For years I've been advocating, fulminating, pontificating -- okay, ranting -- that until the political folks welcomed artists into full participation in the progressive movement, there would really be no movement. (Think about it: What do we remember about the 1960s in our cellular memory? The music, man. The poetry, dig? The posters -- right-on!)
Well, the artists, thank goddess, are no longer waiting for their invitation. They're storming the gates. I'm not talking about your Hollywood types swooping in to embrace a pet cause to enhance the ol' public image. I'm talking about original stuff with some serious interdisciplinary origins. (Check out the efforts of Color of Change and Nas to hold Fox News to account for racist and otherwise disparaging coverage of Barack Obama."
To wit, this Saturday, at a chicly shabby rock-n-roll bar in Washington, D.C., Spencer Ackerman of AttAckerman fame helmed the stage at the Velvet Lounge with band-mate Rory Carroll -- a duo known as The Surge. With Ackerman on drums and Carroll on guitar, The Surge opened with the haunting instrumental, "Winter Soldier," inspired by Ackerman's reporting on the Winter Soldier hearings, an event staged last March by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Bookending the set, which featured crisp, aggressive drumming by Ackerman, and thrashing guitar and passionate, screamy vocals by Carroll, was another instrumental, the searing "Silence During Wartime."Setting up Ackerman and Carroll were HuffPo's own Max and the Marginalized, whose repertoire of original, super-loud, post-punk takes on topics ranging from the recent capitulation of Democrats on the FISA bill (see the coverage by my colleague, Brian Beutler) to the war. My personal favorite, Someday I'll Exact Revenge, goes like this:
You can download Max's stuff via their weekly HuffPo song-posting.
Expecting us to buy them off again
And if they slip that swindle by
It'll make me sad inside, but I won't cry
'Cause someday I'll exact revenge
Now, I won't pretend that post-punk is my thing, because I was a hurtin' puppy after the show, when I set out to hear the extraordinary jazz vocals of Dick Smith, former defensive back for the Washington Redskins, and current organizer of D.C.'s jazz community. With what was left of my hearing after the doin's at the Velvet Lounge (which is really more plywood than velvet), I joined a beautifully-dressed audience at the Mandarin Oriental to hear Dick, pianist Chris Grasso, bassist Zack Pride and drummer Lenny Robinson. We were beautifully dressed because Dick, in his regular organizer role at Westminster Presbyterian's Jazz Night concert series, had announced from the stage that he would be "dressed up" for the Mandarin gig; in other words, leave those Obama tee shirts -- the wearers of which flood the Westminster sanctuary on Jazz Night -- at home, thank you very much. But that didn't stop him from singing the civil-rights era anthem, "Work Song."
People forget that jazz was often political music. Insh'allah, it will turn that way again.
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