy. And as always, Gross and crew will be doing it themselves. Though, if Cindy Sheehan wants to join in, I'm sure she's welcome. Just keep her away from the Bop Bush doll. That's strictly for the grrrls.

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