Image from New York Year Zero.

Black Bear Apologizes for Oi!Fest, Santos Party House Closes Down

Whenever a large racist skinhead show makes its way to town it leaves a disastrous trail in its wake.

As many of you have been watching, NYC Antifa and antifascists from around the country have been raising the profile of the neo-Nazi Oi!Fest 2016 concert coming to New York City.  Oxblood, Offensive Weapon, Battle Zone, Close Shave and others fill out a line-up that has become the edge of the “white noise” music scene.

The show was originally booked at the Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This was not overly surprising as the bar had been a venue to the controversial Operation Equinox tour from the nationalist post-industrial website Heathen Harvest. Though the racist side of neofolk is often less known to venues, antifascists called in and made it incredibly clear what Heathen Harvest was promoting and the problematic behavior of several of the bands on the bill, including Blood and Sun.

This time the show was less ambiguous, and made up of a more working-class fascist contingent rather than the esoteric mysticism of the neofolk crowd.

After the announcement came in, people went to their social media and called in to share their disappointment with Black Bear once again siding with Nazis. This time Black Bear Bar eventually caved in and canceled the show. They quickly put up an apology, backtracking for their booking.

It is with deep remorse, shared by all members of the BlackBear Bar team that we write this statement expressing our apologies to our neighbors, customers, patrons, friends and the artistic community for our part in the Oi fest, which was scheduled at BlackBear this past weekend. We have decided to cancel the remainder of this event and sincerely regret our negligence in allowing this to happen

To best grasp how this happened, it’s important to understand the nuance of the day-to-day operations of a music venue. There are a number of team members, both internal and external, which allow us to provide quality programming seven days a week. This community includes a number of outside promoters. Many of these promoters are folks with whom we have worked for a number of years and built strong, trusting relationships with.

One of these promoters brought us this event, with a short list of bands who would take part in the weekend, including Oxblood as a headliner, who did meet our booking standards. It wasn’t until much later, and after much assurance to the contrary, that the problematic nature of this event was brought to our attention. Obviously we should have and take full responsibility for the lack of oversight.
We acted as fast as we could and have cancelled the duration of the program. We have made it clear to the parties involved that we want absolutely no part in the values represented by and through this event.

As one of the last independently owned and operated creative spaces in Williamsburg, Black Bear has hosted all forms of diverse creative expression, from GLBTQ parties, Latino, Asian, hip hop, R ‘N B, Burlesque, performance art, progressive political events, and community outreach initiatives. For that we take full responsibility and would like to extend our sincere apologies to the community for our negligence. We can assure you all that this incident has been eye opening to us, and forced us to readjust our booking procedures. We will continue to host events that meet our highest standards and promote tolerance and inclusiveness in all forms.

While Black Bear was the venue, the promoter, a man named Curtis, was who brought it to them. He later issued another statement trying to defend against the growing backlash.

The purpose of this letter is to sincerely apologize to Black Bear Bar, New Island Presents and our community for my part in renting Black Bear Bar to promoters for May 28ths shows. As a venue finder, I occasionally work with these entities to book various shows with promoters looking for venues, which is the case here. Unfortunately we did not properly screen this event.

Let’s be clear, neither the venue nor I have any association with this group of people outside of allowing someone looking to rent or(sic) venue without thoroughly enough screening the show. Neither the venue nor myself had any involvement in booking or promoting and of the bands for this night.

While we had no behavior issues of any sort at this event, it becomes apparent that their(sic) are underlying political tones to the genre that can be very offensive. The show was explained to us as a punk rock show and underlying details were obscured. We missed the mark.

I would encourage members of our community to not lay blame to the venue for said show as they always (sic) professional, considerate and host to a huge variety of wholesome music. Once again, I sincerely apologize for my role in this event and hope our community can allow us some understanding and forgive.

While Black Bear did host the first night of the show, they canceled the second night leaving Oi!Fest without a venue. That is when they went to the Santos Party House, a club that is co-owned by Andrew WK and the rapper Despot (among several others). Antifascist organizers reached out to Andrew WK and Despot via social media to ask them why their venue would host such an event. While Andrew WK remained silent, Despot was angered by the insinuation that he had anything to do with it and lashed out. Santos even bent over backwards to host the neo-Nazis and canceled the band Emergency Protocol’s show to clear the venue.

Someone known as New York Year Zero on Twitter came out to the venue to see exactly what type of people were at this show. His photos reveal pretty clearly that this was a group closely allied with neo-Nazi street scenes from the U.S. and Europe, and claims that it was a non-racist skinhead were false.

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Skinheads at the show were reportedly Seig Heiling even though they were asked by promoters not to because it ends up as photographic evidence.  The code-word they use to refer to this is “waving to Kyle.”

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Things were apparently not doing well for the Santos Party House as they closed down the day after Oi!Fest, even though there were still dates booked later into the summer.

The bands in question have remained relatively silent throughout the affair, with only Oxblood going to their Facebook page to post a picture from the first night filled with angry skinheads moshing. The most popular (by Nazi standards) bands on the bill have tried their best to avoid clear associations with their Nazi roots, but those connections are clear when their rhetoric is stripped away.

Paul Dirk, a member of Close Shave, also played for neo-Nazi bands like Razors Edge and English Rose who released albums on well-known Nazi labels like Dim Records. They are known for other acts like Panzerknacker, Ultima Thule, Combat 84, and Celtic Warrior.

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Close Shave

As Anti-Fascists Online reported, Close Shave has tried to become a more mainstream Oi! band by hiding their Nazi roots.

Like many other far right bands they try to hide the fact in public and go to great lengths to deny it but the proof is in the pudding as they are still writing right wing lyrics to their most recent songs.

They have played with many of the notorious White Power bands in Britain such as the gigs they did in 1989 – May 6th in Loughborough with Violent Storm, English Rose, Skullhead and Guttersnipe Army, May 13th in Consett with Skullhead, and another in Consett on October 28th with Skullhead and Brutal Attack. Not to mention a more recent gig with American boneheads Brassic.

They’ve also played support to Skrewdriver during Skrewdriver’s nazi period. In fact over the years Close Shave have play­ed with al­most every Nazi / RAC band doing the rounds. They even name check Skull­head on one of their Link Re­cords re­lea­ses.

In 1993 Close Shave played a gig in Germany with nazi band Razors Edge and a few others. That gig was recently released on DVD. The cover shows white Skinheads attacking black people.

Close Shave still regularly play with extremist right wing bands and RAC bands.
Every year in Blackpool there’s a “secret” gig for fascist bands who aren’t welcome at the Rebellion festival. Close Shave is regularly part of that line-up. Not only does the band play, but it have they also played a part in organizing it.

Offensive Weapon has followed Close Shave’s lead in attempting to create a complicated smokescreen that provides some level of cover for their politics and history. They have released an album with the openly neo-Nazi record label Pure Impact, and the lead singer often wears an “Anti ANTIFA” shirt that is popular among the Nazi subculture. They attempt to describe themselves just as “patriotic,” but when their lyrics and relationships are put on the table, it ends up just being a cowardly attempt at avoiding their associations.

Battle Zone has a more obvious history, as they were a staple in the British neo-Nazi skinhead scene until their first break-up in 1994. The lead singer, Alex Ellui, moved to Peru from England after pressure from his “comrades” in Combat 18. They have tried to be “non-political” since then, but that is merely a way of avoiding the complications that racist organizing brought them in the past. While they try to avoid explicit politics in their lyrics, they continue to tour with bands that do and keep the racist skinhead scene close to their heart. They even get nostalgic on occasion and bring back earlier racialist lyrics in their songs and join in at Rock Against Communism events.

While many of the bands try to hide behind relationships with nationalists of color, their crews and goals are obvious. What is even clearer is that the community around them is not going to tolerate their attempt at holding public events. Not only were antifascist organizers ready when Oi!Fest began in NYC, but the rest of community revolted against the venues that were bold enough to host them. The response from the Black Bear Bar is a good sign that bands like this will be hitting the black list, and that anti-racist values are being set as a standard for music and art venues in the city.

This should also send a message to non-racist Oi! bands to make sure an avoid the racist side as it looks like shows like Oi!Fest are intended to appeal to the non-political Trojan skinhead crowd as well.

Big thanks to much of the research from The Brooklyn Vegan, NYC Antifa, Anti-Fascist Online, New York Year Zero, and others.

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