Rock for Regime Change




T

here
is a political force that is pushing for regime change at home by
registering thousands of voters, distributing literature, creating
television and newspaper ads, and filling halls and auditoriums.
It’s not the Democratic Party. It’s good old Rock and
Roll. 


Bob
Weir, guitarist and singer with The Dead, puts it: “Democracy
is much like a muscle. If you use it, it gets stronger. If you don’t
use it, you lose it.” 


From
Hip Hop to Punk Rock, musicians and bands are encouraging fans to
tune into the political process and channel their anger and frustration
into direct action at the ballot boxes in November’s presidential
election.  


“One
good thing this Bush administration has done is coalesced young
people, out of shear anger, into getting rid of the people running
Washington—basically, the energy industry and their special
interests,” offers Al Jourgensen, singer with the platinum-selling
band Ministry

.

“I’m disillusioned not only with
Bush stealing the last election, but because his policy never seems
to include the demographic of young people even though they have
the most to gain or lose because they have the longest to live.” 


Even
bands and musicians who have traditionally avoided a political persona
are stepping up to sing out for regime change at home in November. 


“From
the stage, I am encouraging people to register to vote, which is
something we’ve never done before,” reveals Bob Weir.
“But this time the stakes are a lot higher than they’ve
ever been. Big business is in the act of buying our government and
once that is done, they won’t give it back. And the deal is
very close to complete now.” 


Rickie
Lee Jones surprised some fans and critics with her latest album,

The Evening of My Best Day.

It offers lyrical critiques of the
Bush regime with songs about the Florida election scandal. 


“As
a mother, as a human being living in America, there was no way I
could not say something,” explains Jones. She has even developed
a website called Furniture for the People, which features political
essays and analysis devoted to voting out Bush in the next election. 


“George
W. Bush does tend to do whatever he wants to do regardless of what
the people indicate that they want. From drilling for oil to the
cutting back of funds for Medicare,” reflects Jones. “And
when his first order of business was to assign who would get the
contracts to rebuild (Iraq), he didn’t even try to disguise
that this was to create business for certain people.” 


Musicians
nationwide are appealing to U.S. youth to take part in the voting
process and step away from political apathy, the “I’m
too cool to vote” attitude. 


“Voting
is the new not voting,” says Damian Kulash, singer and guitarist
with the Chicago-based band OK GO. “The disaffected non-involvement
that so many of us have been a part of needs to stop. It has stopped.”
Kulash has written a five page guide for other musicians called

How Your Band Can Fire Bush.

“A lot of bands don’t
know how easy and important it is to be involved,” remarks
Kulash. 


Music
For America is an organization made up of musicians, tour coordinators,
and band managers that is distributing fact cards at concerts that
reminds fans that of 27 million eligible voters under age 25 in
the 2000 election, only 10 million voted; and in 6 different swing
states, the election was decided by less then 10,000 votes. In Florida,
the margin of victory was 537 votes. 


Jay
Bentley, bassist with seminal punk band Bad Religion, points out,
“If you’re 18 to 24, you’ve probably been ignored
by politicians who don’t think of you as a political force.”
Guitarist Brian Baker adds, “We want to make it punk to vote.
Given the seriousness of this election in November, I think that
people are going to participate.” 


More
then a few bands, from Dave Matthews


to Bad Religion, are
touring swing states to influence the coming election. A variety
of new album releases are also aimed at removing the Bush administration
from office. 


Music
For America and Move- On have released a benefit CD entitled

The
Future Soundtrack of America

that includes songs by David Byrne,
REM, OK GO, Tom Waits, and Death Cab For Cutie. Nick Harmer, bassist
with Death Cab for Cutie, encourages fans to  search for answers
for themselves: “Don’t listen to me, listen to the BBC.” 




Rock
Against Bush

, a compilation CD produced by Punk Voter


and
Fat Wreck Chords

,

sold 250,000 copies in three months.

Rock
Against Bush 2

was scheduled for release in August and will
feature, among other bands, Blink 182, Foo Fighters, Green Day and
No Doubt. The first

Rock Against Bush

included a DVD of

Uncovered

,
a documentary film about the U.S. war in Iraq. The national tour
was joined by outspoken Bush critic and former director of the UN
Weapons Inspection Team in Iraq, Scott Ritter. The new

Rock Against
Bush

will include a DVD titled

Unprecendented

, focusing
on the 2000 Florida election scandal. 


Punk
Voter was founded in 2001 by Fat Mike (Mike Burkett), bassist and
vocalist with NO FX. “I was upset about the 2000 Presidential
election. I thought that Florida was rigged,” says Mike. “I
figured I had to use my connections and celebrity to get other bands
and kids involved in the upcoming election. I’ve got a couple
hundred bands and a couple hundred thousand kids who are pissed
off and want this guy out of office.” These days, Punk Voter
and Music For America are registering between 150 and 300 fans at
a time on this summer’s

Warped Tour

featuring bands
like NO FX, Pennywise, and Anti-Flag. 


According
to Fat Mike, the most important issues facing youth today are the
war in Iraq and the threat to the right to have a safe and legal
abortion. He predicts, “Abortion will probably be made illegal
if George Bush wins. And we don’t have enough troops in the
Middle East and they are going to have to reinstate the draft.” 


Print
ads being produced by Punk Voter of side-by-side comparisons of
Bush and Kerry on the issues will be published in weekly newspapers
in swing states and in

Rolling Stone

magazine. Fat Mike has
also created BARF PAC; Bush Administration Retirement Fund Political
Action Committee. 


Head
Count is an organization focused on registering fans of improvisational
and jam bands. It has already registered close to 20,000 voters,
according to co-chair Andy Bernstein. Between now and the election,
Head Count volunteers will be touring with The Allman Brothers,
Bela Fleck and The FleckTones, Santana, Michael Franti and Crosby,
Stills, Nash and Young. 


At
the Hip Hop Summit in August 2003, over 11,000 voters were registered
in Philadelphia. Organizers are hoping to register even more young
people throughout the summer in Boston, Kansas City, St. Louis,
and during the March on New York for Freedom, Justice and Equality
on August 30. 


At
the National Hip Hop Political Conference


in June 2004, artists
like dead prez, Bustah Rhymes, and Kurtis Blow came together to
develop a national strategy to unseat President Bush by transforming
cultural power into political power. 


The
Imagine Festival will serve as an alternative event to the Republican
National Convention in New York, with hundreds of political, cultural,
and arts events being planned throughout the city with daily themes
like prosperity, unity, and democracy. Moby, DJ Spooky, and others
will play at the Apollo Theater concert that commences the festival
on August 28. The Imagine Festival has been organized jointly by
Music For America, MoveOn, Involver Alliance, The Knitting Factory,
 and others. 


Ministry
vocalist Al Jourgensen admits that his strategy for encouraging
fans to vote is a bit devious, “Between sound check and show,
I will trade my autograph for their autograph on a voter registration
card.” 


Bob
Weir says that after the election,

The Dead

may offer discounted
or free admission to concerts for fans that show ballot stubs. As
November approaches, musicians and fans are gearing up to make a
historical and positive impact at the ballot boxes by voting for
regime change at home. 


Weir
reminds us of the power of each person: “If every deadhead
in the state of Florida had voted in the last election, it would
be a very different world today.” 





John Malkin is
a musician and journalist who hosts a weekly radio program on Free
Radio Santa Cruz. A book of his interviews with musicians will be
published in Spring 2005 by Parallax Press.