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SC Rocks to Free the Three

We've got to say something here about the West Memphis Three benefits that Nikki Persnickety of Persnickety Productions has been doing around town. Not just because it's a great cause, but because they're great shows. The most recent (and most high profile) gig featured Queens of the Stone Age, and the one on Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Vets Hall has got the Dwarves along with the Angry Amputees, the Fleshies, the Deed and Bliss (see Music Santa Cruz).

It's not often that a promoter dedicates every one of their shows to a single cause, but if you're familiar with the sick excuse for "justice" in the case of the West Memphis Three, you can maybe understand why, after paying off the costs of each show, Persnickety donates the rest of the proceeds from each concert to the West Memphis Three Defense Fund. This week's show will be a little different in that some of the proceeds will go locally to the Second Harvest Food Bank, as well.

On the off chance you're not familiar with the West Memphis Three, well, the best thing to do is watch the HBO Paradise Lost documentaries and check out the website www.wm3.org, which has regular updates about the status of the case. But by way of a horrifically simplified explanation, here goes: three guys from West Memphis, Ark.--Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley--were convicted of the brutal 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys. Echols is on Death Row awaiting lethal injection, the other two are serving life sentences. Thing is, there is absolutely no evidence tying the West Memphis Three to the murders. Instead, the convictions were won on the basis of a laughable forced confession from Misskelley filled with inexplicable errors about the crime--and, most significantly, on the sensational stories and obvious prejudices against Echols, who was known for dressing in black, listening to heavy metal and practicing Wicca (I trust in Santa Cruz of all places I don't have to explain the difference between Wicca and "black magic").

Like many of us, Persnickety was drawn into the campaign for the West Memphis Three via the Supersuckers, whose lead singer Eddie Spaghetti has been a militant and powerful voice on the their behalf.

"I first heard about it a couple years ago through the Supersuckers' website," she says. "It just freaked me out that three kids could be put in prison without any physical evidence whatsoever."

Of course, a major reason that so many bands have been receptive to working with Persnickety on this--she says the Queens, the Dwarves and Fleshies have been particularly helpful--is that the idea of being persecuted for how you dress and what you listen to hits home in the punk community.

"Everyone knows it could have been them in high school," says Dwarves frontman and mastermind Blag Dahlia. "It's so obvious that those guys aren't guilty. It's a real weird witch hunt."

And, as Persnickety points out, it's also a tragic story about a scared bunch of close-minded people with absolutely no perspective whatsoever.

"If any of these people that were so freaked out about Damien came to Santa Cruz for a week--my god, they would die," she says.

Steve Palopoli

The Showcase Must Go On

By the time you read this, the epic battle that is sure to be the finals of the Songwriters' Showcase at Zelda's will have already played itself out, the winner having walked away with a recording contract at Mars Recording Studio. And by the time you read next week's issue, we'll have gotten our thoughts together on what it was like to be judges for this singular event over the last two months. But for now, we just want to applaud local troubadour and songwriter extraordinaire David Beaudry, who has swiped up a few acts from the showcase to gig around town with. And while some would frown upon ending a sentence with a preposition, everyone at the Heavenly Cafe on Saturday night--especially Mike Connor--enjoyed fine performances by Beaudry, Serenity and Emerys. If you know what's good for you, you'll keep your eyes peeled for these three--and for more of Beaudry's showcase showcases--in the very near future.

Mike Connor and Steve Palopoli

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From the January 15-21, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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