Bremen, Ga. -- Before Wisconsin shooter Wade Page formed his own "hate rock" band, he came to Georgia to listen to a festival full of other white supremacist music groups. Page was shot by a police officer after he opened fire in a Sikh temple Sunday, killing six and wounding three others.
According to the Washington Post, Page told an online magazine he came to Georgia in 2000 to attend Hammerfest, a music festival for white supremacist bands. The website has since removed the interview and distanced itself from Page. But a report from that year by the Southern Poverty Law Center described Hammerfest as "world famous," though it only attracted about 500 fans:
"[The concert] drew fans from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as from across the United States. Four bands flew in from Britain for the weekend. The concert culminated months of worldwide networking by sponsors Panzerfaust Records and Resistance Records, the premier neo-Nazi music labels in the U.S."
The bands had names like "Brutal Attack" and "Extreme Hate," and shouted exceptionally offensive lyrics. It's all part of a wider form of expression called "hatecore" music. One song title is "Six million more," a reference to the six million Jews killed along with millions of others during the German holocaust.
"Hate groups express their hate in many different ways," said Bill Nigut, the Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. "And there is a subculture of racist, anti-Semitic, sexist rock-and-roll music."
The Hammerfest gatherings took place for fourteen years on land owned by restaurant owner Patrick Lanzo. He lives in West Georgia; ten minutes north of Bremen in unincorporated Drakestown. The last festival held there was in 2005, and they've since moved the gatherings on to locations in Florida and North Carolina. Lanzo said he held the concerts as an expression of free speech, and never saw any violence.
"It strictly let them go out and express their own opinion, as long as they aren't dragging anyone out in the road to express their opinion, they should have a legal right to do what they wish," Lanzo said. "But that does not give [the shooter] the entitlement to go out and do mass murder; I believe that's totally two different things."
Lanzo didn't remember Page, but called him "a nut." A few years after attending Hammerfest 2000 in Georgia, Page would go on to form his own hate rock band called End Apathy.
Nigut said he wasn't aware of any organizations that had flagged Page for violent expression. He cautioned that white supremacist tendencies do not necessarily point to a motive for the shooting. He said most of the groups, while they should be repudiated and rejected, should not be feared.
"For the most part these organizations come together, they have their activity, and as repulsive as that activity might be, they really don't pose a threat to the community around them," Nigut said.