Fucking In the Streets
First "blipsters," now Blackblack.
If you didn't make it to the packed Thursday, February 1, Deerhoof show at Neumo's then you maybe haven't heard of supporting act Blackblack, a trio of sparkling-white kids from L.A.—including Gap model/Phantom Planet singer Alex Greenwald; his girlfriend, Diva Haskins (daughter of Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins); and her sister, Lola—who took the stage with their skin painted all black, like a kind of extended blackface. They launched into a set of sleepy, stoned shoegaze, the lone highlight of which was a Misfits cover ("Skulls"). People were heckling from the balcony, calling the band's blackface out between songs, and demanding an explanation.
"We're shadows," was the band's answer.
"I was one of the people heckling and yelling, 'Why are you in blackface?'" says Kill Rock Stars employee Ben Parrish. "After the show, I went to say goodbye to [Deerhoof's] John Dietrich and was holding a few boxes of pizza. Blackblack asked me if they could have some, and I told them I would give them pizza if they didn't play in blackface in Portland. They got really defensive and said, 'It's not blackface! We didn't paint white around our mouths!'
"They said that if people were offended it wasn't their problem, and that they weren't going to change what they do just because people would interpret it as racist. They also said, 'We painted ourselves black to be scary!' I don't see how that can't be interpreted as racist."
The next night in Portland, Blackblack reportedly painted themselves all white. So, what was the deal? Honest, ignorant mistake? Inarticulate "ironic" play with dangerously serious signifiers? Both? They couldn't be reached for comment earlier this week. Neumo's booker/co-owner Jason Lajeunesse didn't see the show and had no comment.
Opening act Leti Angel considered canceling their Portland date after the Neumo's show, according to Leti Angel's Charlie Salas-Humaras, also of Panther and The Planet The. "I wanted to, but we ended up doing it anyway."
"To wear blackface at a show, no matter what your reason, will have the effect of making people of color (and their allies) feel like they are not wanted in the audience," says Tobi Vail of Kill Rock Stars. "People at the show and the bands on the bill should bring that to their attention."
"[It's] so typical of rich fucks," says Salas-Humaras. "I guess if you can barely play your instruments you have to go that route. [It's] sad. They're L.A. rich kids looking for free publicity and now they've gotten it."
Parrish agrees: "It seems like they need to make controversy to make up for their boring music. I don't see this as being a PC issue, but an asshole issue. If they were trying to make a comment on race relations or something that would be one thing, but it seems like they were just being stupid. It especially seems inappropriate on the first day of black history month."
"Chocolate Month," Ben. Tully's wants us to call it "Chocolate Month."