Prison Rock: Libertine Headlines Prison Rock Concert

By Christopher Zoukis /

The room is dark and the crowd eagerly awaits.  Large speakers are held on stands several feet high, and yellow caution tape crosses the room separating the audience from the band.  The feeling is of a 90s dive bar, some place you would go to hear Greenday or another punk band back in their infancy.  But this is no dive bar; the floor is too dingy and the room too cold.  And there are no tempting groupies or hipsters.  There is no alcohol — at least none that is visible to the prison guards strategically placed around the event.  This is a prison rock concert at FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.

Come 2:00 PM on this rainy Saturday afternoon, the stage clears and the members of Libertine gain the blocked-off performance area.  An area also occupied by several pieces of indoor recreation equipment.  Sangye and Terry pick up the battered guitars, Darryl his microphone, Trevor his drum sticks, and Patt his bass.  All of the equipment is the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, not the prisoner musicians.  Nevertheless, they play it like they stole it: hard and loud.

The air is not tense, but expectant.  For years, the members of Libertine have been bringing down the house for their incarcerated audiences and fans.  While other groups play music (some better than others), Libertine makes beautiful, jarringly loud, skillful, and soulful music.  And they do so in the typically violent punk fashion of yesteryear.  At this moment they are not prisoners or musicians, they embody the rock gods of days gone by, before the indie labels died and Clear Channel ruled the airwaves.  The audience is diverse but oddly in synch.  In a word, the relationship and the exchange from band to fans is true; hyperbole has been left by the wayside, replaced with absolute honesty and integrity in a land of convicts and gangsters.

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