Yellow Dogs Benefit Concert and Memorial

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Brooklyn, New York City

One week after two members of Iranian dance-punk band the Yellow Dogs were killed as part of a tragic November 11 murder-suicide, family, friends, and fans of the group gathered at Brooklyn Bowl on Monday night to pay their respects at a memorial concert. The lineup featured an impressive array of talent, including Nada Surf, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic, James Chance of the Contortions, and Helado Negro.

Johnny Azari opened the event, which called for $15 donations, with all proceeds going toward the victims and family affected by the East Williamsburg shooting that claimed the lives of Yellow Dogs guitarist Soroush Farazmand and drummer Arash Farazmand, as well as fellow Iranian musician Ali Eskandarian and the gunman, Ali Akbar Mohammed Rafie.

“It’s moments like these that really make you realize how hollow words are,” Azari said to the solemn-faced crowd. “Our Iranian heritage is so rich with poetry — to be left speechless like this is really devastating.”

For much of the show, attendees behaved as if they were in a funeral home, not a bowling-alley-slash-bar-slash-music-venue. The audience maintained only a low level of chatter between performances, and usually settled for close whispers when acts took the stage for sets of varying lengths. Some mourners held flowers, others gripped glasses of red wine. Projection screens above the bowling lanes cycled through photographs and videos of the deceased — shots of them rehearsing, playing gigs, driving, and mugging for the camera were broken up by the occasional childhood photo.

A series of poster boards decorated with photo collages were carried over from a candlelit vigil held earlier in the day at Williamsburg’s Cameo Gallery and rested against the brick of Brooklyn Bowl’s western wall. Sharpie permanent markers occupied the same table, urging fans to write dedications.

For Soroush Farazmand: “I’ll miss playing music with you — you’ll continue to inspire me forever.” For Arash Farazmand: “You’ll wake up and forget this big lie. You are alive.” For Ali Eskandarian: “I still have your scarf.”

The size and the mood of the gathering shifted at an ebb and flow throughout the night, hitting a peak about three hours in, at 10 p.m. or so, when gutter-punks Dirty Fences delivered a surge of adrenalin to the proceedings. In the showcase’s latter half, roughly when Kyp Malone stepped to the microphone, the audience had already begun trickling out and the somber tone had started to seep back into the room.

“I feel very honored and strangely humbled to participate in this,” a noticeably upset Malone said onstage. “My heart goes out to the family and friends of the deceased. I think the only shadow effect that’s a positive that I can see right now is that it’s a reminder of the importance of community… It means something.”

By midnight, just as Nada Surf began their set, many of the people watching were hugging and consoling each other, trying to fathom the enormous loss they’ve suffered.

“I usually have too much to say,” Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws told the crowd before leading a rendition of “Blonde on Blonde,” from 2002’s Let Go LP. “Right now I don’t have enough.”

R.I.P.  Soroush Farazmand and Arash Farazmand

The Tragic End For Iranian Rockers Seeking Musical Freedom In The U.S.

The Yellow Dogs, from left, Arash and Soroush Farazmand, killed on Monday, and Siavash Karampour and Koory Mirz.

The Yellow Dogs, from left, Arash and Soroush Farazmand, killed on Monday, and Siavash Karampour and Koory Mirz.  Photo: AP

The Yellow Dogs is an Iranian rock band, formed in 2006. Members include Siavash Karampour (vocals) and Koory Mirzeai (bass), as well as brothers Soroush Farazmand (guitar) and Arash Farazmand (drums) until the two were murdered on November 11, 2013.

The Yellow Dogs were from Tehran, Iran. They sang in English and played Western instruments, citing Joy Division, Talking Heads and The Rapture as an influence. Their music was not approved by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was therefore illegal.  They performed in Bahman Ghobadi’s Cannes Un Certain Regard award-winning film, No One Knows About Persian Cats  and were interviewed by Reza Sayah for CNN before leaving Iran.

On 8-9 December, 2009, the band was interviewed by the U.S. government at the U.S. embassy in Istanbul, Turkey and their comments about the Iranian Green Movement Protesters, Iranian counter-culture, freedom of expression, trends in drug usage and music in the authoritarian state were reported in an unclassified U.S. State Department document later released by Wikileaks titled, “Iran/culture: So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star.”   The U.S. government officer interviewing the band members described them as “astute, well-informed, and resourceful.”

The Yellow Dogs played their first aboveground (legal) concert at the Peyote club, in Istanbul, Turkey January 2010.   Two days later, they flew to New York City.  Their second aboveground concert was at the Cameo Gallery, in Brooklyn, New York.  Since then, they played Santos Party House (Gojira’s first gig in NYC) and the Delancey  in New York. And they played the Wave in Austin, TX as part of the SXSW festival.  They played the 92nd St. Y Tribeca in New York in an afterparty for the U.S. opening of No One Knows About Persian Cats. Also on the bill for this concert were the band, Hypernova, who are also from Tehran. Koory and Looloosh were part of the original line-up of Hypernova. But they did not leave Iran when other Hypernova members departed for the United States.

April 13, 2010 Milan Records released the No One Knows About Persian Cats motion picture soundtrack.  The Yellow Dogs track “New Century” is included in the motion picture soundtrack, and bassist Koory appears on the CD cover and on the movie poster. IFC Films released the movie on demand on April 14, 2010 and in theaters on April 16, 2010.

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Ali Eskandarian, a performer who was not part of the band, was among those killed. Photo: AP

On November 11, 2013, a shooting took place in Brooklyn that involved Yellow Dogs band members.  According to band manager Ali Salehezadeh, guitarist Soroush Farazmand and drummer Arash Farazmand, along with Ali Eskandarian, a musician friend who was not part of the band, were killed by another musician named Raefe Akhbar. Originally, media reports described Akhbar as a former band member who had been thrown out of the band three days before. In later reports, however, it was stated that he was not a member of the Yellow Dogs, but had been kicked out of a different band (Free Keys) the previous year.

The Free Keys, which Mr. Rafie had joined as a bassist, left Iran to join their friends in the Yellow Dogs in 2011, the New York Times reported.

“At 318 Maujer Street, the Yellow Dogs occupied the lower apartment, and a rotating group of Iranian friends and acquaintances, including Mr. Eskandarian, lived in the upstairs apartment. The residents saw themselves as an artists’ collective, holding house parties with of-the-moment music and cheap beer for musician friends and hosting exhibitions of friends’ artwork. Mr. Sadeghpourosko’s artwork covered the walls of the living room, which the Yellow Dogs used as a practice space.”

They were a familiar sight on their quiet street, where small apartment buildings abut warehouses, often skateboarding or biking around with a dog. Neighbors noted their long hair and tight jeans, the young people of mixed ethnicities streaming into the building for parties, and the music that poured out.

Humble and eager to learn, they arrived early to gigs in their van and stayed late, mixing with fans. And though they sometimes spoke Farsi to one another and a few of their songs had politically potent lyrics, on stage they were like any indie band. “When you close your eyes, you just listen to the music, they sound very much like a regular band,” except for Mr. Karampour’s “exotic” vocals, said Jify Shah, the owner of Cameo Gallery, where the band often played.

At first, it seemed that the Free Keys would slip into Brooklyn’s music scene as easily as the Yellow Dogs had; they shared a rehearsal space and a manager, Ali Salehezadeh, who hoped the Free Keys’ story of music under political duress would resonate as the Yellow Dogs’ had. But it soon became clear that the band needed work, a friend of the band said, and that the Free Keys liked to party hard. They lacked the Yellow Dogs’ entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, the friend said.

Those in the know believed the Yellow Dogs were ascendant, ready for a national tour or even a record deal. “Everyone knows it’s only a matter of time and the Yellow Dogs are going to be huge,” said Ishmael Osekre, a Ghanaian musician who had booked the band for several shows. “That is why my heart is so broken — the idea that you left friends and family and love, and then for it to end in the way that it has, is just so unfair.”

eMusic Profile: The Yellow Dogs (YouTube)

Yellow Dogs, Iranian Band, Earned Fans Through Intensity and Promise

By The New York Times

For most aspiring young rock stars, the night two years ago when a music critic walked into a music club in Brooklyn and laid eyes and ears on the intense, dark-haired foursome on the stage might have been their first significant break.

The critic, J. Edward Keyes, said the band he first encountered at Glasslands Gallery that evening, the Yellow Dogs, immediately caught his fancy because “they projected such incredible intensity.” Right away, he said, he knew that they should be the next new band featured by eMusic, the Manhattan company where Mr. Keyes is editor in chief.

But even though the Yellow Dogs — a self-described “post-punk/dance punk” band — had not signed a contract with a record company, they were far from undiscovered. They carried a rare and intriguing label: rock band from Iran. And they had already appeared in an award-winning film and been profiled by CNN and Rolling Stone.

So there was outsize reaction on Monday when word spread that two members of the band were among three Iranian musicians shot to death in a townhouse in East Williamsburg before dawn. The killer was another musician who had come to New York from Iran more recently, the police said.

The early morning rampage shattered the image of the group as easygoing expatriates who supported one another’s dreams of becoming rock stars. It also left the band without one of its founding members, Soroush Farazmand, 27, a guitarist who was known as Looloosh.

Mr. Farazmand and his brother Arash, a 28-year-old drummer, were among four people shot in the house, which was the band’s home base. Two other members of the band, the bassist Koory Mirz and Siavash Karampour, a singer known as Obash, were not there when the shooting started.

The trio of Koory, Looloosh and Obash was “really the core of the band,” Mr. Keyes said. “They were always adding and dropping a fourth member.”

The core, though, had held together since their days dodging the police in Tehran, where merely inciting young people to dance could have landed them in jail. Their travails were portrayed in “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” a 2009 film by the Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi.

After the film won a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was screened at festivals around the world, the musicians became objects of global fascination.

“The government suddenly got very interested,” Mr. Karampour said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2011. “They made a TV series about musicians and said all these people are Satanists and we have to execute all of them and they don’t believe in God. So after we saw that stuff and after the film we thought, man, we have to get out of the country.”

The bandmates sought visas in late 2009 to go on tour in the United States. According to notes from a State Department cable that was released by WikiLeaks, they told the consul staff in Istanbul about their encounters with Iranian officials.

They recounted several occasions when the police raided their closed-door concerts in soundproofed basements or isolated warehouses. “One raid led to the detention of one band member under official charges of ‘Satan worship,’ ” the cable said. It took a combination of bribes and parental pleading to get him released after two weeks, it said.

Even after settling in Brooklyn, the band avoided being as political as some Iranian-Americans wanted, said Mr. Karampour.

“We try not to say Iran, Iran, Iran; because the essence of the band is not only that we’re from Iran,” he told Rolling Stone. He added that their songs were “surrealistic, symbolic” stories. “You can relate them to Iran or to America, whatever. We don’t want to be a political band only.”

Neighbors and other people who had encountered the bandmates in New York described them as friendly, fun-loving young men who could often be seen riding skateboards to and from the townhouse.

Rahill Jamalifard, a member of another Iranian band, Habibi, said the shootings shook the community. “It’s devastating because you see these kids — they were initially in this movie that Iranians are really proud of. And it’s like, ‘Oh look, we have an indie rock scene. I recognized them. I heard of them.’ ”

Yellow Dogs –  Awards and nominations. Its first official screening was at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize Ex-aequo in the Un Certain Regard section.

NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS  – CANNES Film Festival

Plot

The film follows two young musicians (Ashkan and Negar) as they form a band and prepare to leave Iran shortly after being released from prison. The pair befriends a man named Nader (Hamed Behdad), an underground music enthusiast and producer who helps them travel around Tehran and its surrounding areas in order to meet other underground musicians possibly interested in forming a band and later leaving the country.

Cast

  • Hamed Behdad
  • Ashkan Kooshanejad
  • Negar Shaghaghi

Bands and musicians