My band, the Barnyard Sharks, began at the Baltimore Book Festival in 2010 when Gregg Wilhelm asked me to read at the CityLit stage. WYPR’s Aaron Henkin was the MC and, over a beer one day, Gregg asked if we knew of a band that might play. Aaron and I had been fucking around and jamming on Sundays ever since I appeared on his show. We looked at each other, looked back at Gregg, and said, “Yes, I think we do.”
A couple of weeks later, we were playing in my living room trying to get ready for Bookfest, where we would play some folk songs written by our friends Cliff Murphy and Jason Reed. It was warm and the windows were open and we were actually fucking around and Aaron was rapping a Fat Boys song when we heard someone yelling outside the window.
“Can you come out here?” the voice said.
Oh shit, I thought, I’m in trouble.
“No, no, we’re not the cops,” the guy said.
Turns out it was two guys Paolo and Mani who were running Goodfellas, a bar that just opened where HomeSlyce now is. They said they wanted music at their bar and they were walking by and heard us and asked if we would play. We called ourselves Hog Maul and Her Fantastic Slick-Ass Destroyer Barnyard Sharks—but it was too long for their chalkboard and was shortened to The Barnyard Sharks.
We had four hours and only four songs. So we wrote another song, lifting the riff from ‘Crimson and Clover,’ and called it ‘We’re Not the Cops.’
We revived the song a few months ago and called our new EP “We’re Not the Cops,” even though the song was not on the EP (a weird naming convention). But we had a couple of gigs after the uprising and I knew it was a song we had to do. Freddie Gray was allegedly killed by the cops. I was pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed and I watched—and filmed—as the police knocked down and beat my friend and CP Photo Editor J.M. Giordano. I saw other people fare worse, beaten with billy clubs, arrested, snatched up, held without bail. Like everybody else in Baltimore, I am fucked up in a lot of ways. And unlike a majority of the city, I am white, living in what feels like an apartheid Baltimore, but I am not the cops.
So we brought the song back when we played out The Crown on the Saturday night after the uprising. Instead of telling the story of Mani and Paulo and our origin, we told the story of the things we had seen and felt during the uprising.
The song is not as good as some of the amazing art that has come out of the uprising. The Barnyard Sharks is not an ambitious project. We function in order to bring some sort of catharsis to ourselves. But we felt that night like we might be able to bring it to some of the other people there at The Crown. You can hear a rough mix below: