I first heard about this on Sunday night, and wanted to write about it right then and there, but I’ve been in the process of moving. I’m aware that it’s gotten considerable press since then, but this is something that I feel very strongly about, so, as per usual lately, I’m going to laugh in the face of timeliness. I won’t always be behind with these things.
Two Gallants, one of my all-time favorite bands, played a show in Houston, Texas on Friday the 13th, and perhaps in homage to the infamously bad-luck day, a fight broke out involving a cop. There is, of course, debate over who/what was the cause of the instance, but it ended in the officer running around and using a taser on various show-goers (including a 14-year-old boy, and Two Gallants frontman Adam Stephens), and arresting several of them, as well (including Two Gallants drummer Tyson Vogel).
Here’s a quick run-down of what happened, from what I can gather:
Officer G.M. Rodriguez goes to a venue, Walter’s, to attend to a noise complaint. At the time, Two Gallants are on stage. He claims that he went in and had the sound turned down, but then heard it being turned back up after he left, so he went in again. He may or may not have stopped at the soundboard. During the third song or so, he goes up on-stage and shines a flashlight in guitarist Adam Stephens’ face. Stephens says that Officer Rodriguez demanded that they stop, and Stephens claims to have asked “why?” Stephens says that the officer gave no response except “stop,” then grabs Stephens’ guitar out of his hands, and pushes him to the ground. Officer Rodriguez claims that he did this because Stephens “used a sexual obscenity” and shoved him. After Rodriguez pushed Stephens to the ground, Vogel attempts to separate the two, but instead is pushed down by Rodriguez as well (see picture above). At this point, audience members try to separate them, but the officer grows increasingly irate, particularly when he notices people filming and taking pictures. You can see this portion on video here.
From here, Rodriguez turns on the young man who had the incredible insight to film the incident (a man named Greg who some say works at a local television station). He starts pushing the man and attempting to use his taser on him. Eventually, Rodriguez pushes Greg onto a 90-year-old bass belonging to one of the opening bands, breaking it. You can see this portion on video here.
After pushing Greg, Officer Rodriguez then turns on Stephens and Vogel, chasing them around the venue, tasering people along the way. Stephens escapes. Officer Rodriguez yells at people to leave or be arrested, then cuffs Vogel and arrests him, along with two others. You can see portions of this on video here.
Houston Police Department Sergeant Nate McDuell told the Houston Chronicle that Officer Rodriguez felt someone reach for his gun, which is why Rodriguez used the taser. He also says “that it was fortunate that he used a Taser instead of a weapon” (emphasis mine). Excerpt from the article: “An officer gets attacked by dozens of people in a club who have been drinking,” McDuell said. ” If anything, the officer was abused.”
Personally, I find this whole incident absolutely horrifying. I am also especially disgusted at McDuell’s comment that people were lucky that it was a taser that Rodriguez used. He was called in for a NOISE COMPLAINT. Not for anything involving weapons, fighting, improperly conduct, drugs, etc. Just noise. Physical force seems a bit excessive, no? In the past, Two Gallants have played shows on the street where the cops simply shut off the power. Perhaps I don’t understand the jurisidction of police very well, but was that not an option here, if the noise was so immense? (Though I also find it a bit silly that the venue even exists if the noise is that big of a problem. Why has it been allowed to be in business if it’s that bad?) It’s hard to tell from the videos to what extent Officer Rodriguez was or was not being physically assaulted, but for the most part it looks like people were either trying to stop him from attacking more people, or running away from the taser. A 14-year-old boy and his father go to a show and get caught between an officer chasing after a musician with a taser, end up getting tasered in the process, and they’re lucky that that was all that happened? That’s some twisted thinking.
The biggest hole I find in the Police Department’s defense is the claim that he was “attacked by dozens of people in a club who have been drinking.” Consdering that there are reports of teenagers aged 14 & 15 at the show, this leads me to belive that the show was an all-ages show. Now, I’ve never been to Texas, let alone an indie rock concert in Texas, but I know that in Seattle, they don’t serve liquor at all ages shows. Now, I know that Seattle is incredibly strict when it comes to such things. But, even in New York, where alcohol is occasionally served at all-ages shows, the number of people who are drunk vs. the number of people who are sober is largely in favor of those who are sober, because most people who are of an age to drink usually just go to a 21+ show instead. Again, I understand that this may not be the case in Houston. Still, I find it incredibly hard to believe that, at a show where young kids were present, most of the audience was drinking and/or drunk. It seems more like a case of a cop who felt like throwing his weight around, then got angry because his act of brutality was caught on tape (because that’s when he started tasing people).
The Police: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (download)
If some of you are concerned that I might be biased towards Two Gallants, I understand. Yes, I do know them, somewhat. I have talked to them on a handful of occasions, have interviewed them once, and have attended plenty of their shows over the past 5-6 years or so (infact, I saw them on this very tour, at NorthSix the other weekend). From my interactions with them, I can say that Adam Stephens & Tyson Vogel are some of the most intelligent, kind, well-mannered people I have ever met, and are not the type of men who would lash out at someone without significant provocation (and even then they seem to be the type of men more likely to use their words than their fists, a conclusion which most accounts of the event seem to support). If you want more information, most of the stories on this all say the same thing, but you can find a rather comprehensive list of other articles on it here. The band actually comments in this news piece on Pitchfork. Most of them use the Houston Chronicle article, this myspace profile, this myspace blog and the Two Gallants Messageboard thread as sources. You can also search elbo.ws for “Two Gallants.”
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the major media outlets seem to favor the Police Department’s side of things, while smaller ones favor the band. Regardless of who/what is responsible, the fact that something like this happened during a show is absolutely awful. No one should have to fear going to see live music anywhere, especially to smaller shows put on by bands who need and deserve all the support that they can get.
Speaking of support… it seems there was a City Council Meeting within the past two days. If this incidence upsets you at all, I urge you to write/say something on the matter, either in a public forum, to the band, or to the Houston Police Department (you’ll find ways to contact both spread through the links above). It is our duty as fans, friends, lovers of music to go to all costs necessary to prevent something like this from repeating itself.
we fall in numbers no one questions.
no one wonders.
scream for all the unsaid,
unheard hoodlums on parade.”
Two Gallants, “16th Street Dozens.”