• Conor Oberst of Desaparecidos. Photos by Melissa Bobbitt
    Conor Oberst of Desaparecidos. Photos by Melissa Bobbitt

    The scalper barked a confused message into his phone: “Yeah, they’re called Desaparecidos, but the audience is a bunch of 25-year-old white kids.” This over-the-hill peddler of ill-begotten wares might have been baffled, but those actually there to see the fabled Omaha band were elated. The post-punk-emo quintet, led by nu-Dylan scribe Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, were to play a raucous set that gave these pale urban youths a riot of their own. Oberst has long been an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, as Desaparecidos’ name is derived from citizens of Latin American countries who seemingly vanish thanks to suspicious police activity. This group lay dormant since 2002 but picked up the pace in 2010 when word spread of Arizona’s oppressive racial baiting laws.

    Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos
    Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos

    One of the most fist-pumping moments of the Nov. 4 concert at the Fonda was when Desaparecidos played their 2012 slight of fascist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “MariKKKopa.” Oberst, tucked into a mic stage right – an offsetting tilt suggesting he didn’t want to be the main focus of the show – let his voice run ragged as he decried profiling practices. To further emphasize the democratic nature of this group (compared to Bright Eyes, where Oberst was the undisputed captain of the ship), the members kept one another in check. When the wordy front man went on a rant introducing new tune “Underground Man” and slammed President Obama for being a faux leftist, drummer Matt Baum flared his cymbals. Oberst chuckled and informed the crowd that was his cue to stop being so heavy and get back to the music. And not to be upstaged by the immortal emo heartthrob, guitarist Denver Dalley shined brightly, tossing his long blond locks like an unbridled stallion. His mastery of his instrument was awe-inspiring; the sea of head-banging craniums agreed.

    Landon Hedges of Desaparecidos
    Landon Hedges of Desaparecidos

    There was something palpable to the Desaparecidos concert that night. Amid all the NSA surveillance, WikiLeaks biopics and what have you, a new tension called for an old iconoclast to provide the soundtrack. These Midwestern fellows answered the call of duty when others slumbered. (Rage Against the Machine, where you at?) Sure, it might seem quaint or even hypocritical that cis, upper-class Caucasians are trumpeting anti-bigotry, but the passion Desaparecidos put into their lyrics, instrumentation and performances is nuclear. It was seen in Dalley’s and Baum’s stage dives, and in the frenzied playing of opener Joyce Manor. It was in the cover of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” and in the Charybdis swells of the mosh pit.

    Barry Johnson of Joyce Manor
    Barry Johnson of Joyce Manor

    Desaparecidos are a riot unto themselves, and we are lucky to have them around again in these tumultuous times.

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