“It’s just about standing up for some shit you believe in!”
Arrested Youth’s opening declaration summed up Tuesday’s Midterm Massacre demonstration perfectly. Conceived by outspoken artist-activist grandson, the event came to life inside south Los Angeles warehouse venue 1720.
The massive space transformed into a dystopian political landscape- complete with tattered American flags, projected “propaganda” videos and neon lit podiums mocking the current governmental system. Attendees arrived in their wildest Halloween costumes, captured on a custom photobooth for the event.
As the room filled up, Arrested Youth took the stage in elaborate skeleton makeup and their signature jumpsuits. Singer Ian Johnson took the group’s set to a next level, adding heightened theatricality into the mix. Already an outspoken outfit, Johnson and company threw themselves into material from their debut album, Fear.
Guitarist Aaron Shadrow and drummer Gavin Gottlich literally switched things up mid-set, changing instruments for a song and nailing each other’s instrumental parts. The group covered Blur’s “Song 2”, the crowd obliging with deafening ‘WOOHOOs’.
Arrested Youth’s primary inspiration comes from quitting jobs in corporate America to pursue music full time. With this in mind, the band played “All My Friends Are Robots” before Johnson dove into the crowd for “The News”.
British shocker Dominic Harrison, aka Yungblud, bounded onstage, crutches and all, for the next set. Despite breaking his ankle during a prior show, he refused to play from his designated wheelchair for more than a few moments at a time, instead stomping the stage even more than his usual. He stayed true to the Halloween theme of the evening in full Joker makeup and cheeky nurse outfit, screaming his way through “21st Century Liability” to start the set.
Yungblud was the perfect addition to the lineup, his crazy stage antics riling up the fans as they pressed even closer. Incredibly, he managed to stay on his feet for the majority of his stage time, giving the audience menacing glares and bedroom eyes in turn (even grabbing his guitarist for a passionate kiss midway through).
Yungblud is passionately in lust with his audience and they fully worship his insanity. He barely paused for breath, running from bouncy fan-favorite “I Love You, Will You Marry Me” to “Anarchist”. By the end of the night, his Joker makeup had melted off as he doused the crowd with water and sweat. The ever-appropriate “California” rounded out Yungblud’s sprint of a set as he immediately went to meet fans at the end.
The audience couldn’t contain its excitement as the mastermind behind the event arrived. Jordan Benjamin, aka grandson, put his message front and center, wearing a bear spirit hood with “VOTE OR DIE” painted on his chest. 1720 was packed by this point in the evening, screaming the words to “6:00”, a savage shot fired against police brutality. Grandson turned the Midterm Massacre into a proper headliner, playing his entire released catalog.
Looking out at the crowd singing his words back had him grinning, saying, “This is what rock and roll needs to be for it to come back!” Grandson is committed to political and social activism, setting up a voter information booth alongside the merch tables. Attendees were encouraged to play games and learn more about making their voices heard on a larger scale.
Grandson has never been shy about speaking to his past experiences- the good and the bad. “Overdose” was a more emotional moment in the set before bringing things back up with the fast-paced “Kiss Bang”. Grandson and his band are monsters onstage- flailing, jumping and playing the music like there’ll never be another chance. They turned Bob Marley’s classic tune “War” into a rock and roll jam that shook the building.
“Despicable”, his “ballad of self-loathing”, injected even more grit and pain into the performance. The first in an ongoing series of demonstrations, the Midterm Massacre lived up to the name with a biting rendition of “thoughts & prayers”, dedicated to the victims of the recent Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.
Not one to leave on a low note, grandson closed his set by prowling the stage to “Stick Up” and the tune that brought him international attention- “Blood//Water”.
In an era where the younger generations are consumed with societal apathy, the Midterm Massacre was astounding to witness. The music served to bring important issues to people’s attentions without preaching, propaganda, or fear-mongering. This was a room full of the next generation of voters and they were screaming. With the promise of more “demonstrations” to come, these artists are refusing to back down from effecting real change in the world- one rock show at a time.
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Story and photos by Olivia Khiel