On a Thursday evening, under the glowing sign of the Midnight Hour Record shop in the City of San Fernando, a line of punks and alternative youth hailing from the valley to Orange County stretched around the block, waiting to enter a benefit show for Gaza.
The all-Jewish New York punk band, Show Me the Body, organized the event as their only benefit performance on the West Coast. The stage was shared by a diverse group of support acts – ZULU, an LA-based Black punk band, along with the San Fernando Valley based bands Clique and trans death metal band Greenwitch. DJ sets from Mia Carucci between acts provided a mix of sounds as eclectic as their ancestral roots and influences – from Palestine and Italy to Brazil and Puerto Rico.
“Everyone in Show Me the Body is Jewish,” said frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt. “When we see the story [of genocide] repeated, it is our duty to stand up and take action against it.”
Following the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, retaliatory strikes by the Israeli military have intensified, killing over 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza according to figures cited by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
On Oct. 14, just a week after the Hamas attack, the band Tweeted, “Being pro-Palestine and against anti-semitism go hand-in-hand.”
“As Jewish people, we know the story. We know this war. We’ve seen it before. We grew up with that story,” said Pratt during the band’s set. “There’s a term called Lamed Vav. We call this term Lamedvavnik. It means somebody who carries the weight, somebody who carries the pain for a thousand nations. Tonight, we are all Lamedvavnik. Carry this with you. Tomorrow, be Lamedvavnik. The next day, be Lamedvavnik. Carry the weight of all peoples around you. God bless you.”
The stage was backdropped by a large hand-painted Palestinian flag, and a side room was filled with informational booths, where attendees could collect resources about the “occupation” and how to get involved in the “free Palestine” movement.
Between fast rifts, headbanging, moshing and stage diving, speakers delivered personal accounts, rallying cries and chants of “free Palestine.”
“Many of my friends will talk about what bands radicalized them as teenagers. I was radicalized the minute that I was born a Palestinian,” said Kat Nijmeddin, a first-generation Palestinian-American.
Her grandmother was born in Jerusalem in 1938 and forced to leave in 1948 along with more than 700,000 others – referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba, the “catastrophe.”
“As a Palestinian, it is exhausting to constantly have to beg and audition in front of everyone for an ounce of compassion to prove that we deserve the grace of humanity, constantly trying to be on our best behavior to prove that we are worthy. I have heard my entire life that Palestinian people don’t exist, that Palestine isn’t real. Tell that to my teta [grandma], who is older than the state of Israel,” said Nijmeddin, who was met by a roaring applause from the audience.
Her words cued up a set from ZULU, a hardcore punk band from Los Angeles, with some members from Muslim backgrounds.
“Black and Palestinian solidarity goes back as far as the occupation. We have stood side by side with them because we face the exact same beast that they face – Western imperialism,” said Anaiah Rasheed Muhammad, the lead and founder of ZULU. “Quite literally, their fight is our fight.”
“Whether it’s direct action, whether it’s coming to one of these [shows], whether it’s posting online, your voice does matter. Don’t let anyone try and tell you it doesn’t,” said Muhammad during the set. “We’re not free until all of us are free.”
Muhammad noted that ZULU and Show Me the Body playing together exemplify Muslim and Jewish unity against hate, oppression, imperialism and fascism.
Pratt received criticism for holding this show on Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” when in 1938 a pogrom was carried out by Nazis against Jewish people. Jewish stores, buildings and synagogues were demolished by rioters.
“A lot of people thought that because this was the night of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, that this was a disrespectful thing. But I think this is a blessed day to do this sort of thing. To extend empathy and to have radical empathy, to participate in radical love is the whole point of music,” said Pratt. “I thought it was very fitting because what we see around us every day is Kristallnacht. And it’s important to remember that this happens to many other people all the time. … And so this the story of Kristallnacht is forever reoccurring. And so I think it’s a wonderful day to do something like this, to participate in radical empathy, to say that, yes, we know the story of Kristallnacht and we see it happening around us.”
Although not a community organizer, Pratt said they are doing their part as musicians, and that he takes inspiration from his father, who was an organizer predominantly helping people in the Queensbridge projects in New York.
Pratt and Muhammad were both encouraged to see youth come out for a cause and carry on the spirit of punk music.
“I had a lovely time because it is very lovely to see so many people be involved and want to be involved. And young people who are not yet radicalized wish to become mobilized. It was very lovely to watch them go through that,” said Pratt.
And the fans expressed the same gratitude toward the bands for organizing the event.
“I think it’s really honorable [to do this show] just because we’re all calling our reps.[representatives], we’re all donating, we’re all trying to get out there and protest. So the fact that they’re bringing people together and forming [a] community, I think it’s really great,” said San Fernando Valley resident Miffy Hamati. “It’s been really emotional for the past month, and it’s still going on, so I feel like music always helps people and brings people together.”
Music isn’t the only thing creating community. The space provided by the Midnight Hour is bringing events to the Northeast Valley that residents once had to travel far to experience.
“The fact that it’s local [is great],” said San Fernando Valley resident Zoë Vogelsberger. “I just came from the train station that’s like five minutes away, and now we get to go to a concert in support of Palestine.”Through ticket sales, donations and merchandise sales, nearly $20,000 was raised for the Palestinian Youth Movement and Within Our Lifetime organizations.