SaharaPalooza

SaharaPalooza

Execution Square, Algiers, Algeria • March 12, 1999

When you’re an American studying abroad in this hot, arid, dismal, cultural no-man’s land called Algeria, nothing boosts your morale more than an all-day music festival featuring some of the hottest punk and alternative acts from the North African coast. The big show, billed as “SaharaPalooza,” and sponsored by the American University’s Seattle club, was scheduled for more than twelve hours, but unfortunately, only went for about two. Despite the objections from various Islamic clerics and the threat of terrorist attacks, SaharaPalooza did manage a few excellent moments, the $150 bottled water notwithstanding.

The show began with local Coptic punk rockers, the Gnostics, playing a short set of about twenty minutes, after which they were promptly shot to death by the local religious police. The next act, a group of French Economics students calling themselves the Keynes Konnecction, managed to maintain a strong stage presence for about twenty minutes, after which they were promptly hacked to death by the local religious police. Following them was another local act, the Brickmakers, who, much to the audience’s surprise, played an all-acoustic set of songs from their latest album, Sun Baked . Their interesting set went on for about twenty minutes, after which they were promptly strangled to death by the local religious police.

Between bands, the patrons were encouraged to browse the tents and information booths, all sponsored by the local religious police. It was quite refreshing to see the anti-violence projects, religious diversity clinics, and feminist rights groups all being allowed to set up shop in the venue’s center area. After signing an entrance form, which included one’s name, address, location of all known family members, and coffin size, you could walk freely through the market, picking up all sorts of interesting, liberating literature. I spoke to some young people who were about to venture inside, and they all seemed surprised by the local religious police’s casual attitude towards such an event. I wasn’t able to talk with anyone leaving the market, as all who entered were promptly shot to death by the local religious police.

By this time, most of the other bands had fled the countryside, except for rapcore locals, the Local Religious Police, who, upon completing their twenty-minute set, promptly shot to death the first five rows of the audience. A real let-down, though, was the ill-fated appearance of the only American band to make the bill, Nome, Alaska’s Abominable Snow Punks, who, after only twenty minutes, fell to the stage from heat exhaustion and died moments later as the paramedics were unable to get the band’s costumes off in time to revive them. Afterwards, the local religious police promptly boiled the paramedics in oil.

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