"A cautionary tale, carefully delivered" - Page 2

Fighting words from Oxbow's Eugene Robinson
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Eugene Robinson
Photo by Tom Millea

Audience members tried to cool things out, but, in Robinson's words, "this evenhanded, kind of neutered approach didn't pay heed to the reality of the moment. Which is, you had an enemy of art, and you had somebody who was trying to be the standard-bearer of Eros." He pauses. "Forget about all that. If I'm standing at a café and somebody is screaming at the top of his lungs next to me, I'm asking him 100 percent of the time to shut the fuck up. You don't have to live all over me. It's boorish. And rude. And uncouth. And in that way, it's a form of bullying."

While it may seem excessive to put a spindly, long-haired dude in a Texas boogie-rock band in a submission hold called an ultimate head and arm, I can't argue with Robinson's reasoning: "Disrespect begets disrespect." In any case, the vocalist does allow for the possibility of walking away. But walking away for him has more to do with the Japanese concept of saving face, of avoiding conflict with honor, than with the Christian ethic of turning the other cheek. "Am I doing this out of graciousness or am I doing it out of fear?" he asked. "I think way too many people will choose to look the other way out of fear. My whole life has been a testament to avoiding base fears."

For this, I've got to respect the guy. Robinson may be derided on the Web as a prick, a sadist, and an egomaniac, but let's look at the lessons: (1) You are honor bound to follow through on a promise. (2) Art is worthy of respect. (3) Fear should be avoided as a motivation. Sounds pretty fucking reasonable to me. Though, in my own top five, I try — and sometimes fail — to add: (4) Violence should be avoided as a teaching tool.

Really, though, we live in a time when shit talking is considered a sport in itself. Go to theoxbow.com and look at some of the live footage. Robinson trances out onstage and strips down to his underwear, and the band plays the sound of a psychological meltdown. Knowing what you know and seeing what you see, why would you fuck with him?

"To a certain degree, culturally, we've been neutered. And that's what civilization is about: to get us to places of greater peace," Robinson said. "But clearly, that aspect of it is not working." I'd have to agree that it's not working, especially in social situations, where people seem to assume a disconnection in the causal, karmic links between action and consequence. Witness the hapless Scotsman in the 2003 Christian Anthony documentary Music for Adults. He gets pantsed in front of a crowd by Robinson, who asks, with what seems genuine concern, "Did that hurt? Did I hurt your feelings?" before adding the rejoinder "It's an Oxbow show. That's what happens." *

OXBOW

Wed/17, 9 p.m., $10

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF

www.12galaxies.com

EUGENE ROBINSON

In conversation with V. Vale and James Stark

Nov. 8, 6 p.m., $5

SF Camerawork

657 Mission, SF

www.sfcamerawork.org

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