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Local bands and others work to keep music scene safe

The local indie music scene reignited this last year with an abundance of shows and bands popping up in every corner of the local area.

The Las Cruces and El Paso music scene, like many others, had died down due to the pandemic. No one could go to shows, but that would not stop new bands from forming and practicing during the last two years. The pandemic has led to a massive number of creatives in the area perfecting their craft and creating new bands.

But with new music, new shows and a young crowd comes an influx of “creeps” to the area targeting certain people within the scene.

Guitarist Juan Ockz, left, of Late Night Drive Home and lead singer Andre Portillo perform on stage April 16, 2022, at KRUXFest in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The band has posted about keeping their fans safe, even if that means holding their own friends accountable. (Photo by Myra Rommes/Kokopelli)

In the post-Me Too era that we all live in, people have become more aware of how to keep one another safe in the area and at local shows. Although these “creeps” get called out, they still seem to pop up in droves.

The music industry, overall, has always dealt with gross power dynamics, huge age gaps and sexual assault, and these local scenes are no different.

Within the last year, just as the local music scene was ramping back up, multiple people have gotten called out online. Cancel culture lives primarily on social media, so when someone decides to speak up about their story, it typically gets posted online.

Bands in the Las Cruces and El Paso area have made it a point to speak about their shows being a safe space for everyone, and when someone pushes a boundary, they are essentially blacklisted from the scene.

In order to maintain a safe space overall, showgoers have developed a code of ethics that are passed from location to location. If someone makes anyone in the crowd uncomfortable, the band hosting the event is informed, the assailant is then removed from the premises and then it gets posted online. This course of action seems to have saved a lot of young members of the scene from being further groomed or assaulted.

Cassidy Luna works as the merchandising and vendor director at the Las Cruces music venue, The Range. Luna has participated in and helped manage shows at the venue and has come across some of the “creeps” when working with artists.

“As a woman in the scene, when it comes to creeps, it’s been a problem,” Luna said. “It’s my job to make the events I work a safe and peaceful place for all. It’s devastating.

“How can we do our job correctly when there is danger to the femme community? I don’t get it,” Luna said. “The change needs to happen, and I’m an activist [fighting for] that change.”

But activism and ethical codes do not stop creeps from trying to get away with predatory behavior.

Most often, underage girls in the scene are targeted by men who attend these shows. This is a frequent practice within the music scene, big or small. Fader, one of the newest up and comers to the scene, recently kicked its guitarist, Brandon Solbach, out of the band for allegedly harassing women he met at shows.

This came as a surprise to many, who had seen Fader on almost every local lineup for the past six months. The band’s remaining members are still set to perform at shows.

Malone Seymore, a member of the well-known El Paso band Fat Camp, dropped a song on SoundCloud titled “F*ck the Creeps” by artist My Dog the Devil, in response to the allegations against Solbach. Fat Camp has been prevalent in the scene since 2017, hosting one of the first welcome back shows of 2021. The group has been a band that attempts to maintain a safe space at their shows. Seymore had called out abusers and “creeps” on social media before dropping this song.

“I don’t want to play for people who don’t understand personal space,” Seymour said.  The lyrics from the song, “F*ck the Creeps” point to various events at shows and in the music scene in general.

“Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen an alarming number of victims who have come forward accusing local musicians of sexual harassment. People who use their positions as an artist to manipulate and take advantage of underage girls should not be granted a stage, nor a platform.”

Seymore said, “Well, one of the things that makes it hard is often when there’s somebody [who’s been abused] they don’t want to speak up. And we ask that you do, so we can help you. That’s most important.

“That’s why we take it very seriously when people come out saying that ‘x person was abusive or predatory.’ Cancel culture has its downsides, but it’s important to make some things known so that we can first educate the abusers, second be wary and educate ourselves as well, and third probably not let those abusers into the shows until they can show some real change,” Seymore said. 

When incidents do happen, bands and other members of the scene will post about how they do not condone this type of behavior, and that the individual will be held accountable for their actions by the better part of the music scene.

Local artist Babe Rode has seen some behavior at shows that he has questioned. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen an alarming number of victims who have come forward accusing local musicians of sexual harassment,” Rode said.

“People who use their positions as an artist to manipulate and take advantage of underage girls should not be granted a stage, nor a platform.

“When things like this don’t get acknowledged, they fester. Lack of accountability creates an environment that validates the offenders, while turning a blind eye to the victims. Bands have the responsibility to hold their members accountable for their actions,” Rode said. “Venues and organizers should be proactive to prevent any kind of assault or harassment at these events.”

Rode has been part of marketing and documenting music events in the Las Cruces and El Paso area, and has seen some bands take accountability for their members’ wrongdoings, but would like to see everyone “do better.”

“If you’re putting on a show, creating a safe space for the community must be your top priority,” Rode added.

Late Night Drive Home, a local band with a fairly large following, has made it a point to post about not working with abusers, and what safety at their shows means to them.

“Me Too” seems to have given those who are abused a voice. People are no longer shoving their experiences under the rug for another day. Creating a safe space means that making people aware of allegations and misconduct by said creeps is of utmost importance.

Some allegations are lengthy and are hard to read, much like those against Romulus Wolf, who was also recently outed by attendees of the Late Night Drive Home Y2K concert which took place in February.

Wolf has a lengthy history of allegedly assaulting women in the local music scene. After one alleged victim came out, so did many others, further “canceling” Wolf and preventing him from ever performing in the area again.

As the music scene grows, so does the possibility of creeps being in the crowd, on the prowl. Having the bands in the area backing the victims and holding a safe space for them shows how tightly knit the scene has become.

But there is still a lot of work to be done.

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