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Music: Notes For Votes

Even local musicians are getting fired up this presidential election season

By Ericka McIntyre · August 18th, 2004 · Music
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In fine Rock & Roll tradition, several local artists are looking to stick it to
Bill Bullock/TinctCreative

In fine Rock & Roll tradition, several local artists are looking to stick it to "The Man" this upcoming presidential election.



As I write this, one of the biggest pieces of entertainment news is about the "Vote For Change" tour, which will hit America's swing states this fall encouraging people to vote -- specifically for someone other than President Bush. But national acts like Springsteen and R.E.M. aren't the only ones using their music to make their political points this election year. Several local musicians are organizing and playing shows also intended to encourage people to vote.

One of these shows is the Band Against Bush (bandagainstbush.org) event, The Imperial Circus, at the Southgate House on Friday. In addition to speakers from the Libertarian, Green and Democratic parties, comedians, films and voter registration opportunities, the event will feature performances by local acts including The Walker Project, Noctaluca, Jake Speed, Black & Tan Carpet Band, MOTH and more.

The event's organizer, Jim Sfarnus, a local musician in Acumen and president and CEO of Davidjames Entertainment, Inc. (which includes the Holographic/Diversity record labels), has a lot to say on the current political situation. He organized Band Against Bush because he's "disgusted with George W. Bush and his administration's policies and approach to running our country."

Sfarnus is not alone in his opinion. When he put together this event, he discovered a lot of interest. "Those we asked (to participate) were on board before I could finish my sentence!," he says. "Response has been outstanding -- Michael Moore even gave us his blessing."

But don't jump to any conclusions that Sfarnus and his organization are strictly pro-Democrat, pro-Kerry. "Our organization, along with this event, is a non-partisan event and organization," he says. "We do not support any specific political party."

While there are many hot-button issues that Sfarnus feels strongly about (the war in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, health care), he says his main goal in creating The Imperial Circus concert is to "educate and get eligible voters to register and vote."

The artists participating in this show are as politically riled up as Sfarnus. "I'm independent," says Jason Ludwig of Noctaluca. "I'm aware that money from this show is going to help Democratic organizations like

In fine Rock & Roll tradition, several local artists are looking to stick it to
Bill Bullock/TinctCreative

In fine Rock & Roll tradition, several local artists are looking to stick it to "The Man" this upcoming presidential election.



As I write this, one of the biggest pieces of entertainment news is about the "Vote For Change" tour, which will hit America's swing states this fall encouraging people to vote -- specifically for someone other than President Bush.

But national acts like Springsteen and R.E.M. aren't the only ones using their music to make their political points this election year. Several local musicians are organizing and playing shows also intended to encourage people to vote.

One of these shows is the Band Against Bush (bandagainstbush.org) event, The Imperial Circus, at the Southgate House on Friday. In addition to speakers from the Libertarian, Green and Democratic parties, comedians, films and voter registration opportunities, the event will feature performances by local acts including The Walker Project, Noctaluca, Jake Speed, Black & Tan Carpet Band, MOTH and more.

The event's organizer, Jim Sfarnus, a local musician in Acumen and president and CEO of Davidjames Entertainment, Inc. (which includes the Holographic/Diversity record labels), has a lot to say on the current political situation. He organized Band Against Bush because he's "disgusted with George W. Bush and his administration's policies and approach to running our country."

Sfarnus is not alone in his opinion. When he put together this event, he discovered a lot of interest. "Those we asked (to participate) were on board before I could finish my sentence!," he says. "Response has been outstanding -- Michael Moore even gave us his blessing."

But don't jump to any conclusions that Sfarnus and his organization are strictly pro-Democrat, pro-Kerry. "Our organization, along with this event, is a non-partisan event and organization," he says. "We do not support any specific political party."

While there are many hot-button issues that Sfarnus feels strongly about (the war in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, health care), he says his main goal in creating The Imperial Circus concert is to "educate and get eligible voters to register and vote."

The artists participating in this show are as politically riled up as Sfarnus. "I'm independent," says Jason Ludwig of Noctaluca. "I'm aware that money from this show is going to help Democratic organizations like moveon.org. I'm OK with this, because that is outweighed by the more important message of this show, which is that we need to oust the 'Lost Emperor.' That's why I'm there."

Ludwig, a strong supporter of independent candidate Ralph Nader, says his response from others in the local music community has been mixed.

"I've been challenged from the left and the right," he says.

When asked what about the response from the community, Eli White, bassist for rockers MOTH, says, "We've received hate mail, if that answers your question."

White's main interest in this election year -- and his main reason for being anti-Bush -- touches on another major issue in this year's campaign, stem-cell research. White says he is anti-Bush because "Bush is anti-science. He is anti-science because of his religious beliefs. So the federal government will not fund stem-cell research."

Along with the Comic Revolution's "Rock the Vote" show on Aug. 28 (with comedy and music from Ray's Music Exchange and others), the Southgate House will host another politically-charged show on Sept. 11, featuring performances by several Indie and Punk Rock heavy-hitters like the Heartless Bastards, Viva La Foxx, 4192, The Not and The Socials. That show is being organized by one of the most musically and politically active local bands, The Sundresses.

"We've probably played more anti-Bush shows than any other band in the Midwest," The Sundresses' Brad Schnittger quips. "Namely because every show we play is an anti-Bush show. Our reasons for doing so are pretty obvious: We are against him."

Not all local musicians are on the anti-Republican kick. But not many will give you a quote on the record. More than one musician I talked to declined to comment. One who did agree to speak up was Brian Halloran, drummer of local Power Pop group, Clabbergirl.

"I'm anti-big government and the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils, quite frankly," Halloran says. "I don't agree with many of the Bush/Republican ideals, but the ones I do share with the GOP (and) Bush are strong enough to counter the negatives."

Would he go so far as to organize a pro-Bush concert to counter all the anti-Bush shows? "I couldn't do that simply because my bass player and at least one guitar player would knife me," he jokes.

With so many bands getting involved in political activism this year and others staying out of it, it begs the question -- what is the musician's responsibility as it pertains to politics?

"Politics in music just doesn't work for every band," Ludwig says. "You kind of paint yourself into a corner creatively if all you ever sing about is politics and social justice."

"Artists don't have any more special insight into politics than your neighbor or your drinking buddy," Halloran says. "But they do have a special forum and, in the interest of dialogue, they should use it ... but use it wisely. Overall, just be active. Apathy is the No. 1 enemy of American politics."



THE IMPERIAL CIRCUS concert -- which benefits groups like Democracy Now!, the ACLU and Take Back the Media -- takes place Friday at the Southgate House.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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