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;he's had run-ins with the gang before.
Hoping to avoid any sort of conflict, 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. 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.
A few months ago, when Dangers was scheduled to play a house show in Tacoma, members of FSU showed up, and according to Brown, said, "If Dangers plays, Al is going to the hospital." Dangers never played.
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 local hardcore shows 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 city passed 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 would 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 incidents over the past two years, they still aren't on the radar as anything more than a nuisance.
FSU started in the 1980s 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 reemerged in the mid-'90s in areas like Boston and New Jersey, and eventually spread to Arizona, Los Angeles, and Seattle. While the group doesn't seem to have a discernable political agenda today, FSU members have claimed on message boards that their actions are in response to those who "speak out against them" or "disrespect" them. While a number of FSU members were contacted for this article, they all declined to comment.
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 an all-ages 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. Twenty-year-old Lucas Thilman says he was beaten at a house party last July, when members of FSU refused to leave his house. He suffered a concussion, brain contusions, and a broken hand. A member of a local hardcore band suffered minor injuries after a show in Seattle, according to his bandmates and concertgoers who were there, 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. According to people who have been directly threatened by FSU, they feel it can be unsafe to book and attend shows. Again, members of FSU declined to speak on record for this article.
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.
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.
Lori LeFavor, owner of El Corazón, hopes a peaceful conclusion can be reached. She's offering to host a "State of Hardcore" public forum at the club.
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."
Earlier this week, three men were fired from their security jobs at the rock club El Corazón because they have ties to FSU.
This story was originally published on our website on Thursday, December 28, and it sparked a huge online response. Check out The Stranger's Music Forum thread on the topic, as well as www.nwhardcore.com, www.hardcoremusic.com, and www.absolutepunk.net to see what people are saying.
One reaction a lot of people had to the story was that FSU's side wasn't represented. A member of FSU (who asked to remain anonymous, but is not from Seattle) did answer a few of my questions. Unfortunately I didn't get his responses until after my latest version of the story went to press. Below are his answers, unedited:
What's the point of FSU's existence today?
FSU stands today just as it did years ago as a group individuals bonded by common interests, backgrounds and goals. FSU is involved in every aspect of the hardcore
punk scene. We are the tour managers, the soundmen, and the road crews that are the backbone of our hectic on-the-move touring world. Our brothers on both coasts are active as show promoters, tour booking agents, security and venue owners. We are the kids on the floor as well as the bands on the stage. FSU is bonded by a brotherhood forged in deep feelings of resentment towards the outside world - we are the outcast of this mass marketing, consumer crazy world. Whether its through the music we create or the shows we help put on or bands we support, we carry the hardcore scene in our hearts.
What, as an active part of the hardcore scene, is FSU asking for? I've been told it was respect. Is that true? If so, what, then, has FSU done to deserve it? Also, what happens if they feel they don't get it?
We've been respected for almost 19 years now. At this point we only wish to continue to reap the rewards of our brotherhood. To see kids filing in every friday night in
Brockton, MA for hardcore shows or to raise almost $13,000 for a fallen friend in a single day is a physical testament to not just the success that we've reached within our own scenes but to the respect that we are given. Respect isn't something to be taken but be given first and hope its reciprocated. If one walks around just trying to take he has no business ever receiving much of anything at all.
How do you respond to the fact that many tag FSU as a violent gang? Do you feel that's a fair assumption? Why or why not?
A gang based soley on violence wouldn't last as long or be something cohesive enough to bond people coast to coast. Idealistically as well, its too short sighted of a goal as one group to only cause violence. If that was in fact our only goal why is it that we are so active within every facet of the scene? Why would we put out so much time and money of our own to further our local scenes? There are many gangs in this country, there are many "crews" in this hardcore scene. None of them are doing anything that we are. There is a crude saying about assumptions, but I won't repeat it here. Its interesting that in a world put together by ideals such as unity and acceptance, there seems to be none of that projected towards FSU. Yet its in the cities has an active FSU chapter that the real diy hardcore scenes are thriving and the shows are safer and better attended then in cities where there is no cohesive group guiding progress along. The
rumor mill and gossip hounds may have their say online but its the Nation that is actively putting hard work into everything that we do.
I assume you weren't here for the Seattle show, but by now you know what has happened. Do you support Seattle's FSU guys for their decision to threaten Dangers with violence if they were to play that song? If so, why?
Its appaling to see an entire scene that has some quite notable bands be so divided on an issue. Had the band been from Seattle, I could see the argument for their right to
come and say what they feel. But to allow an outside catalyst to divide your hardcore scene is counterproductive to any kind of message I've ever heard in hardcore. There needs to be communication with both sides within Seattle. There is no reason for a once vibrant scene to be distracted with this nonsense. FSU feels as if its the actions of a few younger hardcore kids to create chaos, unrest and division to keep their scene from seeing the reality of the situation. The extreme Anti- FSU sentiments growing from the area are fueled by nothing more then rhetoric and internet gossip and is much more of a threat to the tranquility of the scene then the presence of the Nation in Seattle. These people for the most part are new to the scene and see FSU for something its not- Plain and simple. The things they say and do are not progressive but destructive. This is not the message or the way hardcore is supposed to be. We hope that the majority of the kids in the NWHC know better to fall into the propaganda of these hate mongers and see the truth for what it is. Seattle has had never had such a disruption and its only time before things are settled and the agitators are forgotten. Until then FSU will continue to support our brothers there and the entire NWHC in their attempts at coming to a common ground.
FSU is involved in a number of charity events or benefit shows throughout the year. The center of our year is based on the annaul Fallen Friends fest which is held in the Boston area. Through the FOUNDATION (Http://www.foundationfund.net) we are able to collect proceeds and help any number of charities throughout the year, whether its teenage homelessness or individual benefits for a family in need. We take pride in our ability to not only come together for a greater good but that its our combined efforts as a nation that brings some kind of hope to those less fortunate or in a bad situation. This year we are excited about events being planned in the Los Angeles Area as well as our mainstays in the Boston, Albany, Philadelphia and New Jersey communities. 2006 brings us a new year to fill up with plenty of shows, fests and tours as well as a few hidden surprises for all of the hardcore scene (FSU or not) to enjoy. If there is ever a question of our motives or our point of existence, feel free to come to one of our events to witness our activities in person.