Elliot Seng: Rioting with Amnesty International
Steamboat Springs — No, no. Amnesty International didn’t cause any raucous behavior at Riot Fest and Rodeo in Denver. But they were there, in force, to promote poignant issues regarding human rights internationally. Why would such an organization feel appropriate at a hardcore metal music festival? Well, I was there to find out. Riding the coattails of Steamboat’s own Molly Goldberg and her quest for all things to be right in our ugly world, we “rioted” for the cause.
Through sweat, dust, mosh pits and metal, I found myself aloof. Having not been a part of this music scene in over ten years, I was left feeling a bit jaded and old. Looking around I saw nothing but mohawks, studded leather vests, converse sneakers and a crowd foaming at the mouth for what they’ve been waiting for all summer. With monster acts like Modest Mouse, The Pixies, Iggy Pop in addition to Coheed and Cambria headlining the bill, there was no shortage of ravenous fans.
I met Goldberg at the Amnesty International tent as she brought me up to speed on the latest work Amnesty has been up to. Amnesty International is a worldwide organization focused on awareness and action towards human rights violations. The stated objective of the organization is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.”
Their goal at the festival was to gather 1,000 signatures over several hotbed issues. Hash-tags were used to differentiate between each. A few topics of the topics included #DeadlyForce, regarding policy brutality in the US and #FreeRaif, an issue about a Saudi Arabian man jailed on a 10 year sentence enduring periodical rounds of torture for speaking against the region’s pro-Islamic religious views.
After hearing about their intent at the festival, it seemed Goldberg and her volunteers had their work cut out for them. As the booth’s night came to a close I was worried for the mission at hand. How would Amnesty get over 1,000 signatures with this crowd?
The next day, Saturday, I met with Amnesty International after the Less Than Jake performance, a punk-ska household name in their respective music world. Having been a mainstay in the punk genre for over 20 years, and having seen them 10 years ago, it was great to see these guys still killing it. But little did I know that Less Than Jake would be making an appearance at their tent for autographs and pictures as well as talking with fans about particular worldly issues at hand.
My perception of metal-heads and rockers alike almost immediately flip-flopped. Talking with the band themselves and their tour manager brought to light how we as music fans should never judge a book by its cover.
By the end of the day I witnessed these relentless volunteers acquire close to 2,000 petition signatures. I was elated for their efforts and the sometimes shrouded portrayal of decency amongst rockers and punks alike.
It just goes to show that despite looks and musical taste we’re all human beings facing the same problems. And just maybe, these hardcore, felonious rioters have a little more sense than we think. Maybe we could all be a little more proactive towards the world’s ills. Or maybe we’ll just start a riot to get our point across.
Elliot Seng can tell a few stories. Especially the type where music takes the stage. His story started in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in 1987. At 27 years old, and residing in Steamboat Springs for the past five years, his dedication to music is more alive than ever. Whether at home in a robe harmonizing to a favorite vocalist or standing next to you at the weekend’s top gig dancing like a ninny, he cannot be ignored. In his short time on earth he’s a proven music junkie, and totally broke from it.
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Members of the Ute tribe from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation will return to Steamboat Springs to perform a series of powwow dance performances and share the history of these dances and their culture.