Sometimes when I despair at the abject cluelessness and parochialism of local news “journalism,” I’m reminded that at least I live in a city, and could have WAY WORSE local news pickings were I to forsake easy access to museums and concert clubs for the quiet life. Take the small town of Spanish Fork, Utah. A quick jog south of Provo, it’s bisected by a Main Street that runs a whoppin’ five miles from its northern to southern borders, and with a roughly 10% Hispanic population, Spanish Fork doesn’t boast a whole lot of Spanish speakers. This is no bastion of urbanity, and of course that’s fine, not everyplace has to be.
But when their fairgrounds manager booked a Rage Against the Machine show, the residents and the local news all UTTERLY FLIPPED THEIR LIDS.
Local lore holds that the booking was made under the misapprehension that “Rage Against the Machine” was the name of a touring tractor-pull or monster truck rally. The fairgrounds manager and city manager both deny that in a City Weekly article published last year, but whatever the reason for the booking, hysteria ensued. A contemporary article in the LDS-owned Utah paper Deseret News reported thusly:
A rally at the city park organized by Shelley Matterson expressed some residents’ own rage against the booking of the group but acknowledged that fairgrounds manager Steve Money, who scheduled the band at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, did so in error. “He’s devastated,” said Ann Banks, daughter of Mayor Marie Huff. Banks said her mother had been subject to verbal attacks by residents who called the mayor, wondering how the controversial group could have been booked to appear there.
Most residents expressed fear that the group - known for its loud music and rough lyrics - was coming to Spanish Fork. Tash Johns urged the council in absentia to “take the bold stand and cancel the concert. We will stand behind them if they take this stand of courage,” she said.
Residents said they feared the lyrics that will be heard well beyond the fairground’s wooden fences as well as the rocker fans that would be there and the potential for injuries that one man who favors the concert said would likely result. Others expressed concern about lawsuits that could result if someone is killed or injured during the concert. They also fear a discrimination lawsuit if the concert is canceled.
Wouldn’t want the rocker fans to kill anyone now…
But that article is quite measured. It’s local TV news where out-of-touch bafflement and old-people paranoia really shine brightest. This news report was completely alarmist even though it was produced after the concert took place—and of course nothing bad happened except that a terrible rap-metal band that made “anti-establishment” “socialist” records to profit the international corporation Sony played its shitty high-fivin’ bro-down music. I kinda lost it a little at the remark about the “big city rock band.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Earnestly square local news series on punk rock, 1983
‘Knockin’ ‘Em Down in the City’: Iggy Pop rocks the Cleveland local news, 1979
Occupy Your Rage Against the Machine: Bill Moyers interviews Tom Morello