It's a tough life being in a rock-and-roll band. Endless days on the road, long nights in smoky clubs, the occasional beating by thugs who don't like your politics.
You're probably wondering what we mean by that last one. Well, we're talking about Lillian Berlin, singer for the band Living Things, which opens for Velvet Revolver this weekend at the Granada Theater. The band, made up of three brothers from St. Louis, plays hard-edged, politically conscious rock. They don't care much for the Bush administration, a fact that Berlin occasionally makes clear from the stage. In fact, he's been known to set a photo of Bush on fire while onstage, then piss out the flames.
(It's a popular move in Europe, where Americans are not too welcome these days, Berlin says. That's something to keep in mind this summer if you're traveling and don't want to pretend you're Canadian.)
There was no whiz or flaming Bush the last time Living Things stopped in Dallas, 11 months ago at the Gypsy Tea Room, just Berlin onstage suggesting that the Bush administration was moving toward reinstating the draft and asking the audience what they thought of that. Apparently, someone thought that would be just fine, and that maybe Berlin had better keep his mouth shut. Some "National Guard-looking guys" booed him, he says, and when he went outside after the show, he was jumped by three men. Two pinned his arms, and a third struck him in the body with a pistol, cracking his ribs and knocking him down.
"He said, 'I'm gonna execute you like they execute Iraqis,' and all this crap came out of his mouth," Berlin says. They berated him for his Bush comments and suggested he and his band should get out of Dallas and not come back. Then the pistol-toting fascist fired off a round beside his ear. The three attackers split when a street person yelled and ran toward them to break up the attack.
Berlin says the band has received threats and had bottles thrown at them in other cities because of their political statements, but this was the first time gunplay was involved. But this is Dallas, where expressing political views from the muzzle of a gun is not exactly unheard of.
"I just can't imagine someone getting that pissed off about George Bush," Berlin says.
The Dallas police officers who took the original report on the attack, incidentally, insisted on calling the assault an attempted robbery, though Berlin says he wasn't asked for money, and he still had his wallet afterward.
The attack hasn't deterred the band. The three Berlin brothers are the sons of a political activist mother, who once tried to join the Black Panthers and who was sometimes harassed for her views, too. Their band is following in her footsteps by cranking out rock that urges listeners to pay attention to politics and get involved, no matter what your beliefs--though maybe not so involved that you shoot at your opponents.
"I want people to form their own opinions," Berlin says. Oh, and if the guys who jumped Berlin are reading this--assuming they know how to read--Berlin would like to see you at the band's show. He thinks he could identify at least two of you. "I'd love these guys to show up so I could get them nailed," he says.