Spring Break 2006 With The Vandals... Destination: Afghanistan
The Vandals, who first made the trek to the region Christmas 2004/2005 playing for troops in forward operating bases in Iraq and Kuwait, will play 4 to 6 shows in the Afghan region during their 10 day trip beginning April 5, 2006 on a tour arranged by military entertainment contractors AKA Productions.
"We've played a lot of fun shows in a lot of interesting places in our 17 year history but believe it or not, none has been as satisfying personally as playing for soldiers that are laying down their lives for their country," commented bass player Joe Escalante, who also hosts the Barely Legal Radio program on Indie 103.1 FM in Los Angeles. "The thing is, most of these soldiers really don't want to be there, just like many of people that end up at our shows state side."
The Vandals also performed for Army troops in Frankfurt Germany last March with 80s icon Richard Marx and plan to release a documentary about their experiences playing for the soldiers in Iraq. Following their first trip to Iraq, the Vandals were greeted with a less than warm reception on their next regularly scheduled tour of continental Europe. Promoters and radio stations in Austria and Italy organized a boycott of the band’s engagements causing some to be cancelled. In Athens, for example, hordes of people surrounded the venue with weapons to force a shut down of the event just after the band’s sound check. The Vandals were escorted to their hotel and eventually out of the country.
“The Europeans and the Greeks were unwilling to grasp the difference between supporting the soldiers and supporting the war," says Vandals guitarist Warren Fitzgerald. "It is obvious to most of our fans around the world that we are extremely a-political having more songs about diarrhea than current events. And these are kids we are playing for, mostly reserves- same age as the average warp tour attendee, that want to go to college and play X-Box but have unfortunately been called half way around the world... since they are stuck there, visiting them and hoping to make an hour or so nicer for them is hopefully a small nice thing we can do for these "kids" and I do mean kids..."
The Vandals lost a lucrative business in Europe as a result of their activities for the military but they don't seem to be phased. Instead of trying to make amends with those opposing their shows on the Army bases, they are going right back into the belly of the beast.
Singer Dave Quackenbush added, "The most frequently asked question we get when we tell people we are going to Iraq or Afghanistan is, 'are you going to play for the troops?' The insurgents aren't really interested in us, truthfully. And the only musical activity permitted by the Taliban is the singing of certain types of religious songs, and Taliban chants. And if it means I don’t have to go back to Europe every single year like we’ve been doing, it’s win-win."
On the drums will be Pennywise's Byron McMackin, veteran of the Vandals first tour of the Gulf region last year. “Afghanistan? I thought you said Jenniferanistan.”
Josh Freese, the Vandals regular drummer, was conveniently committed to fill in behind the drum kit for Nine Inch Nails on their current tour of North America. "It's all about smiling soldiers faces and Black Hawk rides!" added McMackin. "There's nothing like it! The C-130s are not bad either."
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