Concert Review

Concert Review: Liturgy, .gif from god and The HIRS Collective

On Monday, a fellow DJ and I took a drive up to Richmond to see Liturgy perform live at the Richmond Music Hall.

Everything about the experience was surreal.

Richmond is a beautiful city. It’s a real city with a real city feel unlike that of Raleigh or Durham. Something about it felt historical, or perhaps I was just exhausted from the drive up and easily impressed by cool architecture.

Photo by STEPHEN POORE on Unsplash

Liturgy performed in Raleigh a couple nights before, but we’d decided to catch the all-ages Virginia show instead. It became something of an adventure, driving over a hundred miles to catch a live show in a small bar.

And by the time we headed back to North Carolina, we were both haunted by the majesty of what we witnessed at the Richmond Music Hall. Though the trip itself was tumultuous (read: exhausting, physically and mentally), it was ultimately worth it.

.gif from god

The first openers of the night, .gif from god are a 6-piece whitebelt screamo band. Based in Richmond, the band were comfortable on their home turf. It was interesting to see a “local” band play in an area that was foreign to me but familiar to many of the other attendees. There’s a special sort of liminality to such spaces.

I actually didn’t realize until they took the stage that the band’s members had been leisuring outside the venue when we arrived. That’s another thing I really like about smaller shows; you end up sharing the space with the artists rather than merely intersecting for a brief time and then moving on.

cover for “.​.​.​defragmented​.​.​.​reformatted” by .gif from god

.gif from god was ravenous. Between the distorted guitar, brutal drums and virulent vocals, the room became something of a hornet’s nest. Even when the bassist snapped a string and was forced to briefly play without it, the band (and audience) never lost its energy.

Things became so unrestrained at points that several audience members took to the pit to gesticulate wildly in a frenzy of fists and feet. By the end of the set, my neck was sore and my heart was beating ferociously.

The HIRS Collective

The first thing I noticed about The HIRS Collective was the magnitude of amps they set up onstage. Like some kind of IRL tetris, the assemblage mystified the audience. I can remember hearing people behind me comment on the likelihood of long-term hearing loss following this set, and I was glad I’d brought my earplugs.

The HIRS Collective, based in Philadelphia, dedicate themselves to the defense and celebration of “any and all folks who have to constantly face violence, marginalization and oppression.”

Cover for “The First 100 Songs – Remastered” by The HIRS Collective

They made this fact abundantly clear as they prefaced their set by dedicating their work to all trans women who exist, have existed and will exist.

The HIRS Collective delivered a unique and heavy performance, blending disco-inspired dance music such as Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” with visceral metal vocals. As expected of a queercore band, The HIRS Collective was unabashedly hardcore and unafraid to have fun onstage.

I’m not sure if I will ever again have the privilege of witnessing a room of metalheads hesitantly headbang to Whitney Houston.


Liturgy is a “yearning, transcendental” black metal band from Brooklyn. Headed by vocalist and guitarist Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy is both a musical project and a work of experimental, theologic art.

Upbeat strains of guitar and bass coalesce with Hendrix’s icy screams, creating something that punctuates the concept of music as an experience.

Cover for “93696” by Liturgy

The show was ritualistic. Moving to the music was like moving in accordance with a divine heartbeat. The audience became a single entity, thrumming rhythmically like a complex piece of machinery, waxing and waning like seagrass buffeted by the tides.

Such is the effect of Liturgy’s music, self-described as “[existing] in the space between metal, experimental, classical music and sacred ritual.”

Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: Babes in Toyland

I had a weird time last week. After contracting a cold from a Durham Chuck-E-Cheese’s, (I won’t add context) I spent around seven days in such acute respiratory distress that I reckon I only slept about three hours each night.

When you’re deprived of sleep, reality becomes indistinct. Such an effect is only furthered when you continue to attend your regular 9-to-5 and self-medicate with menthol-strawberry flavored lozenges.

It was during this strange and (frankly) horrible time that I became slightly unhinged. The only thing that kept me sane was the collection of music I listened to as I struggled to fall asleep.

I first heard Babes in Toyland at three in the morning as I lay on the couch sipping my third cup of herbal tea. Considering the band’s sound, it’s a strange juxtaposition.

Babes in Toyland was an American rock band formed 1987 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though the band no longer exists, it certainly left an imprint on the music world.

“Babes In Toyland performing in Groningen, Netherlands, 1991,’ uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Greg Neate, licensed CC BY 2.0

The Band

Babes in Toyland consisted of a series of women, ultimately ending with frontwoman Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero and bassist Clara Salyer (brought on in 2015).

Bjelland and Barbero met at a mutual friend’s barbecue, laying the foundation for what would eventually become one of the most inlfuential female-fronted bands in the alternative rock scene.

Before disbanding in 2001, the band produced three studio albums, “Spanking Machine” (1990), “Fontanelle” (1992) and “Nemesisters” (1995).

The band was known for its particular brand of harsh rock music, with Bjelland’s screaming voice and lashing guitar mingling with the intensity of Barbero’s drums.

Though not technically a “feminist” band, Babes in Toyland covered themes related to female empowerment and feminine rage.

I, I live in the densest corner
Of the deepest mind of the f–most room
And sing “the stars they swing from their chandelier strings” (I know real love)
You know who you are
You’re dead meat, mother–
You don’t try to rape a goddess

“Bluebell,” Babes in Toyland

Riot Grrrls

While their sound is decidedly more grunge than that of their many contemporaries, such as Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland is largely considered to fall under the “riot grrrl” umbrella.

Riot Grrrl, born from the culture of sexism rife within the punk community, grew into a culture of its own with the efforts of inspired, passionate and angry young women.

Babes in Toyland captures this anger in a bold and brash display.

Cover for “Nemesisters” by Babes in Toyland

Some tracks are purely vengeful while others are irreverent and sardonic. They’re consistently punchy, tinged with a classic grunge smokiness around the edges.

Lyrics are cheeky, insolent and occassionally abusive, laden with vulgarity, profanity and innuendo. Listeners are struck by a sense of brilliant confidence, a kind of uncaring conviction typically reserved for men.

I wear the same face as you
And you share my sick point of view
But I do hate you
Vomit my heart
Pull my head apart
Vomit my heart
Pull my legs apart

“Vomit Heart,” Babes in Toyland

This doesn’t mean that Babes in Toyland is necessarily masculine, but rather that they redefine and recontextualize what femininity can be. Listening to their discography doesn’t invoke a sense of imitation, but rather the creation of something original and wholly unapologetic.

Cover for “Fontanelle” by Babes in Toyland

Their work is inspiring. Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill testifies to this, stating in an interview, “Even in the ’90s, Babes in Toyland was a band that was hugely important to us and we were like, God if only we could play awesome shows like Babes in Toyland.”

For women and girls feeling displaced in the music scene, it’s a valuable experience to not only look up to a female-fronted band, but to look up to a female-fronted band that’s arguably heavier and harsher than many of its male-fronted counterparts.

Song Recommendations

  • “Bluebell”
  • “Ariel”
  • “Vomit Heart”
  • “Pain in My Heart”
Classic Album Review

Album Spotlight: “Only Theatre of Pain”

“Only Theatre of Pain” is the first studio album by American goth band Christian Death. This album is exactly what I would imagine as the backdrop for a Poppy Z. Brite or Anne Rice novel, something vampiric and sensual and darkly romantic.

Released through Frontier records on March 24, 1982, the 16-track album is 52 minutes of pure gothic insanity.

Christian Death 12/3/1982 at the Cove, Hermosa Beach, CA. Rozz Williams (vocals) & Johnnie Sage (guitar) pictured, picture released into the public domain.

For individuals interested in getting into goth music or for those simply curious as to what “goth” sounds like, “Only Theatre of Pain” is by far one of the most archetypically goth albums I can recommend.

The album smacks of classic goth aesthetics, with invocations of magic, blood and allusions to religious texts and the works of Poe. Each track is its own story, united under a cowl of enigmatic mystique.

It’s a riveting experience.

The Album

The album’s opening track, “Cavity – First Communion” starts with foreboding church bells and a swell of drums and guitar.

The melody is warm and vaporous like incense smoke, the trilling guitar at times echoing the cries of a church choir. Vocalist Rozz Williams falls in with his distinctive voice, both raspy and insouciant, and weaves together a tapestry of dark poetry.

Let’s skirt the issue of discipline
Let’s start an illusion
With hand and pen
Re-read the words and start again
Accept the gift of sin
The gift of …

“Cavity – First Communion,” Christian Death

Following this song is “Figurative Theatre,” one of Christian Death’s most popular tracks.

The song opens with with immediate energy. The rolling guitar slant is classic. Every time I hear it, I know exactly what’s coming next, and that’s the brilliance of Rozz Williams’s penchant for extended metaphor. This brilliance pervades throughout the rest of the album.

“Rozz at Daucus Karota concert,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by B. Dippel, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Breath ballet prancers spin on porcelain backbones
A child’s muddled cry turns into hilarity
Ungracious freeloaders leave their dead on a doorstep
Flowers of doom all bloom in prosperity

Their razor sharp tongues invite to relax
As they slip the skin on your eyelids back
Invasive spectators get into the act
With roses and candles, silver knives and spoons
With silver knives and spoons

“Figurative Theatre,” Christian Death

What I most admire about Christian Death is the way lyrics are translated through the mechanism of Rozz Williams.

His lyrics are intentionally abstract, blending imagery both horrific and holy to illustrate an ambiguous picture. When paired with his irreverent voice, otherwise grotesque concepts become dramatic and theatrical.

The album’s tenth track, “Prayer,” is a sort of intermission — largely instrumental and avant garde (reminiscent of the sounds of Williams’s Shadow Project) — that ushers in the following (bonus) track, “Deathwish,” and its melancholic nihilism.

I see the end, I see the end
Well it was open so I crawled inside
And someone up ahead was crying
Well someone up ahead was dying
Lost in the darkness, lost in today…

“Deathwish,” Christian Death

Another notable track, “Desperate Hell,” opens with an eerie harmony of ghostly wails, drums and guitar. Williams’s quavering voice enters before the melody becomes manic and straight-up dastardly as the song’s speaker is dragged into eternal damnation.

Final Thoughts

For fans of the esoteric and occasionally inscrutable, “Only Theatre of Pain” is a valuable resource.

From start to finish, the album is a journey. Perhaps even a horror, with the lurid and the beautiful posed side-by-side. Rozz Williams does not tell the listener what to think, but rather creates a vivid picture to do so for him.

Through the progression of abstract concepts, Williams tells a convoluted tale of perversion and devotion and subversion.

Every time I listen to the album, I notice something different. The album is so multitudinous, both in its lyrical construction and experimental sound design, that there seems to always be something new to notice.

Recommended Tracks

  • “Cavity – First Communion”
  • “Deathwish”
  • “Desperate Hell”
  • “Spiritual Cramp”

New Radio: A Riot Grrrl Starter Pack

This week, we explored a (very brief) history of the riot grrrl subculture and the efforts that fueled its progression.

As a quick recap, riot grrrl is a subculture that started in the 90s out of Olympia, Washington in response to the pervading sexism of the punk scene.

Photo by Marc Newberry on Unsplash

Branching off from the punk subculture, riot grrrl built its culture through the dissemination of fanzines, original art and music.

This playlist aims to capture some of the sounds that built the riot grrrl movement and continue to change the lives of girls and women in the scene.

The Playlist

  • “New Radio” – Bikini Kill
  • “Alien She” – Bikini Kill
  • “Suck My Left One” – Bikini Kill

Bikini Kill changed me.

I don’t even mean that as an exaggeration. Vocalist Kathleen Hanna’s particular brand of unrestrained rage truly speaks to me, and what it says is that I need to get a new facial piercing.

  • “Eating Toothpaste” – Bratmobile
  • “Bitch Theme” – Bratmobile
  • “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” – Bratmobile

Bratmobile is a classic riot grrrl band. With their hit song “Cool Schmool,” they give off a disaffected “cool girl” style that I really love.

  • “Jenny” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “Words and Guitar” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “Don’t Think You Wanna” – Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney presents a rolling, twangy rock sound that evokes orange-tinged skies and flannel shirts.

  • “Bluebell” – Babes in Toyland
  • “Hello” – Babes in Toyland
  • “Pain in My Heart” – Babes in Toyland

Babes in Toyland presents a similarly unrestrained sound as Bikini Kill, with moaning vocals giving way to full-on screams. Though it also has a grungy slant, as though the music were being diffused through smoke.

Music Education

The Rise of the Riot Grrrl Movement

I’ve discussed the exclusivity of alternative scenes before.

It seems an inevitability that a subculture hinging on nonconformity and countercultural stylistics and beliefs would eventually grow into something of a monolith itself. We’ve seen this in most alternative scenes, and I’ve specifically discussed its manifestation in the realms of the metal and goth scenes.

Punk is no exception. Though it constitutes one of my all-time favorite genres, I can’t ignore that both historical and contemporary punk spaces tend to be something of a “boy’s club.”

“The punk/riot grrrl band Bratmobile at The Charlotte in Leicester, England in 1994,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Greg Neate, licensed CC BY 2.0

Especially in the scene’s earliest iterations, misogynistic convictions abounded. The unhinged vigor and brazenly bellicose slant of the punk subculture seemed to preclude female involvement. Male anger was “cool” and “hardcore,” but female anger was rarely taken seriously.

Female-fronted punk bands, such as The Slits, faced significant difficulty in garnering the critial acclaim of their male-fronted counterparts during the 70s and 80s.

As frontwoman Ari Up said in an interview with Rolling Stone, being punk was “hard enough for the boys, but for the girls it was a witch hunt.”

It was becoming increasingly clear that the prospect of solidifying women-safe spaces in the punk scene was a punishing task. For groups like The Slits, existing in the punk scene meant existing in a constant battle against misogyny and patriarchy.

A Girl Riot

In the early 90s, a group of women from Olympia, Washington assembled to discuss the pervasion of sexism within their local punk scene.

The idea of the “Riot Girl” blossomed from these talks, with “girl” used to invoke the freedom of a child’s self-expression and “riot” to encompass the movement’s goal of lashing out against a patriarchal society.

While the original punk movement existed in opposition to the oppressive institutions of contemporary society, Riot Grrrl picked up the slack with staunch pro-trans, anti-racist and feminist credo.

“Bikini Kill performing live at Sylvester Park in Olympia, Washington on May 1, 1991,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by johnathancharles, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The Foundations

Riot Girls carved out their own subculture, producing original music and fanzines to disseminate and network their ideas within a distinct cultural space.

These zines discussed domestic violence, incest and rape and covered themes relating to sexuality and the exploration of identity in relation to femininity.

“Sleater Kinney,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Pat Castaldo, licensed CC BY 2.0

Zines served to affirm women’s experiences, disseminate praxis and strengthen the unity of the movement.

Riot girl bands, such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney radicalized the masses with evocative and irreverent performances that both centered and destigmatized the female body. Clothing and bodies and language became tools for orchestrating the “girl riot.”

The Significance

Riot grrl’s combination of fashion and performance became an art form in of itself, both a subversion and solidifier of conventions of femininity.

Feminism, a concept previously localized to feminist circles, was projected outwards in a staggering display.

Not only were the women in riot grrrl bands projecting their innermost struggles, desires and beliefs, but they did so in a way that empowered other women and girls.

I can still remember going to my first hardcore show and feeling smaller than I’d ever felt before, walled in on all sides by towering men who hardly seemed to recognize that I was even there.

I hated feeling that way, like I was in a place I shouldn’t be.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Evidently, the women behind the riot grrrl subculture felt the same way. The feeling of alienation that often comes with one’s womanhood, both in the hardcore scene and in general society, is an agony that never dulls.

Riot girls responded to this agony with boldness. No longer content with waiting, they made their own spaces in the scene and defended them with animalistic fervor.

They took their bodies, perpetually objectified and minimized by the male gaze, and created something dynamic and frightening and decidedly hardcore.

“Girl power,” a phrase often derided in contemporary circles for its hollow nature, was once the clarion call of the riot girls. Before its co-opting by mainstream pop artists, “girl power” really meant something. It meant seizing — literally or figuratively — what was owed.

It’s not really called “girl power” anymore, but it still exists.

I’ve seen it when girls at shows huddle together, pulling their friends out of the path of crowdkillers. I’ve seen it when female vocalists wail into the mic, their voices frayed with lifetimes of rage. I’ve felt it within myself at shows when I would shove aside men who invaded my personal space.

While some may argue that the “girl riot” ended when “girl power” lost its kick, I don’t think that’s true. I think the “girl riot” is ongoing, and in the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, soon apt to reach a new intensity.

Additional Reading

  • Zine-Making as Feminist Pedagogy
  • Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth
  • Revolution Girl-Style Now!

Playlist: Queer Goth Songs for Queer Goths

The goth subculture is, for many, inherently queer. In fact, a running joke between me and several of my goth friends is that gayness in the goth community is considered “boring” due to the sheer volume of bi and pansexuals populating the subculture.

There are many different reasons as to why goths are so queer, and I doubt I’m wholly qualified to speculate. I will do so anyways.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Perhaps the marriage of the anti-establishment ethos from which goth was born and its darkly Victorian aesthetics gave way to the dissolution of contemporary markers of gender and sexuality.

Below is a short compilation of some of my favorite tracks by queer goth artists. Some of these songs focus on themes related to queerness while others simply intersect with the artist’s identity.

The Playlist

  • “Deathwish” – Christian Death
  • “Spiritual Cramp” – Christian Death

Christian Death is one of my all-time favorite goth bands. To me, they represent what I would consider to be the archetypal goth sound: doomy guitar, moody vocals and flippantly dark lyrics. Original frontman Rozz Williams was known for dressing in drag in opposition to the hypermasculinity of the punk scene, an act which solified him as something of a queer icon.

Cover for “The Iron Mask” by Christian Death
  • “Burial Ground” – Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows
  • “Deathhouse” – Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows

Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows is a largely underrated pioneer of the goth scene. I adore her work so much that I’ll probably dedicate an entire blog article to her in the future. The mastermind behind Sopor Aeternus (meaning Eternal Sleep or Sleep of Death) is Anna Varney, a trans woman whose experiences largely fuel her music. Varney’s 2020 album, “Island of the Dead” captures the despair of being in a relationship with someone who cannot accept their partner’s transness and is based on real-life experiences.

Cover for “Island of the Dead” by Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows
  • “Inked in Red” – Vision Video
  • “Death in a Hallway” – Vision Video

Vision Video is a band based in Athens, Georgia that is quickly mobilizing to change the goth subculture for the better. In my article about the band, I touched on the rich political commentary the band touches on in their songs as well as the work of frontman Dusty Gannon in cultivating a safer, more accessible goth scene.

Cover for “Death in a Hallway” by Vision Video
  • “Dark” – Secret Shame
  • “Who Died in Our Backyard” – Secret Shame

Based in Asheville, Secret Shame brings an interesting contemporary sound to the traditional goth style. With a slant bordering on alternative rock and a vocalist who sounds like a centuries-old ghost, Secret Shame produces songs right on the cusp of the goth scene.

Cover for “Dark Synthetics” by Secret Shame
Concert Review

Concert Review: Paranoid Maniac, Reckoning Force and Public Acid

Taking a brief detour from this month’s Pride-based content (because I’m very sick and incapable of concerted research) to cover a recent show I attended.

This show was special, not just because it was insanely fun and had a great line-up, but because it was the first show my younger brothers had ever attended.

Taking place June 18 at Kings in Raleigh, this three-band show was a wildly good time and a great way to kick off a fresh work week.

Paranoid Maniac

Composed of Raleigh locals, Paranoid Maniac delivered a frenzy of hurried, untethered sounds.

The five-piece group were the first of the three headliners to go on, and their performance certainly set the tone for the rest of the night.

With an unceremonious start, the vocalist and band quickly mobilized to flood the room with a slant of distorted guitar, gnarling bass and reverberating drums that thrummed in the ribcages of everyone in the audience.

Cover for “Hold Your Own Leash” by Paranoid Maniac

The vocalist, clad in a vest and large pair of opaque black shades, wailed barely-comprehensible lyrics into the mic as they paced back and forth across the stage.

Amid the swell of music that pounded against the venue’s concrete walls, certain phrases rang out with clarity, such as “f– the alt-right.”

The crowd was (frustratingly) still during this performance, headbanging and swaying in place despite the palpable energy that electrified the air.

At the end of the set, we’d all sufficiently woken up from our perpetual daytime half-slumber.

Reckoning Force

Reckoning Force is a rapid and rabid group based out of Norfolk, Virginia.

My first impression of the band formed while watching a roadie unceremoniously duct tape a flag on the venue wall.

Reckoning Force at Kings, Raleigh, photo by J

Everything following was perfectly intense and chaotic.

As Reckoning Force started their set, patrons who’d been tucked away at the bar began to flock to the stage.

The vocalist lurched around in a torn-up yellow shirt with a frayed, screaming voice that paired nicely with the frantic music. Shortly after the start of the set, the crowd parted as two individuals darted back and forth across the floor.

The energy in the crowd changed instantly. Everyone moved at once either to dart to the sides of the room or to slam as hard as possible into the nearest person. I went for the second option and was promptly knocked to the ground by someone twice my size.

Two massive punks in studded vests immediately grabbed me, pulling me to my feet and checking to make sure I hadn’t broken something. I was fine, if not a bit embarassed, but felt better after watching several others take a similar tumble later.

Though the pit was small, we were sufficiently invigorated by the sounds — or maybe the force — of Reckoning Force.

The highlight of their set was certaintly when they covered Minor Threat’s “Screaming at a Wall,” a track well suited to the vocalist’s particular brand of angsty screams.

Public Acid

The final band to perform was Public Acid, based out of Richmond and North Carolina.

Like Reckoning Force, the band set up a flag before their performance. To my absolute delight, they simply taped their flag — baring a Rorschachesque skull — over the one left up by Reckoning Force.

Cover for “The Beat Sessions” by Public Acid

Public Acid was my brothers’s favorite act of the night, as they said the music reminded them of the DOOM franchise.

The band’s straight-up heinous sound compelled my brothers, both teenagers “too cool” to do much of anything, to bob their heads and sway around. I consider that a massive win.

Though not many patrons entered the pit, this allowed for more movement and dynamism as people kicked their legs around, spun and knocked into each other. The energy in the room was magnetic, even for those outside of the pit.

Public Acid was a great way to end off the night, leaving the audience sweat-drenched and shaking with adrenaline. After the show, I felt both like I could run ten miles and sleep for ten years.

Closing Thoughts

Paranoid Maniac, Reckoning Force and Public Acid are three bands with small online presences.

They make up for this by totally dominating the stage and plunging the audience into a landscape of chaos, insanity and vigor.

Familiarity with the bands isn’t necessary to enjoy them. Their vibrant sounds and captivating stage presence strike you right through the ribcage in the best possible way.

Band/Artist Profile

Queer Artist Profile: Dog Park Dissidents

Dog Park Dissidents is a self-described “loud and flamboyant” queer rock band from New Orleans, Long Island and Philadelphia.

As the band explains, they “bend genres, genders, and decency” with a mix of “old-school” punk, pop punk and camp energy in order to stoke the flames of queer rebellion.


The band’s reputation largely comes from its unflinching condemnation of respectability politics and the corporatization of Pride Month.

While I personally am not a huge fan of the band I do admire their commitment to the defense of “queer anger,” a concept often shirked by mainstream circles due to its “poor optics” and “lack of respectability.”

The idea that being a “good queer” will somehow garner the support of the straight hegemony is certainly not new. The classic “kink at Pride” debate is a prime example of this.

“Norwich Pride 2019-308” uploaded to Wikimedia commons by Sasastro from Suffolk, licensed CC BY 2.0

While it’s understandable that members of a marginalized class would strive for anything to lessen the burden of systemic oppression, recent events involving a certain big-name grocery store demonstrate that even “respectable” queerness is not enough to win over those who have already decided that queer people are not worthy of public existence.

Thus, Dog Park Dissidents is wholly committed to being a group of “bad queers.”

Such is the reason that I respect the band. Not only do they produce flagrantly bitter, queer music, but they exist as open members of the predominately-gay puppy play scene, a group often looked down upon by fellow members of the LGBT community for its lack of respectability.

Cover for “Sexual and Violent” by Dog Park Dissidents

If Dog Park Dissidents makes anything clear, they couldn’t care less about playing the game of LGBT respectability, especially when the rules are made by the same people who oppress LGBT people in the first place.

“Queer As In F– You”

Dog Park Dissidents formed in 2017 after vocalist Zax Xeper and guitarist Jon Greco produced the single “Queer As In F– You” as part of an anti-Trump sampler compilation.

Don’t sell me a rainbow
Your market’s never done s– for me
Don’t want a seat at your table
And f– an invitation to your party

You want to celebrate a gay man on your cable TV
While trans lesbians of color dig in garbage just to eat
You’ve paved the road for CEOs to suck on some d–
While all the kids on the street are getting pelted with bricks

“Queer As In F– You,” Dog Park Dissidents

The song was a viral success, leading Xeper and Greco to release the 2018 EP “Sexual and Violent.”

The following year, the band had their first live performance in Long Island with drummer Mike Costa and bassist Joe Bove from The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, a 6-piece ska band active from 1998 to 2006.

Shortly following this was the release of the EP “High-Risk Homosexual Behavior,” which featured Bove on bass.

The EP features the track “Refugees,” which highlights the growing fear within the queer community as the enactment of anti-LGBT legislation becomes a growing threat on the horizon.

Into the great unknown
In fear of losing our home
With the stroke of a pen
Threatening to erase us
Our lives can be revoked
Hard won rights in limbo
When your shield’s on the books
It’s thin as the pages

“Refugees,” Dog Park Dissidents

The band’s next release came in 2021 with the EP “ACAB For Cutie,” featuring Costa on drums.

Cover for “ACAB For Cutie” by Dog Park Dissidents

The EP touches on classism and queer liberation, exploring themes related to the queer community’s relationship to the police force and the ways in which prominent LGBT figures capitalize on fame at the expense of their peers.

I don’t care that the labor board
Says it’s A-OK to be gay
When they shout, “get out”
You don’t got no clout
They don’t need a f– reason
They can say whatever they gonna say
I don’t care that the police
Carry rainbows in our parades
‘Cause they’ll be sent to take down all our flags
As soon as their bosses want to put us in body bags

“Class Struggle,” Dog Park Dissidents
“Gay Pride in Valencia,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Dorieo, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

She’s that empress with her fierce jeweled crown
And she don’t care if you call her a sellout
Took your culture and she made it her brand
That’s how you play, it’s just the law of the land
But it was not enough for she
To make it a commodity
To turn your queerness into business
And to sell your raison d’etre
Bitch, she put on these nails
To hydrofracture some shale
You came to play, she came to slay
Entire ecosystems, hunty

“RuPaul’s Frack Race,” Dog Park Dissidents

The Pink and Black Album

As Dog Park Dissidents released their third EP, they announced their partnership with Say-10 Records.

On June 2, 2023, they released their first full-length album, “The Pink and Black Album,” featuring a compilation of remixed and remastered tracks from all 3 EPs.

What I find particularly important about the album is its context. While other bands I’ve discussed, such as Limp Wrist and Los Crudos, were largely active during the 80s and 90s, Dog Park Dissidents exists in the contemporary sphere of queer culture in America.

Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

As someone who often hears straight people chalk-up queerphobia to something of the past, something I and other queer people are responsible for “getting over,” projects such as “The Pink and Black Album” preclude the idea of straight people’s plausible deniability.

Straight people cannot look past the messages laid out by Dog Park Dissidents without admitting their deliberation in ignoring queer suffering and contributing to institutions which directly suppress our freedom and self-expression.

With songs targeting specific political and social figures, dynamics and events, “The Pink and Black Album” paints a very real picture of the fears and struggles of the modern-day queer community.

As Dog Park Dissidents expresses in their song “Class Struggle,”

We’re only free to be you and me to the degree
Capital and the state consent
We only live our lives and we can only thrive
Within the boundaries they have set

“Class Struggle,” Dog Park Dissidents

The purpose of groups like Dog Park Dissidents is not to make the queer community “look bad,” but rather to liberate the community from the burden of having to exist within the strictures of heterosexual respectability.

Once the queer community can reclaim its freedom of expression, it will be all the more easy to mobilize in defense of our civil liberties.

Until then, Dog Park Dissidents and other unabashed creatives will work to lay the foundation for queer revolution.

Band/Artist Profile

Queer Artist Profile: Vision Video

Vision Video makes “dance music for the end-times.”

Drawing inspiration from The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Chameleons, Vision Video introduces a familiar but distinct concept to the post-punk genre that blurs the line between contemporary and classic sounds.


Featuring guitarist and lead singer Dusty Gannon, keyboardist Emily Freedock, bassist Dan Geller and drummer Jason Fusco, Vision Video cultivates an intimate atmosphere through each of their songs.

Cover for “Inked in Red” by Vision Video

Based in Athens, Georgia, the band debuted in May 2020 with their single “In My Side.”

The track features a dreamlike arrangement of guitar, keyboard, bass and vocals that evoke the sensibilities of Robert Smith and Ian Curtis.

The rest of the band’s discography, now spanning across two albums and 12 singles, is similarly nostalgic. Without the ethereality of synths, the band’s raw sound smacks of decades long past.

Artistry Through Vulnerability

One of the main things that sets Vision Video apart from other groups is their unflinching irreverence, something reflected primarily through their lyrics.

Subject matter for the band’s songs draws from the lived experiences of frontman Dusty Gannon, a former soldier, paramedic and firefighter.

One of the first Vision Video songs I ever heard (and also played on-air during my DJ set) was “Death in a Hallway,” released October 2022.

As Gannon explains in a short video, his time as a paramedic during the pandemic and his frustration with surrounding political discourses led him to compose the song as a “big f– you” to influential individuals who profited off of the pandemic while simultaneously downplaying its severity.

The song’s music video, filmed in an abandoned hospital, served to punctuate the massive loss of life incurred by the pandemic.

Liеs likе bоdiеs соunting up
Whilе thеy оvеrflоw thеir сups
In dеniаl, gаsping fоr brеаth
In this hаllwаy оf yоur dеаth

“Death in a Hallway,” Vision Video

Another track, “Kandahar,” draws inspiration from Gannon’s time as a rifle platoon leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Part of the 2021 album “Inked in Red,” the song captures the pointlessness of modern warfare and the emotional weight of the destruction left in its wake.

Pain made manifest
A scream out like broken glass
A cry out into the void
To pronounce its pointlessness

Did you hear we killed the monster?
Did you you think we did so well?
Did you see the broken bodies lying there?
We’re getting good at building hell

“Kandahar,” Vision Video

Goth Dad

Argubably the face of Vision Video, Gannon is also known as “Goth Dad,” a quirky online persona with a midwestern accent and heavily made-up face.

Primarily active on TikTok, “Goth Dad” videos consist of song recommendations, fashion advice and general topics such as how to tie a tie and how to shave.

Cover for “In My Side” by Vision Video

Given the goth scene’s unsavory history (a topic I may touch on in a future post), it is unignorable that a figure such as Dusty Gannon is a beacon of light for young goths across the subculture.

Not only does his proud existence as a queer man (Gannon identifies as bisexual) help to destigmatize “unconventional” self-expression, but his “Goth Dad” persona stands as a constructive, purposeful role model for young members of the scene.

A Safer Scene

As many subcultures can attest, alternative scenes often become breeding grounds for predation. Impressionable young people eager to prove themselves amid cultures of exclusivity can easily fall victim to malevolence.

The risk increases significantly when alleged malefactors are prominent subcultural figures. Influence becomes a tool used to exploit and abuse young and vulnerable individuals.

The situation with Marilyn Mansion a perfect example of this.

With these dynamics coloring aspects of the goth scene, it’s important to recognize individuals like Dusty Gannon whose efforts contribute to making goth safer and more accessible.

Music Education

Living After Midnight: Rob Halford and the Necessity of Queering Heavy Metal

Judas Priest formed in Birmingham, England in 1969. In its early years, the band underwent numerous lineup changes.

In 1972, the band recruited Rob Halford as a vocalist. In May of the following year, Halford had his first show with Judas Priest at The Townhouse in Wellington.

Halford’s success would eventually earn him the title “Metal God” by his fans as Judas Priest moved on to become one of the most influential heavy metal groups of all time.

Drawing influence from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Queen, Judas Priest distinguished itself with a unique musical and aesthetic style.

When imagining frontman Rob Halford, one may see him clad in leather, draped in chains and donning a muir cap.

Perhaps a testament to his distinct stylistics, many fans were unsurprised when Halford came out as gay in an MTV interview in 1998.

As Halford described, his choice to come out was “the greatest thing I could have done for myself,” and he only wished that he had chosen to do so sooner.

Cover for Judas Priest’s “British Steel”

What had stopped him?

As Halford explained, he feared the destruction of his identity and career. For much of his involvement with Judas Priest, he did not see a place for himself as a gay man within the metal scene.

And while the aftermath of Halford’s MTV interview demonstrated that Judas Priest’s success did not hinge upon its frontman’s sexuality, Halford’s story is an important staple in metal history.

Namely, it stands to affirm the necessity of representing queerness in metal.

Metal’s Issue with Queerness

While Judas Priest is far from what could be considered an iconic queer band, Halford’s openness with his sexuality is important.

In a subculture placing a heavy value on traditional masculinity, queerness often begets hostility.

While subcultures like the metal scene, the punk scene and others formed in part as countercultural movements, it’s undeniable that they themselves foster a sort of hegemony.

Cover for Judas Priest’s “Turbo”

These spaces are often saturated with specific demographics who, purposefully or not, exclude individuals existing outside of these spheres.

For queer people, the metal scene specifically can be particularly hostile. For a movement not rooted in leftist politics but rather anti-establishment ideology, this does not always mean that certain differences are tolerated.

The Veneration of Heterosexuality

Often, patriarchy and heteronormativity underscore the metal scene.

One notable example of this is in Peter Steele of Type O Negative’s song “I Like Goils.”

While Steele argued that the song was purely humorous and ironic, its homophobic themes were undeniable.

You can drool, beg me and hope
There’s no damn way I’m playing drop the soap
I know I’m strange but I ain’t no q–
So take your rage and disappear
But I’m proud not to be PC


I like goils

Type O Negative, “I Like Goils”

In Steele’s song, he portrays homosexuality — and gay sex — as disgusting and strange.

His reference to “political correctness” smacks of classic boomerisms decrying inclusivity and progressive language.

While it’s fully possible given Steele’s track record that he was simply “being edgy,” this doesn’t excuse the harmful ideology his song presents, nor does it mean his audience is capable of critically receiving the alleged irony outlined in his song.

Edginess only works when everyone is in on it.

The Relevance

For much of Steele’s career, his persona hinged on his sexuality. Specifically, the ways in which he desired — and was desired by — women.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and I’ll be the first to admit that I am a fan of most of Type O Negative’s discography.

I also don’t deign to imply that Peter Steele had any influence on Rob Halford of Judas Priest, or that the two men are somehow connected beyond their simple association within the genre of metal.

Rather, what I aim to focus on are how the dynamics surrounding Peter Steele are indicative of larger discourses that affect queer individuals, specifically queer men, within the metal community (we won’t get into how the metal scene treats women, lest this post become a multi-chapter dissertation).

Cover for Judas Priest’s “Ram it Down”

Queer men pose a subversion of archetypal male roles. In the often hypermasculine metal scene, male queerness can be seen as weakness, fragility or inadequate manhood.

The veneration of a very specific, often regressive ideal of masculinity makes the metal scene inaccessible — and perhaps dangerous — to many individuals.

This was likely a factor in Halford’s decision to be private about his sexuality for so long, the idea that there wasn’t a “place” for his identity in the metal subculture.

That is why recognizing Rob Halford’s sexuality is so important. To know that Halford, named “Metal God” by his fans, is happily married to another man solidifies a place for queerness in the scene.

Halford’s signature leather and studs, evocative of the style of “leather daddies” and emulated by millions of straight male fans of Judas Priest, blurs the hard-set line between heterosexuality and homosexuality.

The band’s continued success following Halford’s entrance from the closet demonstrates that identity cannot obfuscate talent and performance.

It brings us back to the roots of metal’s purpose as a force rallying against oppressive institutions and conformity.

Ultimately, a place where queerness deserves to exist.