A few weeks back I saw The Slants in concert at Anime Saint Louis. They are based out of Portland, Oregon but they get around and were heading further east (Tennessee) when I was heading to Seattle, Washington the following weekend. The genre of the Slants is Chinatown Dance Rock which really pins it down I suppose, but to me it was just good music and a fun concert. They have a great rhythm and beat for dancing at a rave and they are full of energy. Add a light box that they take turns jumping gyrating on when they are playing guitar or singing and some flashing lights and they will rock any venue they play. That’s just what they did in Saint Louis.
After the concert I passed on my card to one of the guys and heard back from them last week. Simon Young sent me a link with more information and now I have their CDs which I have been listening to. He also gave me permission to post a couple samples of their music so you lucky people get a sampling of what I got to hear live!
Normally I wouldn’t focus on the racial mix or characteristics of a group but it seems appropriate in their case to mention that The Slants have, you know, slanted eyes. I hate to admit it but it didn’t even occur to me where they got their name until I read their press material. When I am shooting a concert I am often far too concerned with getting decent pics, getting good angles, getting clear shots, and such to really think about the social ramifications of the music. I knew they mentioned their racial background in such songs as Sakura, SaKura (see below) but I didn’t think about it too intensely.
When I grew up people were calling Brazil Nuts “Nigger Toes” and we didn’t think about it being racially derogatory. I had friends of other races but never thought about it and didn’t even realize it for some until I was an adult looking through my scrap book. I remember when one of my best friends in High School was called a “Nigger” and we had, at that point, been friends for five years. It just puzzled me that they would call him that and I had to think about it. His Dad was from Africa and he did have darker skin but before then I never even thought about his race. I just thought it was neat his dad was from a foreign country.
I was a scrawny nerd and they called me “elephant ears”, “Dumbo”, “professor”, “weirdo”, “nerd” and various other epithets so I didn’t really feel calling him that was any worse than the things they called me so didn’t really think that much of it at the time. Far worse was the physical abuse the jocks put us through, like the one who liked to pick me up by the neck and hold me against the wall with my feet dangling three feet above the ground or like when they grabbed my friend naked in the locker room, folded him in half, stuffed him in a waste basket with his arms and legs dangling over the sides and slid the waste basket out in the hall and locked the door just as the bell rang.
Years later I got a better understanding of the racial prejudice I grew up in when I went home for Thanksgiving with the beautiful lady I was dating at the time. She is Puerto Rican and has beautiful, hot chocolate brown skin. My folks, she, and I went to the nicest restaurant in town for their Thanksgiving buffet. They were going all out with cloth napkins and their fanciest adornments. They said it would take a few minutes as they were so crowded though there were empty tables all around (it was probably at about 2/3rds capacity.) After 20-25 minutes we were taken to a corner room in the back where it was just us and a couple that consisted of a white woman and a black man. Here the napkins were paper and the finery, not so fine. She would probably quote me a line from Blazing Saddles. “They are people of the land. You know. Morons!” People wonder why I don’t particularly like going back to my home town.
Currently The Slants are in a legal battle with the U.S. Trademark Office for the right to use their name. Much in the way that I have embraced the fact that I am, indeed, weird, they embrace the term “Slants” as referring to Asians and at their concerts they shout it out with pride that they are the SLANTS! While they are heavily supported by the Asian American community, the U.S. Government is trying to protect them and their people from disparaging themselves while at the same time defending the right of the Washington Redskins football team to their name against strong opposition of the American Indian community. The same sort of laws and selective enforcement results in labeling hot food with a, “Warning! Contents May Be Hot!” or warnings that you not stick long, sharp, pointy objects in your ear so that the people of our land don’t burn or impale themselves while leaving New Orleans exposed to Katrina.
I wish The Slants well in their effort to trademark their name. Even more so, I wish them well in their musical efforts. Check out their site and schedule and, if you are in the area when they are performing, catch them in action. In the meantime, check out Sakura Sakura and Capture Me Burning and then go to their site for more!