For Tom Gallo, bassist of Rock Against Rape performer Violet Nine, sexual violence is an issue that hits close to home. Several members of his family have been victims of sexual assault, and when his mother was very young she barely escaped the same fate when a man broke into her house. He said, “People rape because they don’t understand what they’re doing. If you can understand the idea of it, rape would be so far from your mind.”
Despite the painful experience, Gallo is still able to look at this issue with compassion. “When I think of someone who does that, I feel bad for them. Not because I’m looking down on them, but because someone could be that unaware of themselves. I’ve never been drunk or high because it’s always important to control yourself, to understand your heart and mind, the way you feel.”
Violet Nine was one of three bands playing at Friday night’s Rock Against Rape, an event in its fifth year. It started after a group called “Men Can Stop Rape” came to the campus out of Washington D.C., and suggested a large event to provide information and funds to support local agencies dedicated to preventing domestic violence.
The concert is sponsored by Sigma Phi Epsilon, and supported by the Safe Campus Project and Peer Educators. According to Sig Ep Vice President of Programming Mark Gonyer, they started out doing small concerts on their front lawn. “It’s a chance to get our name out there, a valuable resource, and a lot of fun,” said Gonyer. “Every year we go for a bigger and better show.” Free admission and carefully selected bands help attract people who would not otherwise come to an event with this message.
Andrew Gerke, member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, is responsible for organizing the event. “My biggest concern is that rape occurs,” Gerke said, “It’s still not impossible to abolish. I’m worried about people not knowing about it.”
The main objective of Rock Against Rape is to raise awareness of the issue, which can sometimes be difficult. Andrew Gerke said, “The only way to get through to students is to acknowledge that it’s a touchy subject. It’s hard to get students to go to that level if it hasn’t happened to them.” When asked why rape is a problem, particularly on college campuses, Gerke answered, “You’re able to let go at college, make your own decisions. Some people don’t think twice.”
The groups asked to play were all indie rock, with some emo and pop influences. The first to take the stage was Lost On Liftoff, led by Walter Craven, former lead singer for a band called 6gig. “The surest way to keep warm is to come closer, near the lights,” Craven announced before playing, his breath forming a wisp of vapor as he spoke. The crowd bunched in front of the stage. Some people rocked back and forth, others stood motionless or jumped up and down to see. All were absorbed in the music. Lost on Liftoff combines simple refrains on the electric guitar with a hard rock beat and high but decidedly masculine vocals. The guitarist wore a hood low over his baseball cap and played doubled-over, apparently chewing gum for part of the song. The drummer’s head was bowed as the beats rumbled out from the stage, seeming to synchronize with your heartbeat. The lyrics were tinged with angst and yearning, as in the first song: “Goodbye summertime/ Another way, to say goodbye/ I feel, left behind,” and then the defiant chorus, “I’m doing fine without you.” The emotional content projected an aura of vulnerability.
Violet Nine’s sound was more melodic. Although it has the instrumentation of a rock band, its songs tend towards a kind of trancelike pop, reminiscent of Radiohead. Ben Consoli, the lead singer, jumped and danced across the stage wearing a formal black jacket over a T-shirt, and a black, metal-studded bracelet. He led the audience in clapping as he sang brightly, “We rise, we rise, we rise/ Leave the past behind. Do you realize, you have a choice in what you want to do.”
Violet Nine has been playing for four years, “Since June 11, 2002″ says guitarist Nick Lewis. The group formed in Boston, where the members attended Emerson College and Berklee College of Music. “Playing music is the easy part,” says drummer Greg Faucher. “The hard part is sticking together.”
The most well-known attraction that night was Anberlin. “As soon as Anberlin got up there, the show was amazing,” says Chris Calci, a first-year political science major who managed to catch a drumstick the band threw into the crowd. Their song “Paperthin Hymn” wove electric guitars in a melody alternating between a mellow, hypnotic strumming and a hard, fast wail as the chorus builds up to a scream and ends in a murmur: “I thought you said forever/ Over and over/ These thoughts run through my head . Complaints of violins/ become my only friends.” In an interview with Artisan News last April, lead singer Steven Christian said the song was inspired when guitarist Joseph Mulligan lost his sister to cancer. While several of the songs dealt with loss and depression, Anberlin still kept up a high energy performance. The band members jumped and paced across the stage and, as if the energy was contagious, the crowd formed a very small mosh pit.
The event also included guest speakers Steve Rowe, Maine Attorney General, and State Representative Emily Cain. Both stayed for the entire event, even though their speeches were at the very beginning of the concert and Rowe had commitments the following morning. He told the audience, “Meeting you tonight gives me great hope for this state and this nation.”
The talks included rape statistics and facts about prevention. Out of every 10 women, 2 will be sexually assaulted or suffer an attempt within their lifetimes. While rape has a connotation of dark alleys and dangerous strangers, it can happen anywhere and even occur between people who are in a relationship. Eighty percent of rape victims already know the perpetrator. “The No. 1 way to put yourself at risk is to ingest alcohol or drugs,” says Rowe, also stressing, “If a woman is intoxicated, she cannot give consent [to sex].” Said Cain, “The only way we’re going to stop rape is if we’re willing to talk about it and work together.”
Despite low temperatures, the concert went on for a good four hours, with the crowd growing as time passed. For Anberlin it was the second coldest weather they’d played in. “The first would be outside in Kentucky, when it was snowing,” says drummer Nate Young, “It was absolutely freezing and we all got super sick.” What prompted people to spend a Friday night out in the cold? “Free concert,” answers Nick Rucker, a first-year new media major. The concert even attracted people from off-campus, like Alyson of Herman. “I went last year and we liked it,” she says. “The bands are good.”
The consensus among the bands was that the show went well. “We’ve played in Orono a lot,” said Craven of Liftoff. “It’s never disappointing.” Nate Young was impressed with the campus. “If I ever went to college, it would be here,” says Young. “The facilities for baseball are amazing.”
“Unbelievable,” said Anberlin’s Steven Christian. “We all had low expectations. It was cold, not well publicized. By the end of the first song we looked at each other like, ‘Are you serious?’ We had so much fun.”