By Mabel Suen
By Daniel Hill
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By Dew Ailes
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Musicians have long used their celebrity status to raise awareness of injustice such as the Beastie Boys and the Free Tibet movement, or the Live 8 concerts for Africa that took place last summer in cities all over the world. But the latest ongoing cause to rally the musical troops is the West Memphis Three (WM3), three young men from West Memphis, Arkansas, who were convicted in 1994 for murders their supporters say they didn't commit.
Metallica, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder and Alkaline Trio have all lent their names and/or tunes to WM3 benefits. But now former Misfits singer Michale Graves has taken the helm of the benefit circuit, touring to raise awareness and garner support for the three men accused (in particular Damien Echols, who was given the death penalty). As a grown man who paints his face like a skeleton and regularly sings about death and dying, Graves may seem like a strange ally to three men accused of violent, ritualistic murders. But it's actually Graves' political stance that has some people pegging him as the oddball.
"This is not something that I would expect [Graves] to be part of, being as politically conservative as he is," says local WM3 benefit organizer Chandra Walden, in reference to Graves' founding of Conservativepunk.com.
Graves has nevertheless made the plight of the WM3 the focus of his Almost Home tour (the title is in reference to the name of Echols' autobiography). In addition to his band's performance at the Creepy Crawl, Graves is also stopping by Vintage Vinyl for an in-store spoken-word appearance (and acoustic set) to promote WM3 Worldwide Awareness Day, which takes place on June 3. Graves has also begun performing songs written by Echols and samples news reports about the murders in his music video for "Butchershop."
Working up to WM3 Awareness Day, area clubs have also become involved. In late April, Lemmons held a screening of Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hillsand Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, the documentaries produced about the hysteria surrounding the three men on trial. Lemmons and the Hi-Pointe both plan to hold benefit concerts featuring local bands on June 3 to contribute to the defense funds.
In addition, the Tension Head punk and metal boutique sells WM3 merchandise. Owner Sheri Ford says one of her goals for the store is to be profitable enough to be able to contribute ten percent of her profits to the WM3 defense fund. Many supporters of the WM3 such as Walden and Ford say they support the convicted men for what they see as a witch hunt of a conviction.
Writes Ford in an e-mail, "Finding out that one of the pieces of evidence was that a guy had eleven black T-shirts in his wardrobe is so scary. I'd hate to have the judge look at my wardrobe!" Andrea Noble
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Creepy Crawl, 412 North Tucker Boulevard. $8 to $10. 314-621-9333. Also appearing Saturday at Vintage Vinyl, 6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City. 4 p.m. Free. 314-721-4096.