Playing for Protest
Music Helps to Create Solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street Movement
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Music can be the greatest form of protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement fostered a home for a variety of political- minded musicians. Reminiscent of the 1960s Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests, musicians of varying levels of fame have gathered to fight against economic inequality in the United States.
Zuccotti Park had transformed into a concert hall and become somewhat of a haven for popular musicians. One of the first well-known musicians to visit the protest was Talib Kweli on October 6th. On October 10th, Kanye West and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons, showed their support by heading down to Zuccotti Park. According to Simmons’ twitter, West was “sweet and tolerant” towards the crowd.
Also in early October, Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel played several songs, including “Two Headed-Boy” and “Song Against Sex,” for an assortment of young folks.
Several old folk musicians headed down to the protests despite the disparity in age between them and many of the youthful protesters. The biggest folk hero who joined the protest was Pete Seeger, a veteran fighter for equal rights. At 92, Seeger is still protesting for the rights
he advocated during much of the 20th century. Another folk singer at the protest site was Joan Baez, who has written a variety of songs dealing with inequality, and has been a vocal opponent of racial injustice and the Vietnam War.
Other well-known musicians who have shown support for the movement are Patti Smith, Tom Morello, Fitz and the Tantrums, Sean Lennon, and Rufus Wainwright.
Aside from the more popular and recognizable musicians, underground bands without label support have been joining the movement. This solidarity among younger bands has been essential to the progress made in the movement.
One of the young bands to attain national attention from their involvement with the Occupy movement is Mainland. The group has recently played at numerous venues around New York City, and also made L Magazine’s list of “8 bands you need to hear.”
After hearing much about the protest, Mainland went down to Zuccotti Park in October to support and share music. They filmed a black and white video of their song “Occupy.” Specifically written for the Occupy Wall Street movement, the song deals with the various issues of economic disparity in the country. “Music brings people together and can really lighten things up. All the people who have joined the protestors with music and various essays have brought more depth to the movement,” said Jordan Topf, one of the singers of Mainland.
The video for their protest song “Occupy” made it onto Rollingstone.com’s list entitled “Rock Occupies Wall Street.” With press and promotion on Rolling Stone’s website, the group’s video went semi-viral, accumulating over 1,000 views on Youtube.
On Monday, November 21, underground musicians gathered to raise money for the National Lawyer’s Guild—an organization of lawyers that have been instrumental in defending the Occupy Wall Street movement. The event took place at Shea Stadium, a local, DIY Brooklyn venue that has fostered a true sense of community. Tickets were 15 dollars, and the show was packed as Ted Leo, The So So Glos, and Titus Andronicus all performed. The concert was dedicated to the idea of social justice, and songs
like The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” were covered.
Other musical efforts have been made to strengthen the movement. A new compilation, appropriately titled Occupy this Album, will soon be released with music featured from Ladytron, Third Eye Blind, and Lucinda Williams, Yo La Tengo, and Toots & the Maytals. A coalition for musicians, entitled “Occupy Musicians,” has also been put forth. The movement includes renowned recording artists, such as Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi, Rites of Spring). The site represents the solidarity between musicians within the movement, and currently reads as a type of petition.The movement has stimulated a general consensus amongst musicians that inequality must be stopped. Presence and solidarity amongst musicians are the first two steps, with reducing inequality being the result. Who knows? Maybe Bob Dylan, the mastermind behind “The Times They Are A Changin,” will even show up.