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Rocking the Republicans

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Arts, music, Republican National Convention, concerts, rock,

Bruce SpringsteenWhat do the Republican National Convention and rock and roll have in common? Very little, which is why most of the rock concerts in Minneapolis and St. Paul during RNC convention week are renegade events aimed at countering the Republican mania, not fueling it.

On Labor Day, which is RNC kickoff day, a host of national acts with working-class sympathies will rock the Take Back Labor Day Festival at Harriet Island Regional Park, just across the river from the convention site. On the docket of this concert sponsored by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) are Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Atmosphere, Alison Moorer, and Tom Morello, a.k.a. the political hell raiser known as the Nightwatchman.

On Tuesday, September 2, a large roster of local bands plus smartypants New York singer-songwriter Nellie McKay will play at Provention, “a concert for people, peace, and the planet” at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. (Utne Reader is the concert's media sponsor.)

Finally, on September 3, the eve of the convention’s close, Morello and his briefly reunited Rage Against the Machine bandmates will bring their potent rap-rock to the Target Center in St. Paul’s sister city of Minneapolis. You might recall that Rage broke up shortly after an incendiary gig during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Altogether, this show of musical force seems to reinforce the idea that apart from Ted Nugent, the Republican Party doesn’t have many rock and rollers on its side. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who’s been getting a lot of buzz as a potential McCain running mate, was famously flummoxed before the 2004 election to learn that his favorite rock artist, Bruce Springsteen, harbored liberal tendencies. As the governor may have figured out by now, it’s not just the Boss who’s blue.

UPDATE (8/15/08): The date and venue for the Provention concert have changed, as noted above, to Tuesday, September 2, at the Fitzgerald Theater. The last we heard, the bill included Nellie McKay, the Honeydogs, Dan Wilson, the New Standards, and Matt Wilson and John Munson, along with several other acts. Get the latest here.

As a commenter notes below, the Ripple Effect music festival (motto: “beyond the convention, beyond partisanship”) will take place on the State Capitol lawn on Sept. 2, with Michael Franti and Spearhead, Matisyahu, Dead Prez, Anti-Flag, and other bands as well as polar explorer/environmentalist Will Steger and Code Pink antiwar activist Medea Benjamin. 

And the Black Dog Block Party is “an all-ages, free-admission, outdoor experience” happening on two nonconsecutive days (Sunday, Aug. 31, and Tuesday, Sept. 2) in St. Paul's Lowertown area. Political funksters Boots Riley and the Coup are flying in from the Bay Area to headline this event featuring several local bands.

Finally, the official Republican entertainment roster is indeed packed with country acts, as Hannah Lobel notes below, but I see that a few glad-to-get-a-gig rockers have signed on with the RNC: Sammy Hagar, Smash Mouth, and American Idol figure Chris Daughtry.  

Image by Andrea Sartorati, licensed under Creative Commons.