Rage Against The Machine

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rage Against the Machine in Minnesota and the state of political pop

I regret not making it to the Twin Cities to see Rage Against the Machine play the Target Center in Minneapolis tonight, sending its mighty roar over the Mississippi River toward Sarah Palin. But we do have the Internet, letting us in on other people's once-in-a-lifetime moments. Here's one

That's Rage, getting down with a megaphone after being denied access to the stage at the Ripple Effect festival, a day-long event held Tuesday on the Minnesota State Capitol's Upper Mall to promote non-partisan progressive politics in the shadow of the Republican convention.

The band was supposed to be the fest's surprise closer, but according to the Ripple Effect blog, capitol staff and state law enforcement agents shut down the concert because Rage was starting too late -- a half hour before the event's scheduled 7 p.m. curfew.

Rage's megaphone set ended with the band inspiring thousands of protesters to march toward the Xcel Energy Center, site of the convention. The music fans joined a larger march before being dispersed by police.

In light of this protest, which Zack de la Rocha predicted in an interview with me a few weeks ago, it's interesting to consider the position Rage currently occupies. These guys are elders now, nearing or past 40; many of the activists who came out to see them are likely from the next generation. This isn't the usual way musical-political moments unfold.

Shifting paradigms usually require new voices to express what's happening. But (aside from the celebrity candidates themselves) this year's political campaign hasn't produced any new pop stars. Instead, it's caused already established figures from Will.i.am to Sheryl Crow to new heights of creativity and optimism.

It's not surprising that lifetime progressives like Crow have stepped out to provide their support -- or that John McCain's found a stumper in country star John Rich. Barack Obama's effect on the hip-hop scene has been well-documented; most recently, veteran producer Jermaine Dupri has posted his admiration on the Huffington Post, and Spike Lee has predicted that the senator's candidacy could lead to a new golden moment in the African American arts.

Yet no young voice has emerged to embody this surge, the way Bob Dylan did in the countercultural 1960s or Rage did in the street-activist 1990s. Right now, the story seems to be of midcareer artists finding a new spark and stepping out to lead again.

After hearing of the Ripple Effect protest, I happened upon a telling quote from David Berman, the poet who records music under the moniker Silver Jews. In an e-mail chat with the Toronto-based critic Carl Wilson, Berman reflected upon the relationship between "slackers" -- i.e., fortysomethings -- and their youngers (warning to Republicans reading this post: Berman is an unapologetic leftist):

My generation doesn't have 'following' skills. The younger generations, growing up in a more enlightened world perhaps, are team thinkers. My belief is that the next twenty years will be the story of what the adults (us) and the young adults (people born after 1980) do to recover from the damage that this exceptionally stupid and selfish generation of Republicans, businessmen and God-botherers has inflicted.

There is no doubt in my mind that the 40-year-old guys out there who think life has passed them by, the slackers who kept slacking while their peers sold out, will have a very active second half of their lives.

What happened with Rage Tuesday night in the Twin Cities seems to enforce Berman's view. The other headliners on the bill for Ripple Effect -- Michael Franti, Dead Prez, Anti-Flag -- are also in their mid-30s to 40s. None of them could be called slackers; but neither has any lived through a moment when their often radical progressive views connected with the politics of the mainstream. Until, perhaps, now.

There's still time for a new Rage (or Dylan, or the Clash, or Mavis Staples) to emerge with a fresh musical vision. For now, though, it seems enough to enjoy the midlife renewal of so many.

Meanwhile, I'd love to know who your visionaries are. Who's best capturing the rhythms of this political season in guitar chords, samples and beats?

*** taken from www.latimes.com ***


Bruno said...

Hi, Tom.
I´m Bruno, from Brazil. My wife and i went to Paris now, in August/08, to see you playing. The Hell of a show! We know that Zack wants to play in South America. Do you guys have plans to come anytime soon?
Take care!

PS: Great Speach in Minnesota!!

Dirtman said...

Fuck Them I won't do what they tell me!!Got arrested 1 and a half hours after the show during a peaceful demensrtation of my 1st Amendement Right..Rage you kicked ass..Never stop touring you guys out perform every band I've seen...(seen a lot)...No joke keep freedom fighting thru the music..I survived the battle of Minneapolis.(9-3-08)

getajob said...

All these people in their second half of life will slow down and become Republicans once they realize they are sick of giving all their money away to the Dems. Sooner or later you run out of energy. More than half of the people that were having fun in Chicago in '68 are probably now successful Republicans that look at this generation and say " they just don't get it." If you don't like rules and Government --then I hope you don't vote for the Dems -- becuase then the Government is going to get even bigger. Happy rioting!

Matthew Shields said...

RATM is still relevant? These guys are a little old for this. LOL they would have been really cool back in 68! Face it guys, you've jumped the shark. Take all the money you made off your hypocritical leftist shtick and go retire to your wealthy, gated community. It's over.

Unknown said...

Not much music out there that is political, still some punk bands like Anti-flag. It wasn't like when punk was fresh and Reagan was pres and we could crap on him. RATM is still tops on my list, but I do not think I can list 10 current bands that are not sheep to the masses. BTW, you may want to include the Dixie Chicks on the list for their stance.

Unknown said...

You ask what act or band may be the new inspiration of sorts to get the next generation motivated and empowered? I saw an amazing act the other day at the DNC perform out of a truck that was constructed into a stage! These guys go by The Construct. Its only two of them and they play like they were a 5 person band. They have a third guy who does live visuals to the music. Afterwards I talked with them and they cited Fugazi and you guys as being an inspiration. These guys got everyone riled and so full of energy with their music and stage performance. Worth a check out I believe. Stay well and keep us moving to those revolutionary beats with RATM and the Night watchman!

Gabriel Junod said...


Your action was what the world needs. Don't fight and crash yourself against the wall of the empire. You just have to byass. They can't beat us.

That makes me want to do a documentary film about the Rage against the machine. I'm in a french cinema school and I hope a such project can be realize. This film could make feel people the way to behave together, like in this video.

You can contact me : gabrieljunod@hotmail.fr

Continue to make us feel the rage !

Matthew Shields said...

LOL Is this what we are "changing" to?

"This film could make feel people the way to behave together, like in this video." Gabriel Junod

This is how people should behave together?


Matthew Shields said...

Wow, only 8 posts. And 2 are mine! Nobody cares about RATM. Maybe they can be on a reality show!

Riotgrrrlcynic said...

That article is really thought-provoking. I saw Rage at Reading and they were amazing. But I think the kids in the crowd did not go off and start something in the streets, so much as what Josh Homme predicted, they went off to get laid in a tent afterwards. Rage were so foreceful I thought if music could provoke a revolution, they would do it. I therefore have to consider that it cannot. So is this question of muical/political inspiration to the next generation maybe academic?

The other issue, about the slacker generation waking up is really interesting. You may spend your twenties really not doing anything, but wake up in your thirties to find exactly how terrible the odious machine is, and worse that you are participating in it. This leaves a moral decision to me made - can the system be changed by those within it, or can it only be opposed from outside. Can you afford to do that now you are a grown up with responsiblities, or can you afford not to do it, for the sake of your conscience?

Gabriel Junod said...


First, You will not make me change my opinion. So if you want to recruited me in your team of thinking, you have already loose.

Secondly, the video link that you gived to me has not his place here. That's not the topic of this discussion. (I don't understand why you are shocked by this kind of behaviour. I think you don't know what you are talking about : Have you ever been to a RATM concert ?(I don't need the answer)).

Finaly, if you want to afront somebody (that's regular for a teenager) you should try skateboarding. You afront yourself and that makes you think higer.

If you want to answer me, please don't pollute this topic. You have got my email adress, you can leave me a message (and please, send me a message where you thought about each word... and read again entirely this post).



Saludos desde México!

Viva la furia!

Viva EZLN!

Viva Rage Against the Machine!

Unknown said...

If there is anytime for RATM to make a stand and help, it's now. I feel helpless during this election with narrowing opinion polls and constant politicking, where do we go? How do we help? How do we take the power back?

trocker said...

ratm you guy's rock, i might live in australia but that doesn,t mean i don't know what ur trying to do for this world. i play the guitar and tom is such an inspiration to my music and i my views.

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