So...while having the RNC in your backyard is a shitty thing, especially this year, and especially because St. Paul has reacted by turning the city into an overt police state full of super scary dudes in riot gear, it has brought good music.SEIU Take Back Labor Day
This event was great and by far the most peaceful thing I have seen thus far in the city since the RNC kickoff. Why? Probably the lack of riot police. Labor-activist-extraordinaire/musician Billy Bragg
kicked off the show, which was weird to me...but I guess that he's a lot less famous to most of the people in attendance than the other acts on the bill. The show was amazing and of course, Bragg's subject matter was appropriate. Furthermore, it was nice to hear someone not from the US talk about labor as an international movement and about the current political scene in the US.Steve Earle
and Allison Moorer
were next -- and this was especially amazing. Steve Earle is a recent discovery for me and his live show only helped cement my fondness for him. Earle covered Pete Seeger
and Moorer performed a cover of A Change Is Gonna Come
by Sam Cooke
and this was also amazing.
Next was Tom Morello
?). While I must say that I support many of Morello's politics as he tells them, seeing him live and solo only functioned to prove the degree to which the members of Rage Against the Machine
need to admit that they really need each other--at least in a musical sense. The highlight of his set was a cover of Guerrilla Radio
and a cover of Woody Guthrie
's This Land Is Your Land
Love the band. Hate the crowd they bring in and I must say it kind of marred my day a bit. While I realize this seems weird as I was a part of the crowd, the kind of kids that tend to go to Atmosphere / Rhymesayers
shows in the Twin Cities are kind of obnoxious. Still, the set was awesome, if a little slow, and I think Atmosphere has improved over the years--although their older material remains among my favorite music. More actual songs were played this time around and it was great.Mos Def
There are some artists you just can't fuck with, and I think that Mos Def just may be one of them. The absolute highlight of the show for me, not least of all because many of the stupid Atmosphere fans got away from the gate and appeared to leave so I got up front and could see really well. The set seemed really short, but that could be because it was totally awesome! He did perform a Black Star
I missed The Pharcyde
. Why? I won't lie. I never wear practical shoes anywhere and my feet were super sore and in terrible shape. It was time to go.
Or was it? I had problems leaving because the St. Paul police force for the RNC had shut down a bunch of roads, which caused a bunch of buses to be re-routed and was a general pain in the ass. If there are dudes who wear women's shoes on the riot squad, which I'm sure there are, they are definitely not sympathetic people! They were firing tear gas and pepper spray at a number of groups as I was leaving and it was pretty terrifying. I think that a city should warn you if they plan to unleash a bunch of maniacal, various weapon-wielding lunatics upon you. Honestly. Failure to do so is just bad form.
Today there was a different show on the steps of the capitol. I only saw two artists and the Green Party VP candidate speak -- I had classes for the first time this semester today! UMI
of P.O.W. performed and while I must say that his music was pretty cool, he was kind of frightening me with all the talk about hating police and rioting and whatnot. After seeing the lines of riot police and footage / photos of what they did to people in my city, I was all about avoiding riot situations because I don't like getting my ass kicked for no good reason. He has an album coming out in September, I think. dead prez
played next and was amazing! The crowd was smaller than I'd anticipated, but this didn't put any kind of a damper on their performance. They stuck to really political tunes for the most part, which was awesome because a number of bands have seemed to be avoiding that.
And no, I did not see Anti-Flag
, nor did I want to but I can respect the political perspective they can introduce people to.
After dead prez I walked downtown to the Poor People's Campaign for Human Rights rally and saw the police send horses dashing into groups of people, after they had arrested yet another reporter / journalist type (poor, poor Amy Goodman
). Furthermore, I saw them chase like, maybe ONE person into a huge crowd while spraying pepper spray and causing a shitload of collateral damage that probably didn't have to happen. But I guess you don't need to think when you are wearing a helmet like that or one of those things over your junk.
I followed the whole march, which was longer than the local news reported it, and was surrounded by riot police for most of the things. An enjoyable highlight after we got a bunch of people from the capitol was singing "We all live in a racist police state" to the tune of Yellow Submarine
. And that whole, "This is what democracy looks like" chant is a good one. Particularly appropriate given the overall climate was the "Who's streets? OUR STREETS!" chant.
The last few days have been an experience, sometimes totally terrifying, that I would never want to lose -- but not something that I would necessarily want to repeat. Hopefully things get better tomorrow because I'm surely heading back downtown.Democracy Now!The Nation and Air America Radio