Shock rock lives up to its name
Self-proclaimed “rape rock” band sparks a protest
Promoter Nikki Knight openly shares that she lives with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition she says stems from being sexually assaulted in the past. She says she uses humor to fight her monsters, and she’s helped by the music of shock rock band GWAR and, as contradictory as it sounds, “rape-rock” outfit the Mentors.
“I have flashbacks all the time, so when I make my monsters look like bumbling idiots, like the Mentors look like idiots on stage, it’s this whole menagerie of images that make me feel stronger … smarter and [more] confident than my rapist,” Knight says.
Knight, an independent promoter with SpewLine Productions, originally booked the Mentors at On the Y on Labor Day, September 4—but she canceled the show due to threats that the venue would be set on fire if the show persisted.
The show’s protestors made it known that rape jokes aren’t funny anymore and certainly not welcome in their city.
Before the scheduled performance, about 50 demonstrators across the street from the venue chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” between speakers stating statistics about rape in America. The group included surf-punk band Las Pulgas and activists such as Mone’t Ha-Sidi, a local burlesque dancer and founder of BlackArtsMatter.
Formed in the late ’70s, the Mentors claim to be the founders of the “rape-rock” genre. The group launched its “Anti-Antifa Tour” at the start of September with dates booked in Oakland, Portland, Modesto—and Sacramento.
Under the Trump administration, clashes with similar themes have come to a head across the country. Right-wing groups protest under the banner of free speech, while leftist movements aim to quash racist values. This debate once again came close to home last Sunday at UC Berkeley: A conservative student group re-invited ultra-conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to the Northern California campus, amid protests.
That’s after demonstrators at UC Davis shut down a scheduled speech from Yiannopoulos in January before it even began. The protesters blocked the entryway to the venue and chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, racists are not welcome here.”
The Mentors’ controversy predates current cultural divides: Its vulgar and sexually violent lyrical content has upset listeners on the left and right. The group gained mainstream attention in 1985 when Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center worked to censor lyrics laced with violence, drugs or sex.
The band’s ditty titled “Golden Shower” sports lyrics like, “Listen little girl; it’s near the hour / Come with me and take a golden shower / Listen little slut, do as you’re told / Come with daddy for me to pour the gold …” These words were read aloud on the Congressional floor and ultimately put the founders of “rape rock” front and center within the music censorship debates of its time.
Back in Sacramento, it wouldn’t be the first time a controversial shock-rock band stopped by. During heavy metal band GWAR’s notoriously graphic stage shows, the musicians dress up as large, otherworldly monsters with names like Beefcake the Mighty and Jizmak Da Gusha, oftentimes spraying audiences with copious amounts of fake blood, urine and semen. GWAR is set to perform at Ace of Spades in mid-November.
Ultimately, threats to the venue paired with the tour’s name—labeled as “anti-Antifa”—stirred up Knight’s second thoughts about the overall intentions of a band she says she once enjoyed. On the Y’s owner Steven Valdez says he was confused as to why people were so upset. He’s hosted the Mentors in the past with no qualms, so he made the final decision that the show must go on.
“None of us condone any of that stuff,” Valdez says. “To me, if you start listening to these people, then they control the type of music that’s out there, and that’s not fair to anybody. I’ve had ’em here plenty of times and never had a problem.”
For Natalie Thompson, drummer of the queer-punk band Slutzville and participant in the evening’s protest that took place across the street from the venue in an empty field—rape isn’t funny.
“Rape rock is not OK. Rape’s not something to joke about. It’s still not being taken seriously,” Thompson says. “It’s time to grow up and stop joking about stupid shit.”
While Thompson protested among the crowd, she says members of Twitch Angry and bar patrons walked up to the protesters and started yelling slurs like “faggot” in their faces.
“The bigotry, the ignorance … Twitch Angry was standing outside the venue before the protest started and were threatening us and getting in our faces and it was crazy. That was in the first five minutes,” Thompson says.
Twitch Angry bassist Marzariez Medlock says the Mentors still hadn’t arrived after his band’s first set of the evening. He walked across the street with his bass guitar. He says when he told the protesters that the Mentors weren’t at the venue, he was also met with slurs like “n*gger” and to his surprise, “klansmen.”
“A klansmen? I’m a black guy. Last time I checked, I can’t join the Ku Klux Klan,” he says. “When I had this confrontation, the Mentors weren’t even there yet, and I told them that and that’s what started the yelling and everything at me. So I went back across the street and we played a second set.”
The protest at On the Y was shut down by police around 9:30 p.m. Slutzville was the only band that didn’t perform.
Still, the debates rage on about genres like shock rock. In Portland, the Mentors performed at a metal festival called Sickness in September that was also followed by protests.
Steve Broy, bassist and founding member of the Mentors, eventually emailed SN&R to comment: “First of all I’m not a white nationalist or redneck of any kind. Nor a racist. My band has Hispanics and blacks it. I support Antufa [sic] in protesting against Nazis like in Charlottesville. But when they try to censor my band I object but I do agree with their right to protest.”
After the protest, the rest of the evening was pretty standard, Valdez says. He says he sees the Mentors as a gimmick—a group of men pushing 60 who wear black, executioner-style hoods and sing about peeing, raping and binding women.
Nonetheless, when asked if he would book the Mentors on their next Anti-what-have-you tour, he says, “I probably wouldn’t do it again. It already happened. It’s over. Quit living in the past and dragging up old shit.”