New York Musicians Mourn Slain Members of the Yellow Dogs at Brooklyn Bowl Benefit

Categories: Tragedy

Tessa Stuart
Johnny Azari wore black jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black button-up, his right elbow poking out through a hole in the sleeve. His afro was backlit, and the effect lent Azari a kind of unearthly quality as he opened a memorial concert Monday night for two members of Brooklyn-based band the Yellow Dogs, brothers Arash and Soroush Farazmand, and their friend Ali Eskandarian. The three Iranian musicians were shot to death by an acquaintance in their Bushwick home on November 11.

"It's moments like these that really make you realize how hollow words are. Our Iranian heritage is so rich with poetry -- to be left speechless like this is really devastating," Azari told the Brooklyn Bowl audience.

Azari talked of working with Eskandarian on a project born out of the Iranian Green Movement. He opened the concert with a song created during that collaboration. The lyrics, originally written as an anthem for the uprising in 2009, took on a different meaning in the context of this particular evening.

Tessa Stuart
Johnny Azari

How much blood must be shed
On the streets of unrest
We will bleed as long need be
That river will remove you from history

The show, a benefit for the victims and their families, brought together artists from across the musical spectrum -- from Azari and Iranian pop ensemble Mitra Sumara to lo-fi girl group Habibi and indie rockers Nada Surf. The lineup featured DJ sets too, by Interpol's DJ Fancypants and !!!'s Nick Offer, among others. Twenty-two performances in all, each in support of the musicians who lost their lives to a disaffected one-time bandmate.

Earlier this week, the surviving members of the Yellow Dogs released a statement addressing the tragedy.

For the past two years, we've lived together, worked together, created together. We were living our dream. We wanted the world to discover us as we were, a community defined by our music, our friendships, our culture and our art. This is not the way we ever imagined the world would learn of our story.

Ali Eskandarian was nearly finished with his memoir, Arash had just received political asylum from Iran, and Soroush was hard at work on new Yellow Dogs material. Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true ... the future was so bright.

All of that ended Sunday night. We're here now, without our brothers, unable to make sense of what has happened to our family. To say we are heartbroken does not come close. These are the darkest hours of our lives.

On Monday, their community came out to offer support, among them were fellow artists, strangers, friends, mentors, and trio of devoted young fans. The latter, who drove the Yellow Dogs to their first gig in Brooklyn, addressed the audience late in the evening.

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