|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 3||April, 2000|
Over a dozen people were injured in Kenema last week, after concertgoers clashed with police outside the Chaos Club, in the heart of the Shaian Prefecture. The riot concluded with fifty-three arrests, including that of Stevie Graves, lead vocalist of the concert headliners Underground Authority, the man whom most sources suggest is at the heart of this disturbance.
Underground Authority has been shrouded in controversy ever since the 1932 release of the massively successful A Legacy of Conspiracy. Although their debut spent a record twenty-six weeks on the Norlight popular music charts -- unheard of for a shock band -- UA attracted criticism from highly placed Revisionists, prominent officials, and the entire government of Exeter, all of whom had been verbally skewered in the album's lyrics. All self-respecting shock bands set out to break social taboos and offend the delicate sensibilities of religious groups and suburban parents, but few have been as consistently and unrelentingly political as UA and its front-man Graves. When UA disappeared for five cycles, paranoid fans feared that shadowy government forces had silenced the foursome.
The release of UA's follow-up album, Suspicious Consumption and the announcement of a world tour did much to allay these fears. With the events of last week and the detainment of Graves, however, the fan's elation may have been premature.
The Kenema gig was meant to kick off the tour. While Kenema lacks the ubiquitous shock culture found in Fort William and Sesshu's Dispensation District, the presence of a united network of intensely devoted fans ensures that playing "K-Town" is a high priority on every shock band's tour schedule. The very factors that make the Kenema crowd such a desirable audience may well have contributed to the Saturday-night firefight; the youth of Kenema are typically children of middle-management zombies and factory wage-slaves. They are disillusioned and disaffected, with a dim view of the future.
The Underground Authority performance seemed tailor-made to evoke these grim sentiments. "Ancient Jerusalemite texts speak of an Adversary opposed to life and everything pure in the world," proclaimed Graves above a rumbling current of bass guitar. "They called this enemy 'Satan.' In the older books it was 'Shaitan.' Today we have a new Adversary, one every bit as soulless and malicious. Its name is Shaian Mechanics." At this point, UA immediately launched into a furious rendition of their subversive hit "Product Placement."
Throughout the ninety-minute set, onstage trideo displays pummeled the audience with a constant barrage of provocative images. Grinning stiffs in tailored business suits juxtaposed with split-second glimpses of civilian war casualties was the most common motif. These people were murdered with Shaian products was the obvious message.
"Most companies have a Research and Development wing," uttered Graves between songs. "Shaian has a Rape and Destruction Division. Kenema has become a police state--" Graves paused as the crowd roared its agreement-- "Your mayor and police chief are enemy collaborators; puppets owned by Shaian. They are using you as guinea pigs in their product trials!" Immediately, UA flooded the Chaos Club with their latest single, "The Pact," accompanied this time by a slower progression of images. The slideshow consisted of newspaper headlines taken from the past few cycles. "Mayor LeStrade Pushes Through Tough Anti-Crime Legislation"; "Shaian CEO Hatsushiba Offers to Reinforce KPD"; "Kenema Police Chief Balmont Announces Establishment of SWAT Quick Response Teams."
The music ended abruptly, with Underground Authority dropping their instruments and leaving the stage without a further word or pause for applause. The trideo display continued, however, projecting one-by-one the names and photographs of each of the thirty-two innocent bystanders killed since the inception of the QRT "Gear Police." For nearly five minutes the only sound was the persistent hissing feedback from the stage amplifiers. The concert ended with a gap-toothed and grinning photograph of eight-cycle-old Bil Jansson, killed last month after a QRT Gear strayed onto the sidewalk during a mid-town high-speed chase.
The audience left the club in stunned silence, slowly coming down from the post-concert adrenaline rush within a block of the Shaian Tower, the evening's object of hatred.
It remains unclear who threw the first bottle, but soon there was a veritable hailstorm of broken glass showering the side of the tower. The situation escalated quickly. By the time the police arrived, the first fires had been lit.
The appearance of a pair of black and white Cheetah Polizei from the nearby QRT-9 station did nothing to soothe tensions. Steady winds minimized the effect of tear gas on the crowd, who pelted their attackers with bottles, bricks, and other available refuse. All hell broke loose when, in the haze and confusion, one of the Polizei inadvertently pinned a female shock fan under one of its massive feet, shattering her pelvis and both of her legs. Seeing this, one or two outraged protestors actually began to open fire with cheap KaySpec pistols. Although the 6mm gunfire was, of course, completely ineffective against state-of-the-art Shaian hardware, it was a potent demonstration of the extent the situation had degenerated.
After nearly an hour of total anarchy, a platoon of baton-wielding cops working in concert with the Cheetah Polizei (who provided merciless fire support with high-velocity rubber bullets) were able to subdue the unruly mob. Paramedics were called in to tend to the numerous wounded, and a metro bus was commandeered to cart away the arrests. Stevie Graves was pulled out of his hotel suite at midnight and charged with inciting a riot, although he had been kilometers away, enjoying drinks with a female fan, when the bulk of the riot was underway.
In the days after the unrest, various media pundits have bandied about pet theories about how the concert could get so out of hand. Some have accused Graves of cynically manipulating the youthful crowd's passions in an effort to attract more of the controversy Underground Authority has previously thrived on. Others believe that the audience was motivated by genuine, heartfelt frustration over their bleak lot in life and the oppression they see each day.
"The government is a crypto-fascist joke," declared shock enthusiast and guerrilla cinematographer 'Ogre,' who himself filmed much of the riot footage splashed all over the Hermes 72 networks. "The fight was our statement that we can only be pushed so far before we strike back. After a time, even the lowliest worm will turn, and all that," he mused philosophically.
Then, with a sly grin: "It was awesome."
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 3||April, 2000|
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