Date: Saturday, December 29th, 1990 City: Chicago, Illinois, USA Venue: Aragon Ballroom
Tom Violence White Kross Eric's Trip Cinderella's Big Score Brother James Kill Yr Idols Dirty Boots Tunic Catholic Block Mary-Christ Kool Thing -- Mote My Friend Goo Inhuman
I remember the Aragon ballroom show quite well--and I remember the startling events after the show even more clearly.
SY opened for Public Enemy--and there was a sense that this was an important show featuring the most important white and black groups at the time. The crowd, however, was mostly white--though definitely more integrated than other rock shows. The show also took place while President Bush was trying to drum up support for an attack on Iraq. There was a good deal of anxiety in the air.
The sound was very muddy, both for PE and for SY. This is par for the course at the Aragon.
Following the show, the crowd spilled out on to Lawrence Avenue and were greeted by a small group of anti-war protestors, likely from either a Trotskyist or Marxist-Leninist organization. Over a bullhorn they shouted antiwar slogans and passed out literature as the crowd filtered to their cars and the train station. As I emerged with my sister and two friends the Chicago police were engaged in a verbal confrontation with the protestors. The police were contesting the group's right to protest on the street there--probably an unauthorized demonstration. As they attempted to arrest the protestors, concert goers began to chant and to yell at the police.
The CPD called for backups and possibly hundreds of cars responded. I have never seen so many cops. They began to herd the audience, who had by this time become protestors, down the street. But the street was too narrow to accompany the rush and people began trampling one another. Some of those who were closest to the police lines were savagely beaten. I remember seeing the bloodied faces of people forced back from the front lines. The police had essentially created a "teenage riot".
I recall looking up to see Chuck D on the balcony of the Aragon looking down at the melee. He said "I'm sure glad I'm not down there." And he was filming the events on a video camera. Eventually police came through the concert hall and on to the balcony where they seized Chuck's camera. This further inflamed the crowd.
We made our way east on Lawrence toward my car. But the police violence had not abated.
Other: Actor John Cusack also attended the show. I remember seeing him. He also wrote a letter to the Chicago Sun Times protesting the police brutality. The letter ran in the December 31, 1990 edition.
These events also took place while Amnesty International and local human rights groups were claiming that Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge had been torturing (mostly black) suspects to extract confessions beginning in 1973. CPD and city official denied the allegations, and eventually they quietly removed him from his position. The allegations were later substantiated and the controversey continues to this day-- as several of the people he helped convict have been freed, others continue to protest their convictions. Burge, I believe, is retired in Florida.
Against a contemporary backdrip of phony Iraq wars; government secrecy and lying; civil liberties infringements; suspect torture; state overreaction--it might lead one to think that we have still not realized the the hope and promise represented by the December 1990 Sonic Youth/Public Enemy show.
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