Fascism In The Denver Music Scene – 2019 Report

This post was contributed by Safe Scene Denver.

This is a 2019 year-end report on the state of the Denver music scene as fascism creeps across the globe. The music scene in general is part of the battlefield in a propaganda war being pushed by white supremacists.

The current situation with a white supremacist in the White House, economic uncertainty, and a lack of communication between elements of the music scene has resulted in a situation white supremacist bands have been able to exploit. Inexperienced and/or desperate club owners, inexperienced and/or lazy talent buyers, and naïve ideas about private business’ duties to host hate speech in the guise of free speech, have created gaps in procedures that should be in place to keep the music scene inclusive for all types of humans, regardless of race, religion, disability status, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors that people have been discriminated against for. Having Nazis at shows excludes people. No one is under any obligation to “include” Nazis like they are a traditionally disenfranchised group- they have made the poor choice to be Nazis, and that should not confer privileges.  No one has a “right” to performance space in private businesses.  Businesses are required by law to be accessible to all the types of humans Nazis would like to see eliminated from the planet.  Businesses should be given support for this, not for enabling Nazis.  A diverse music scene is a strong music scene.  Larger venues book touring bands that are profitable.  Smaller venues need to keep an eye on who they have in there, not just the profit motive, because it can have a lasting impact on the community in which they are situated.
White supremacists infiltrate subcultures in order to get a foot in the door– particularly those such as punk and metal that cater to people who may already view themselves as outsiders. When their presence is questioned, the white supremacists act victimized and shut down the debate about their inclusion by calling out those who question them as “snowflakes” or “the P.C. police” at best and even, absurdly, “fascists.” This has proven a sadly effective way to shut down the conversation. Bands pushing white supremacist ideology often hide under the “edgelord” banner or amid other extreme music genres that are not for the most part white supremacist- yet, people have allowed them space.
The general public is too naïve to interpret some of the dog whistles (like anti-Communism*), symbolism (heavy use of S.S. thunderbolts and appropriation of Norse mythology), and other nuanced white supremacist signifiers. Most booking agents in the Denver area, promoters, club owners, and bands have little experience with vetting who is on a bill, knowing what to watch out for, and solving problems that may arise with booking errors without giving white supremacists a platform and/or letting them completely control the conversation. The same people repeatedly rush to the support of venues and bands who have been caught exhibiting behavior helpful to the white supremacist agenda, accusing anti-fascists of being “keyboard warriors” and the like. The local press is also very much still learning how to cover these issues accurately and responsibly. Some outraged people have tried to solve the problem of white supremacists continuing to get booked in Denver clubs with Facebook. To be generous, this has had mixed results and should not be the first strategy, moving forward.
*Editor’s note:
While we don’t expect every musician to be a socialist/anarchist/communist, Anti-communism within punk and metal was spawned by Nazi punks and is almost exclusively used as a fascist dog whistle.
A contemporary anti-Communist black metal album with anti-Semitic and pro-white lyrics
What we are asking of you, Denver and surrounding areas, is to pay attention, be thoughtful, do research, and be prepared to fight back. Fighting back is not going to look like it used to. Curb stompers of skinheads in the 90s now have children and mortgages. With Donald Trump in office, white supremacist ideas have moved toward the mainstream. Fighting back now looks like knowing who is part of your scene and taking care of vulnerable people in it so their physical and emotional safety are a priority. Vulnerable people include the disabled, LGBTQ, nonbinary, womxn, people of color, and the unhoused.
It is not the job of the most vulnerable to provide emotional support to white supremacists and make them feel included. That being said, people can leave the white supremacist mindset behind, and do. They usually have to move to a different community and leave all of their white supremacist contacts behind. They usually have a story about what made them have a change of heart. Claims of reform should be evaluated with this in mind. It is OK to ask for the story. They have the burden of proof that they are no longer a menace. Failing the aforementioned types of evidence, claims of reform should be met with extreme skepticism.
Another way of fighting back is accountability. If you see someone make a mistake, enabling white supremacy, please tell them. This is most effective with people you already know and have rapport with. How they respond is important. Pay attention.

Venues

Here is a brief summary of several venues’ actions in the last year. Many conversations were had with them in order to help them improve their handling of the white supremacist situation. If a venue is not listed here, as most are not, they did not have an issue with white supremacy that came across our radar. Most venues actually are still fine, and many are taking active steps to keep the fabric of the music community from becoming unraveled. Despite the economy being shaky and gentrification making everything, including doing business, more difficult for most people, most venues have avoided shady dealings with shady white supremacists.
Streets, formerly “Streets of London”
This establishment several years prior had an infestation of the Ogden Street Nazis, who lived in an apartment close to 13th Avenue and Ogden. Although the Ogden Street Nazis have more or less scattered and different subsequent owners have attempted to address the problem, issues remain. Former bartender Josh Mulroney, who was allowing the Ogden Street Nazis and other white supremacists in the establishment, moved on to Tennyson Tap. Despite very public statements that Nazis would not be allowed at Streets, and even signage in front stating as much, Streets continues to book Chemical X and denies their fascist ties. They played there last New Year’s, in April of 2019, and have an upcoming show in January of 2020. Rather than listen to respected people in the Denver music scene who are familiar with the issues, the owner, John Elliott, demonstrated a lack of maturity and perspective in his attack on specific local musicians on social media in December, 2019.
Streets is an example of an owner being in over his head dealing with fascism- and the photo of Denver Nazi James Mason in front of his establishment with the anti-Nazi signage sadly echoes what is being allowed to still go on inside those doors.
Neo-Nazi James Mason outside of Streets
Lions Lair
This Denver classic had a problem with the Ogden Street Nazis as well- but ended up getting them out of the establishment by 86ing all of them. Since then, they have done a good job with booking with one exception. Outgoing booker Jake Miller left the incoming booker with a doozy of a July, 2019 show- the Chemical X EP release. There is no reason to think this will happen again, however. Lions Lair management is determined to keep the spot Nazi-free, and they do a good job of it without being in the spotlight. Other venues would benefit from heeding their example. When Elite Fitrea was at a Wednesday night open stage in June, 2018 the host was alerted and was very receptive to the information.
3 Kings Tavern
It is unknown how many of the original founding “Kings” remain at this decade-old south Broadway live music staple. The booking policies reflect a lack of clear leadership. Derek Pettinelli, a/k/a “Metal DP,” was allowed to book there as recently as July, 2019. It is unclear whether he or his associates will be allowed to book shows there in the future. If safety is important to you, you may want to steer clear.
Tennyson Tap
Josh Mulroney may not be bartending at this establishment any more but is possibly still booking there. Under his watch, Chemical X played a show in October, 2019. Metal DP was allowed to book there this year, and in the past couple years rape rockers The Mentors, whose crowd overlaps with white supremacists, were allowed to perform. It is unclear how many people currently book at Tennyson’s and if anybody is vetting who performs there. Josh also books a lot of shows that do not feature edge lords or white supremacists. Given his welcoming attitude to white supremacists during his time at Streets of London, we ask you to stay vigilant.
Your Mom’s House
Departing from their usual formula of booking white “funk” bands and new independent bands who are not yet familiar with business dealings with small club owners, this oddly named Capitol Hill venue allowed Metal DP to book a show in June, 2019. Owner James Bedwell III refused to cancel the show despite being given evidence that bands with fascist links were on the bill. It is clearly all about the money with this venue- steer clear!
Antero Hall
This new venue is being run by Ken Morris… if it is still open. Ken seems to mean well; however, he has learned the hard way that if people are allowed to book there no questions asked, and one of those people is Metal DP, things can get very awkward very quickly. In October, 2019 Ken allowed rape rockers The Mentors to perform there which indicates someone is asleep at the wheel. In November, Metal DP had a two day festival set up. This ended up not happening at Antero Hall, whether it was due to Ken not getting his liquor license in time, getting shook about who he had allowed in, or an outraged community venting on his Facebook. We hope Ken will be much more careful in the future. Researching bands can be a lot of work but he had a lot of help with the Metal DP fiasco.
The Roxy Theatre (Five Points)
Not to be confused with the new Roxy Denver that took over the space formerly known as Syntax Physic Opera on south Broadway, the Roxy Theatre is owned by Ivan Ovchinnikov who allowed Metal DP to move his November fascist festival there. The festival shrunk to one night and some of the non-Nazi bands dropped off the bill when they found out who they would be sharing it with. Due to the short notice of the festival move, calls to the venue quickly escalated to callouts on social media. This is a lesson: Know who is using your space and have standards that are good for the neighborhood you are in, the music scene in general, and the greater community. Ivan went to social media and Westword to defend himself and the very clearly fascist bands Metal DP surrounds himself with. As such, The Roxy Theatre should be considered a fascist-friendly venue.

Bands

Without giving these people a lot of attention, here is a short list of problematic bands mentioned in the venue descriptions:

Chemical X

Anti-communist dog whistling* evidenced in their Facebook banner. Although their Facebook banner features a crossed out swastika as well as a crossed out hammer and sickle, the crossed out swastika appears to be disingenuous- virtue signaling with nothing concrete to back it up. There are known fascists in their fan base who continue to attend their shows. Andrew Scott of the Nazi punk band Total Annihilation plays in Chemical X, and their vocalist Kaylon Shellhorn likes a number of fascist hardcore bands on Facebook. Andrew is supposedly “reformed” but has not provided good evidence to substantiate this claim.

Andrew Scott (Back) of Chemical X on tour with Nazi Oi band Total Annihilation in February 2018. Notice the Nazi SS Totenkopf’s on the front two jackets.
Andrew Scott (back) with Jimi Yamatomo (right) on January 31, 2019
Kaylon Tallon’s Facebook likes, featuring two fascist Oi bands: Cycle Of Violence and Blue Collar Stompers
Blue Collar Stompers vocalist with a Nazi SS Totenkopf tattoo on his neck
Pages liked by Chemical X include Total Annihilation and 4 Minute Warning

Anti-Communism as a fascist dogwhistle goes way back. The Ku Klux Klan was very effective at leveraging cold war fear to trick the public into thinking they weren’t fascists, just concerned citizens willing to stop the spread of Communism. White racist terrorism has flourished since the 20th Century in the United States of America under the banner of Anti-Communism.

A user from the Anti-Communist Action group, which participated in the deadly Charlottesville white nationalist rally, explaining how they use Anti-Communism (right) as a cover for Nazism (left)

Out For Blood

Out For Blood is the same guys from Chemical X, which means all their fascist baggage comes along with them.

Elite Fitrea

Bryan Day is the founding member of Rocky Mountain Men’s Rights Advocacy and served time in prison for burning down a house after a breakup. MRA groups are considered under the umbrella of Male Supremacy extremist groups by The SPLC. Bryan may still be lurking around the fringes of Denver open mics.

Metal DP /Death Potion Productions:

Derek Pettinelli books metal shows, many of which feature NSDM (National Socialist Death Metal) acts he brings in from other countries under the name Metal DP, and now Death Potion Productions. While not all of Derek’s shows feature NSBM acts, how many of them do is concerning. It comes as no surprise that members of the Neo-Nazi group Operation Werewolf are frequently spotted at Metal DP events. Derek is positing himself as a hero, fighting back against the “fascist” “snowflakes” in the name of free speech. In reality, he is trying to normalize hate music in the Denver scene and should probably just give up already.

Derek has also produced fake flyers to drag other Denver area venues down with him after the public outcry of him bringing NSBM band Horna to town.
A fake flyer by Derek Pettinelli falsely stating that 7th Circle was hosting the anti-Semitic black metal band Horna
A show booked by Derek Pettinelli under the name Death Potion Productions

Moving Forward

Moving forward, there are other promoters and bands that are being monitored. If you want to help us stay ahead of the game, send tips to: SafeSceneDenver@protonmail.com.
There are lots of ways to help prevent the spread of fascism in the Denver music scene. One way is to keep tabs on your friends and acquaintances. Under the Trump administration, formerly fringe ideas have crept into the mainstream. If your friend is starting to slide in that direction, you can help check them. Tell them you care about them. Tell them you expect better from them. Their slide into extremism can be checked, and people they have emotional ties with are the ones who can make this happen.
A lot of things can seem innocuous but, taken together, reflect warped thinking:
  • Blanket statements about “political correctness;” complaints specifically targeting people of color including but not limited to immigrants, refugees, and Natives; womxn; disabled people; LGTBQ people and nonbinary people; unhoused people; poor people
  • Complaints about holidays, celebrities, and intolerant behavior being “canceled”
  • Other demonstrations of lack of compassion for people lower in hierarchies than straight white cis men
Another way to help prevent the spread of fascism in the Denver music scene is to support venues that are doing a good job and bands and promoters who have their heads up and care about people. The economy is hurting everyone who is working class and more poor than that, as are many musicians and supporters. It makes working with or in music extra difficult right now and we will need to take care of each other.
We will not retain our rights to be out in public if we stay home. We will not retain our ability to see or play shows in a safer environment if we stay home. The good clubs will not stay open if we stay home. We will not build strong communities composed of all kinds of people if we stay home. There is not an app for that. You know what to do, we will see you at a show soon.

UPDATE:

January 4th, 2020

We have obtained screenshots of a chat between Jimi Yamamoto of the fascist Oi band Total Annihilation and a Total Annihilation fan. Jimi urges his fan to go to the Chemical X show at Streets, saying they’re a good band and two of his friends who have been involved with Total Annihilation are in it.

 

Out For Blood has the same members as Chemical X and thus the same fascist baggage.

When asked about Chemical X’s anti-Nazi & anti-Communist Facebook header, Jimi says that they only put that up after the bands connections with him were exposed.

You can read the entire conversation here.

Total Annihilation (including Andrew Scott of Chemical X) wearing shirts of the  Japanese Fascist Oi band AggroKnuckle.
Jimi Yamamoto wearing a Bound For Glory shirt, the notorious Nazi punk band.