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Festival Preview: Boy Sets Fire rages hard from the left

Friday, April 11, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

Boy Sets Fire got stickered. Not the usual parental advisory sticker on the front for naughty words.

Rise Up Festival


Doors: 5 p.m.

Bad Luck 13 Riot: 6-6:20 p.m.

Full Blown Chaos: 6:35-6:55 p.m.

The Takeover: 7:10-7:40 p.m.

Subzero: 7:55-8:25 p.m.

Most Precious Blood: 8:40-9:10 p.m.

Biohazard: 9:30-10:30 p.m.


Doors: 1 p.m.

Merciana: 2-2:20 p.m.

With Honor: 2:35-2:55 p.m.

Dead Poetic: 3:10-3:30 p.m.

Beautiful Mistake: 3:45-4:05 p.m.

Brazil: 4:20-4:40 p.m.

Vaux: 4:55-5:15 p.m.

Underoath: 5:30-5:50 p.m.

Hope Conspiracy: 6:05-6:35 p.m.

Hopesfall: 6:50-7:20 p.m.

Snapcase: 7:35-8:35 p.m.

Boy Sets Fire: 8:50-9:50 p.m.


Doors: 1 p.m.

Since By Man: 2:00-2:20 p.m.

Ramallah: 2:35-2:55 p.m.

Ringworm: 3:10-3:30 p.m.

Darkest Hour: 3:45-4:05 p.m.

A Life Once Lost: 4:20-4:40 p.m.

Dead To Fall: 4:55-5:15 p.m.

Terror: 5:30-6 p.m.

Better Of Dead: 6:15-6:45 p.m.

Every Time I Die: 7-7:30 p.m.

Unearth: 7:45-8:15

Norma Jean: 8:30-9 p.m.

Shai Hulud: 9:15-9:45 p.m.

Converge: 10-10:45 p.m.

Dillinger Escape Plan: 11 p.m.-midnight


$25; $65 three-day pass; 412-323-1919;


The Delaware hardcore band got one on the back shrinkwrap of "Tomorrow Come Today" that informs buyers that the opinions expressed "herein" are strictly those of Boy Sets Fire and not of Wind-up, the BMG-affiliated label.

The rock band Creed, having no real opinions to speak of, did not get any such sticker from the same label.

"I think our label is terrified having us on their label," BSF singer Nathan Gray says, laughing. "They don't want to make a stand on something like this. I honestly get the feeling that if we did a song like, 'This war is all right, we support the troops,' we wouldn't have the sticker. It's an excellent marketing ploy, because people are like, 'Hey, I gotta check this out,' but it's sort of silly. If we were on a hardcore label, they wouldn't care."

Boy Sets Fire headlines the Saturday night edition of the Rise Up Festival, a convergence of more than 30 hardcore bands, including Biohazard and Dillinger Escape Plan, at Club Laga. While being one of the more melodic of the feral hardcore pack, Boys Sets Fire is also one of the most outspokenly political.

At a time when the music industry is plagued by nu-metal bands who seem to have no clue what they're angry about, Boy Sets Fire, like Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down, sets a pretty clear agenda. On "Tomorrow Come Today," the band's fifth album, they rage against corporate greed, organized religion and, on a song called "Release the Dogs," the scaling back of personal liberties after Sept. 11.

Boy Sets Fire also pushes the concept that "Protest is Patriotism," an ideal that Gray backs up with his deeds. At a recent anti-war protest in Washington, D.C., the singer wandered off with the infamous Anarchist Black Block and, he says, "actually took a couple clubs to the back of the head. We broke off from the march and tried to go into the World Bank. Cops came in and knocked us around, but it was totally worth it, just to see the looks on the people's faces in the World Bank when people started walking in."

Despite growing up in a conservative household, Gray's left-wing tilt goes back to his younger days when he refused to say the pledge during the Gulf War in high school and got sent to the principal's office for writing a "persuasive" essay in support of flag burning (though he says it's not his thing).

On this tour, one of the band's goals is to help "take back certain words."

"People have been told by the media and government that you're not supposed to speak out," Gray says. "It's like going back to the McCarthy era. It's scary to see that happen. We're fighting for freedom in Iraq, but we're taking away freedoms here. It makes no sense. And when did the word 'patriotism' get bastardized into 'blindly following the leader'?"

While he might be known to rant, Gray can also roar with the best of them and yet still settle into a melodic emo-style vocal. He insists he's fully dedicated to bringing the rock and having fun with the fans.

"Who wants to be part of a revolution if it's not going to be fun? The old anarchist Emma Goldman said, 'If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution.' We're out there to give a message. I'm not into preaching to the choir. I don't want to have, like, a little leftist feel-good party. If I wanted to do that I could hang out with old intellectuals and talk big, 25-cent words about Noam Chomsky, which I have no time for. It's time for the left to get their heads out of their [bleeping behinds] and start talking to real Americans."

Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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