February 18, 2018

Neofolk or Neovolk? One’s Personal Take on the Death in June Concert in Baltimore, MD

When one person went to see Death in June when they played recently in Baltimore, they walked out of the show with a different vibe about them than they walked in with. This is that story.

“Disillusioned in June”

This is my personal account. It is not scholarly and does not represent the particular ideology of any specific group. It’s my best attempt at being honest about a really crappy situation I put myself in and it’s mostly meant for people that I don’t think were deliberately doing anything to hurt anyone. Nonetheless, I think everyone who went to this event should look deeply at the decision they made and whether or not they would ever want to make it again.

As a young kid and into my adulthood I was heavily involved in various branches of the occult revival. I loved bands like COIL, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. However, it was in an issue of an old music magazine called Propoganda that introduced me to a band called Death in June in 1991. Their weird masks and apocalyptic aesthetic appealed to my love of horror and spookiness at that age. With bands like Christian Death and other acts that fetishized the terrors of World War II, I didn’t really think anything of it. Taking responsibility for anything at that age just wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind. In conjunction with my desire to violate taboos and a fairly estranged social situation, Death in June’s dismal music became an early favorite. So it’s twenty-something years later. A good friend of mine that enjoyed the band from the same time and for similar reasons gets us tickets to an upcoming Death in June show at the Baltimore Ottobar. Having not done any research into the band in years, I get very excited for this rare opportunity and think nothing more of it.

My first clue should have been seeing the gaggle of Red Emma’s (a local hub of education and action in my city – an amazing place that I quite love) kids sitting on the bench across the street shouting about Nazis. However, the entire crew averaged in at about nineteen or twenty years old so I wrote off their reaction to the band’s dubious shock aesthetic as nothing of substance. I even went so far as to send a text to a friend of mine who was organizing an action against the event and gave him some ignorant explanation based on my experience of the band from over twenty years ago as to why they weren’t Nazis and how I didn’t think folks knew what was up. This explanation turned out to be not just erroneous but utterly the opposite of what I was about to see. Now approximately eighty percent of the audience was what you’d expect to see at the local goth industrial club, and so I thought nothing of it at first.

Then I saw the first Call the Paramedics shirt, and then shit got even less subtle up to and including National Alliance patches and Nazi medals. This was not a crowd I wanted to be hanging out with all night. Mind you, they were a very small portion of the attendants but the fact that they were there at all was increasingly upsetting as the night went on. Most of the folks were just sort of willfully ignorant of what was around them. Just like me.

Now the band plays and well… I’m not going to get into the band’s stuff since there are other fine articles that I read last night explaining why they shouldn’t get any more attention or publicity. What I’ll recount here is what I saw in the audience’s reaction. Again, the vast majority of the audience just quietly swayed to the weird folk sound of the band’s music.

Then there were the glaring exceptions. I noticed Kevin I. Slaughter in the audience. His publishing company – Underground Amusements – publishes some of the works of Jack Donovan an anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-equality author. There was a couple next to me that was chanting out any line they found adequately racist and kept yelling for a song called “Enemy Within” that I’d never heard before (I looked the lyrics up when I got home and was not surprised what I found. Ugh.).

This was the point where my anxiety turned into abject shame. I was ashamed to be listening to the music. I was ashamed to have given my money to the event. And most of all I was ashamed because I hadn’t done my homework and just felt like a completely duped jackass.

When I got outside, it was all pretty much laid bare. The folks who had been asked to cover or remove offensive symbols re-revealed them (the extremely anti-racist staff of the venue was extremely vigilant in their enforcement of this standard inside the club and anyone was who did not comply was told they had to leave – outside the club they had no say) and it was at this point that I just said “Fuck this” and walked home feeling like a sucker that had played a part in something that was really disrespectful and shameful.

I’m not an activist. I’m just somebody that was into some questionable, irresponsible junk when I was young and was, like most of the audience, attending out of misplaced sense of nostalgia. I had convinced myself the band was harmless and assumed the sketchy stuff was for shock value and spookiness. Even if this was true (which upon further research of modern accounts of the band’s ideology is most certainly not) – the fact that Nazis, racists, and other radical right wing thinkers are drawn to their shows says something about the band that is pretty fucking clear. Their events provide a venue at which these people are comfortable and interact. It provides a commons of sorts for a type of thinking that is nothing short of evil and encourages folks to revere real pain, fear, dehumanization and atrocity.

So in conclusion, I’m not saying that you can’t go listen to the music you like no matter how aberrant its lyrics or scene might be. I’m just saying that a band’s fans are emblematic of its intent and I will not be a part of that sort of agenda again. I am never going to another Death in June show (or seeing anyone else that shares a scene or record label with them), am ashamed I ever did, and humbly ask that you not support it either.

Yours Truly,

Disillusioned in June

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.