Remembering The Yellow Dogs

“They are a vessel of independent art and ambition. They are a movement.”

Those were the last two lines I wrote about The Yellow Dogs in my review of their show at Mercury Lounge, and how I ended my year in 2012. That show wasn’t the only time I saw The Yellow Dogs live, but if I had written a review every time, they all would have been pretty similar. Obash, Koory, Arash, Soroush, and more recent addition Ali all played each show like it was what mattered most to them, and they did it all with intense punk fervor. They were political but poetic, rebellious but aware.

Early Monday morning when I heard the news that Arash, Soroush, and Ali had been  killed by a former bandmate, who I had not known, it was nothing short of devastating. These were guys who were friendly and easygoing, kind and peaceful (when they weren’t getting wild on stage), and would hang out and kick it after a show. I would also spot them sometimes one or more of them at other shows they weren’t playing, just checking it out.

They had been granted asylum in the US after leaving Iran in order to be able to express themselves freely with their music, and it wasn’t long before The Yellow Dogs was a recognizable name. Not only had they played all the legit venues in and around Brooklyn, they had something legitimate to say. They weren’t just a bunch of guys in a band because music was fun and there were parties and stuff; they took music back to the foundation of being a true art form, where they expressed themselves best in a meaningful way. People sometimes ask the question now about what happened to bands making revolutionary music to talk about current issues, like Woody Guthrie did during The Great Depression, or Bob Dylan in the 60s. Those people must not have known about The Yellow Dogs yet. They had something to say, and the message was no less potent for being imbued in some post punk psych rock that was dancey as hell. Originally a four piece, after adding Ali the ante was taken up another notch, with his flamboyantly interpretive stage presence. He was a mesmerizing front man, Obash the fiercely intense front man, and all of them completely killing it on their parts, making for a gripping, invigorating whole. They helped breathe new and interesting life into the music scene. They were ones to watch.

The Yellow Dogs were an inspiration to be honest and better, as artists and humans. Their Mercury Lounge show the end of 2012 left me with a feeling hope, carrying me into the new year with a feeling to be more driven, and unapologetically express individuality in a positive way. And of course, to not ever forget to dance.