As the November election approaches and controversy continues to haunt President Bush's administration, grass-roots organizing is getting more creative. Local musicians have decided to get political in the upcoming Concert for Change, which will unite a smorgasbord of local talent (including Joe Uveges, Smokin' Joe and the Mighty Burners, Black Pegasus, Irrational Exuberance, Boondoggle, Idiolectic Conception and dozens more) to support Democratic candidate John Kerry's bid for the presidency. The proceeds of the benefit will go to MoveOn.org, a progressive Web site and grass-roots organizer, and the Democratic National Party.
Co-organizer Joe Sciallo took a moment to talk with the Independent about the upcoming concert.
Indy: How did the idea for the Concert for Change come about?
Sciallo: I met [fellow organizer] Malcolm Lucard when his band [Irrational Exuberance] was playing at the 10-year Independent anniversary celebration last year, and we got to chat. His band had played a funny song about political situations, and we discussed how music can address political issues.
We decided that we should really put on an event that steps outside of local political norms and presents the artists' points of view. We both felt it should be a positive celebration rather than one where we just bashed others. There has been a feeling of powerlessness in the liberal community, and I felt that we should be able to make a positive statement that says we can make a change.
Then when we started talking to other musicians, they all wanted to be involved. It seems that this election year more and more people want to be involved and committed.
Indy: What is the main cause that the Concert for Change stands for?
Sciallo: Both [Lucard] and I really want to feel that there is a possibility for change in the larger administration. Things have swung so far to the right that they've become radical, and it's all over the country. "Liberal" is not a bad word. Good policies that benefit communities have come from liberals.
I'm not a political person -- I vote, but I kind of sleepwalk through that part of my life. But democracy is essential, and can quite quickly be lost. It's funny; I really thank George W. Bush for opening my eyes to see this.
I also have a young family, and I realize that I need to do my part in order to ensure that they have a good future. I am a father in a democracy, and if I don't do anything, then my children may have fewer rights rather than more. The war in Iraq is important, but there are many issues being pushed under the rug. Policies on education and the national deficit are going to affect our children. We must get the power away from the bait-and-switch tactics of the Bush administration.
Indy: So why is music a good means for communicating this message?
Sciallo: I've been playing music for 20 years, and playing roots music (like the blues) is a way to make a connection with people in a very short time -- you can connect with an audience at a very intimate level in a matter of a couple of hours. So a music event seemed like a very natural way to bring people together. We've got an incredibly diverse lineup, including a lot of young artists that I hope will bring a younger crowd out.
Blues is born out of suffering, but is also uplifting. I jokingly said to someone once, "We should send all our politicians to some [blues] clubs so they can hear about what's really going on in this country."
-- Bettina Swigger
Concert for Change in 2004
Saturday, July 31, noon to midnight
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall, 2150 Naegle Road (between Colorado Avenue and Highway 24 at 21st Street)
Suggested donation: $20
www.mightyburners.com/ concertforchange.html; 633-3469 or 510-6690