Rogue Chants and “rogue chants”

Rogue Chants. A name? A description? A philosophy? A movement?

It is, according to Keith Dyer, a bit of all that. 

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Over the course of the season, I’ve seen a number of supporter collectives pop up on social media and at games that I know not to be “official”, recognized supporter groups or members of the Backline, NSC’s official collective of Supporter Groups. FUBAR. The Bootleggers. And, yes, Rogue Chants.

Nashville supporters group fall into two broad categories; recognized and unrecognized. Being a recognized group means entry into the Backline organization, the official supporters collective. This includes some perks and some hassles of being involved with a large entity.

While my sense from my earlier interview with the head of FUBAR was that they might well become an “official” SG next season, Rogue Chants’ Keith Dyer makes it clear that, as far as he can see, his group will decidedly not become a part of the Backline or seek official recognition, even though they collectively sit in section 110, a portion of the general admission supporters section at Geodis Park.

Certainly the decision behind not becoming an official group is not interesting in and of itself In short, they don’t want to charge a membership fee from 50 different folks, especially right now, and they want to work outside of the politics of the Backline. But the philosophy behind the group, to the extent that it can be considered a philosophy (and to the extent that Dyer’s description covers the collective thoughts of Rogue Chant members) is, in fact, interesting.

As is fairly common knowledge, while there are likely many ways that supporter sections can conduct themselves, people often describe them in terms of having a Capo or as being supporter centered. The difference is between having someone leading (and often choosing) chants and having the chants simply emerge from the crowd.  While Capos try to read the action on the field in terms of setting the moods for their choices, the argument is often made that, without a capo, the crowd can be both more reactive to what’s going on in the game and more creative in terms of spontaneous chants emerging and being created by members of the crowd itself. 

And, in the most basic sense, that’s the stance Dyer takes. 

Rogue Chants started, more or less, when a group of Liverpool supporters who were also Nashville fans, decided to sit together at the game after their tailgate. At an early game, an opposing player fell to the pitch and Dyer started a very simple, “He needs milk” chant. His crew picked it up, as did others in the vicinity. According to Dyer, this was met with a look from one of the official capos who declared that the “rogue chants needed to stop.” 

That was all it took: Rogue Chants were born. While there are still a large number of the original Liverpool supporters in the group, Dyer notes that others have joined in with them. And their philosophy won’t antagonize many fans, even active members of the Backline. “This is Music City. Our chants need to be more creative. We need to be more organic.”

There are certainly chants in the Backline’s current repertoire that Dyer appreciates or even finds clever, like “Dale Dale NSC” and “Vamos, Nashville”. But for the most part, he thinks the existing system is stifling and automatic rather than creative and reactive, despite the loud and vibrant atmosphere it creates.

While Dyer admits he thinks many in the “official Backline” look upon independents as “casual fans” rather than “true supporters,” he makes it clear that he’s not interested in rehashing old arguments or in presenting Rogue Chants as in opposition to the Backline. He sees it more as a movement.

There are many, many difficulties in working from outside the system. There are even more difficulties in trying to create organic chants in the midst of the loud, booming, sound of the Backline’s current work. But he looks at it as akin to Arlo Guthrie’s famous math in Alice’s Restaurant:

One person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.

And if two people, two people do it, in harmony,

And if three people do it, three… Can you imagine, three people walking in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out? They may think it’s an organization.

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out?

And friends they may think it’s a movement. An that’s what it is.

Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”

And that’s what he wants: a movement within the Backline that enhances the atmosphere further.  A movement that takes a wonderful foundation and makes it bigger.

To be completely fair, Dyer has no opposition to creativity, originality and responsiveness by the Backline.  Indeed, a recent tweet by former Roadies President Newton Dominey noted this:

So, it’s not as if all members of the Backline are against original chants or songs emerging during a game.

Moreover, from what I understand from various conversations with various figures who have served as capos or understand their roles, one of the issues is that it’s incredibly difficult to hear a new chant emerging in the midst of the chants, the drumming and the regular noise from the crowd. The success of the Backline to create a loud atmosphere makes flexibility more difficult than others might think

Dyer tells me multiple times that he has no interest in stirring up trouble. Neither do I, by the way. He mainly wants everyone to have a voice in what supporting means, how it is enacted. Like you, Rogue Chants loves the team. They want to add to the experience rather than oppose it.

It would be easy to argue that it is a simpler path to change the system by joining the system, but their heart is in the right place. And the more we all understand the work the supporters are putting in, and the more we respect the different desires and styles, the more opportunities can be seized. 

So, yeah, we’ll see if the rogue chants of Rogue Chants emerge.

Rogue Chants can be found on Twitter @RogueChants

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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