Check out Tour Diary #3 via our Official ‘Todos Somos Ilegales: We Are All Illegals’ tour partners, CUENTAME.
WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS TOUR JOURNAL PART 3 – by Leo Mintek of Outernational
April 19 – Santa Maria, CA
We began the California leg of the Todos Somos Ilegales Tour in Santa Maria, California. the strawberry capital of the USA. We were invited by CE’ENI (Colectivo Educativo Estudiantil de Naciones Indigenas) and were greeted by an airbrushed banner announcing our concert: in a backyard. We rocked through an acoustic set of songs from Todos Somos Ilegales and the coming album Welcome To The Revolution. A circle pit broke out and the fired up young crowd danced and sang along to songs like For It All Now, Que Queremos and Across the Borderline.
Santa Maria is the strawberry capital of the USA and most of the workers in the fields are from far south in Mexico and Central America. Many of our hosts were Mixteca people from Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Afterwards they treated us to an incredible Pozole dinner accompanied by fresh strawberry juice. We heard stories of recent border crossings from Baja California all the way to Santa Maria. One friend had just crossed back to the US through the Arizona desert, the very same land we had visited last week, hosted by our indigenous O’odham friends from the Tohono O’odham Nation - which the Arizona-Mexico border cuts in half. It was chilling to hear his stories of a week long journey: hiring a coyote, climbing desert mountain passes for days, running out of water, and riding in an overcrowded truck all the way to Phoenix. It was very heavy to hear his story and remember the desert mountain ranges from last week, having been told by our O’odham hosts that the migrants travel the mountains to avoid the Migra surveillance on the desert floor.
April 20 – Fresno, CA
In Fresno CA we played a rock show hosted by the Todo A Pulmon: Radio Bilingue radio show and played alongside Los Angeles punks Chencha Berrinches. Fans were waiting for us, ready to sing along to all the new songs from Todos Somos Ilegales. Little did they know that the intense touring had taken its toll on Miles’ vocal chords and they would have to indeed sing along – from the stage! We invited fans to jump up and sing and we rocked an amazing wild show, supported by our fans who knew all the lyrics and gave back such energy! What a night!
April 21 – Sacramento, CA
We were invited to Sacramento, CA by the Sol Collective, an amazing local art/culture/activism group we worked with at SXSW in Texas just a month before. They host concerts and have been providing a center for local youth for years despite police repression and harassment. They were having an awards dinner and Outernational was the afterparty. We played acoustic in the back room and received a standing ovation from the mostly older crowd, some of them beaming with smiles, seeing that their lifelong efforts were being carried on by a new generation. It was powerful; afterwards we heard stories of everything from SWAT team raids to neighborhood harassment of the center - because of the ‘dangerous youth’ Sol Collective works with. This is Sacramento, the capital of California, the city Arnold used to commute to daily from Beverly Hills in a helicopter; and where 40 years ago, Emory Douglass and other Black Panthers marched with arms into the capitol building.
April 22 – Berkeley, CA
We rolled into Berkeley down Telegraph avenue, passed People’s Park and entered Revolution Books. This revolutionary communist-led bookstore was throwing a fundraising concert to raise money for the BAsics Bus Tour which just kicked off from Atlanta, GA, spreading and promoting the writings of Bob Avakian, who you can hear twice on our new album: The Theme From Todos Somos Ilegales VI: ”The Greatest Country”and singing lead on Across The Borderline.
April 23 – San Francisco, CA
In San Francisco we played at the great rock club the Elbo Room. It’s in the mission district and we were greeted by this mural in the alleyway “To all indigenous people made prisoners in their own land”. We played a super high energy rock show to a near empty room. Nonetheless the people wilded out during the set and the encore of Fighting Song, but we walked away feeling ‘why is this band such a secret’? I heard the same sentiment from all the folks at the show. We left and hoped to return to the Bay again soon.
April 25 – Reno, NV
We arrived in Reno the morning that SB1070 entered the Lower Supreme Court. Actions were called for around the country and we performed in the street downtown with a local coalition rallying to make sure no SB1070 copycat bills are passed in Nevada. It’s important to understand that the Federal government blocked some parts of SB1070 when it passed in 2010. This Supreme Court hearing - happening right now - is to try to enforce the full draft of SB1070, to increase the racist climate of policing, fear and deportations in Arizona.
That night we played at the Reno Underground, where years before we toured with UK punk godfathers GBH. The owner of the club is from France, he grew up and cut class with Manu Chao and loves Todos Somos Ilegales so much that he set up a great cool show, which was broadcast live on the web. Reno is a very dark place. There is so much suffering in the streets: homeless, drugs, drunks, down and out people looking for saviors in the slot machine or a bottle. It’s also the state capitol and gambling extends from the glitzy downtown to neighborhood 7-11s where you can find slot machines next to the beer cooler and porno magazines. We left that night, and drove through the mountain pass, past the memorial to the Donner party: white colonists from 160 years ago who got stuck in the snowy mountains and ate corpses to survive. We made it back to California.
April 26 / Part 1– Sacramento, CA
We made a quick appearance in the morning outside a State building in Sacramento where family members of prisoners in California State Prison at Pelican Bay were rallying. Pelican Bay Prison is the most notorious of the super max prisons in California, at the furthest point northwest in California, over 13 hours drive from LA. There, on the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast, the state houses prisoners in Secure Housing Units (SHU) which are sensory deprived torture chambers, designed for short term punishment, and now used on people for decades. These are people whose only physical human contact comes from beat downs by guards and who are kept in windowless cells for 23.5 hours a day for years and subject to what is understood as Torture by any modern definition. Last year the SHU prisoners began hunger striking, led by a defiant multi-racial unity coalition, unheard of in California prisons, where the administration fosters and enforces racial division and warring. Read more about the SHU and the Hunger Strikers here.
April 26 / Part 2 – Occupy Fresno
We returned to Fresno and set up a DIY outdoor concert at Occupy with 24 hours notice. It was incredible. The fans, friends, the rebellious youth,and the local occupiers all came out and sang along to Que Queremos, Fighting Song, Sir No Sir and other acoustic jams including First Among Equals’ Fresno has a very inspiring new generation coming up, many of them students whose Chicano Studies professor told them to take off class and come to the Outernational Occupy Fresno concert.. It was one of those concerts that was so honest, so face-to-face and real… the type of show that will keep you going for weeks of no sleep and hard times.
April 27 – Tijuana, CA as told by Dr Blum
I was so excited to go to TJ and glad to finally leave stinktown USA. We dropped our van and trailer off with the San Diego promoter and jumped in a van from across the border. We drove across to Mexico which took a much shorter time than anticipated. We went to the club and met the promoter, a very cool laid back old school kind of guy. He took us around TJ and showed us the town. He showed us all the maquiladoras, which are those huge factories where America farms out its production to cheap labor. He showed us the wall which was pretty crazy and built into the ocean. It was covered in street art. We ate tacos.
After sound check we went to a Luchador match which was a silly cultural experience: dudes in wrestling masks pretending to hate each other. More like ballet than fighting.
We were performing at and old strip club. There was a pole on the stage. We rocked the show despite obvious sound system issues and we were joined by Ceci Bastida and we played Canta El Rio. I forgot how awesome that song was, I get to play a lot of accordion. The show was decently attended and fun was had by all. Afterwards we hung out in TJ and we met up with Pepe from Nortec Collective. What a crazy cool guy. Had a long talk with Pepe about the state of music today and how disappointed he is that there’s no new music, there’s too much just recreating old styles; no one is pushing boundaries enough.
I got a chance to hang at the oldest bar in TJ before retiring to our hotel. It was interesting, people tell you “TJ? Be careful!” But it didn’t feel dangerous; it’s like every city, there are parts of town that are tough. I thought it was going to be poor and violent, but just like any city it is a mix between all classes; the area we were in was where middle class Tijuana people go to party. TJ is no longer the American tourist area it was; there are no longer crowds of drunk Americans. It has been decaying and now revitalized for Mexican party-goers.
We saw police officers armed with machine guns. We drove by the red light district. Pretty fucked up that anywhere in the world is a red light district. It’s a cash town; many handshakes were exchanged. There’s a lot of hustling going on in that place.
When we were leaving to cross the border, that’s where we saw the poverty. There are all these people whose job it is to sell things to people waiting in line to cross to the US. Even I bought a $10 statue of a rooster from a man in the street. We crossed over and I was sorry to leave so quickly…. (Dr. Blum)
April 28 – San Diego
We crossed back to the USA, and looked back into Mexico from Tijuana. There are 4 border walls between the cities, walls which extend deep into the ocean, severing the land in two and maintaining two very different worlds on both sides. That night we played the Roots Factory, who built a stage and painted this Todos Somos Ilegales mural in our honor.
April 29 – Los Angeles
We arrived in Los Angeles on the 20th anniversary of the LA Rebellion (aka the Rodney King Riots). Revolution Books LA threw a series of events and we performed at their fundraiser concert at the historic Fais Do Do music hall the Crenshaw district. People spoke on the meaning and significance of the LA Rebellion – the largest rebellion in US history, sparked by the acquittal of the police who savagely beat Rodney King - which was exceptional only in that it was caught on videotape and laid bare for the world to see. The rebellion was responded by the largest domestic military operation ever and should be celebrated, with its shortcomings, as a righteous people’s uprising. We performed acoustic on stage and were followed by Leon Mobley and Da Lion: a super energetic, highly skilled and orchestrated symphony of African drumming and voices. He called his music American-African. It was incredible and everyone danced.
We left Fais Do Do to take a well earned day of rest before May Day, where we were preparing for street performances and a big Los Angeles concert before rushing back east to Texas, Chicago and NYC: for the final return leg of the Todos Somos Ilegales / We Are All Illegals tour.