On Thursday, December 22, Dangers, a hardcore band from Southern California, loaded their gear into West Seattle’s American Legion Hall, excited to play another show on their West Coast tour. The show never happened, though—a threat of violence shut it down. As 50 or more kids paid the $7 cover charge and filed into the venue, about a dozen members of a small but intimidating gang called FSU (Friends Stand United, or, as some call them, Fuck Shit Up), quietly stood outside the building. Dangers’ singer, Al Brown, wasn’t surprised FSU was there. A few months ago, when Dangers played a house show in Tacoma, members of FSU showed up, and according to Brown, said, “If Dangers plays, Al’s going to the hospital.”
Hoping to avoid any sort of conflict this time around, Brown and Matt Weltner, the show’s booker, approached the group of men. “It was explained that as long as we didn’t do anything ‘faggoty,’ we would be all right,” says Brown. “They said they were there to respect hardcore and as long as they weren’t disrespected, then nothing bad would happen.”
Dangers, an abrasive hardcore quartet of young twentysomethings, could play, but they couldn’t perform “Neo Neo-Nazis (Stop Fucking Shit Up),” a song where Brown criticizes FSU’s violent practices. If they did, the men told Brown, “You know what’s gonna happen,” alluding to the past, when Brown suffered minor injuries after being assaulted by FSU members outside a show in L.A. (Police weren’t called.) In lieu of censoring their set, or suffering the violent consequences, Weltner and Dangers decided to cancel the show.
The fact that a dozen guys have made it their mission to dictate what can and can’t happen in the scene and are capable of shutting down a local hardcore show is alarming. Seattle’s music community has worked hard to make all-ages concerts legal and safe—and those shows have overwhelmingly been safe since the passing of the All-Ages Dance Ordinance in 2002. Even more surprising is the fact that the incident was completely ignored by local media. If a dozen young black men showed up to a local hiphop show threatening fans, performers, and promoters with violence, it’d easily make front-page news. Seattle’s chapter of FSU is, for the most part, a group of linebacker-sized white males in their early to mid-20s who often wear FSU T-shirts and sweatshirts and come from suburban neighborhoods. And despite being tied to a number of violent incidences over the past two years, they still aren’t on the radar as anything more than a nuisance.
FSU started in the ’80s as a group on the East Coast aiming to eliminate racism from the hardcore music scene. As Nazi skinheads became less prominent in the community (perhaps due in part to the work of groups like FSU), the gang sort of fizzled out. They re-emerged in the mid-’90s in areas like Boston, New Jersey, Arizona, Los Angeles, and Seattle. While the group doesn’t seem to have a discernable political agenda today (members declined to comment when asked), FSU members have claimed on message boards that their actions are in response to those who “speak out against them” or “disrespect” them. All they’re asking for, they say, is respect, and if they feel they aren’t getting it, the situation often ends in violence.
Earlier this month, one incident involving FSU’s Arizona chapter came to a fatal conclusion. According to the Arizona Daily Star, members of FSU, armed with hammers and machetes, invaded the venue and started shoving concertgoers. The fights moved out onto the street and one injured young man ran to his car, pulled a gun, and fired a shot at an FSU member who was chasing him. The FSU member died at the hospital later that night.
Luckily, things have yet to turn that tragic in Seattle, but the city has still suffered its share of blows. According to his bandmates and concertgoers who were there, a member of a local hardcore band suffered minor injuries after a show in Seattle when members of FSU jumped him, allegedly for “talking shit” about them on a local message board. And this summer, concertgoers reported that another kid was attacked during a Paradox concert when he confronted FSU guys for hitting his friend in the mosh pit. Twenty-year-old Lucas Thilman says he was beaten at a house party last July, when members of FSU refused to leave. He suffered a concussion, brain contusions, and a broken hand. FSU has also reportedly threatened a number of local music fans and bookers, to the point where some feel it’s unsafe to book and attend shows. While members of FSU were reached for comment, they declined to say anything on record.
According to the Seattle Police Department, the cops looked into FSU after another incident at Studio Seven, a rock club in the SoDo neighborhood, but considered the gang to be of little threat since they are a small group and seemingly disorganized. Still, certain members of Seattle’s hardcore scene have had enough.
Earlier this week, three men were fired from their security jobs at the rock club El Corazón because they have ties to FSU. El Corazón owner Lori LeFavor says it was a difficult decision to make, but she felt as though she had little choice since she’s received a number of phone calls and e-mails from concerned parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to a venue that employs “gang members.”
Also following Thursday’s incident, a group of bookers, band members, and music fans joined forces and decided to take a stand against FSU. Though they’re still in talks as to what actions need to be taken, they’ve brainstormed ideas including alerting area club owners as to who local FSU members and bands are and organizing citywide boycotts against clubs and people who support them.
LeFavor hopes a peaceful conclusion can be reached. She’s offering to host a “State of Hardcore” public forum at El Corazón. The public would be invited to come voice their concerns and start searching for solutions regarding the current problems in the hardcore scene.
Some still feel, though, that more drastic measures need to be taken. One man, a music fan who has been active in the hardcore community for almost a decade in every role from musician to booker (and who wants to remain anonymous out of concern for his safety), first noticed a problem two years ago. “When one member of FSU busted in the face of a 15-year-old kid at the Redmond Fire House, that was the first indication there was a problem,” he says. “We hoped the violence would go away, but obviously, when they’re capable of rolling up to a DIY show and getting it shut down, things have only gotten worse. Now’s the time to start doing something about it.”