One week after two members of Iranian dance-punk band the Yellow Dogs were killed as part of a tragic November 11 murder-suicide, family, friends, and fans of the group gathered at Brooklyn Bowl on Monday night to pay their respects at a memorial concert. The lineup featured an impressive array of talent, including Nada Surf, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic, James Chance of the Contortions, and Helado Negro.
Johnny Azari opened the event, which called for $15 donations, with all proceeds going toward the victims and family affected by the East Williamsburg shooting that claimed the lives of Yellow Dogs guitarist Soroush Farazmand and drummer Arash Farazmand, as well as fellow Iranian musician Ali Eskandarian and the gunman, Ali Akbar Mohammed Rafie.
“It’s moments like these that really make you realize how hollow words are,” Azari said to the solemn-faced crowd. “Our Iranian heritage is so rich with poetry — to be left speechless like this is really devastating.”
For much of the show, attendees behaved as if they were in a funeral home, not a bowling-alley-slash-bar-slash-music-venue. The audience maintained only a low level of chatter between performances, and usually settled for close whispers when acts took the stage for sets of varying lengths. Some mourners held flowers, others gripped glasses of red wine. Projection screens above the bowling lanes cycled through photographs and videos of the deceased — shots of them rehearsing, playing gigs, driving, and mugging for the camera were broken up by the occasional childhood photo.
A series of poster boards decorated with photo collages were carried over from a candlelit vigil held earlier in the day at Williamsburg’s Cameo Gallery and rested against the brick of Brooklyn Bowl’s western wall. Sharpie permanent markers occupied the same table, urging fans to write dedications.
For Soroush Farazmand: “I’ll miss playing music with you — you’ll continue to inspire me forever.” For Arash Farazmand: “You’ll wake up and forget this big lie. You are alive.” For Ali Eskandarian: “I still have your scarf.”
The size and the mood of the gathering shifted at an ebb and flow throughout the night, hitting a peak about three hours in, at 10 p.m. or so, when gutter-punks Dirty Fences delivered a surge of adrenalin to the proceedings. In the showcase’s latter half, roughly when Kyp Malone stepped to the microphone, the audience had already begun trickling out and the somber tone had started to seep back into the room.
“I feel very honored and strangely humbled to participate in this,” a noticeably upset Malone said onstage. “My heart goes out to the family and friends of the deceased. I think the only shadow effect that’s a positive that I can see right now is that it’s a reminder of the importance of community… It means something.”
By midnight, just as Nada Surf began their set, many of the people watching were hugging and consoling each other, trying to fathom the enormous loss they’ve suffered.
“I usually have too much to say,” Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws told the crowd before leading a rendition of “Blonde on Blonde,” from 2002’s Let Go LP. “Right now I don’t have enough.”