Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or work for Fox News — the big story in the media lo these past few weeks has been the Occupy (Insert Location Here) protests springing up around the country and, more recently, in cities around the globe where like-minded citizens have begun congregating in solidarity with their agitated American counterparts. Regardless of which side of the issue — pick an issue, any issue! — you stand on, it’s been fascinating to watch the story unfold and to witness the growing fervor surrounding the demonstrations. Whether in New York City, Boston or even sleepy li’l Burlington, the passion driving the Wall Street protests hasn’t been seen in this country since … well, the first Tea Party protests a few years ago, probably. But I digress.
(Total aside: If you wanna have some fun with an activist friend, casually mention how eerily parallel the Tea Party and Wall Street protests seem to be — pissed off at government and the establishment, an unwieldy and often confusing litany of issues and gripes, etc. — and wait for his or her head to explode. By the way, it works equally well with conservative Tea Party nuts, too. Good times.)
Not surprisingly, the People’s Republic of Vermont has gone all in on the protests, culminating most recently with a massive — for Vermont — demonstration in downtown Burlington last weekend in which an estimated 500 people turned out to let their voices be heard — albeit by a population that by and large feels the same way, but whatever. Preachin’ to the choir is still preachin’.
Protests in Burlington are hardly novel. Not to make light, but it’s probably more newsworthy if a weekend goes by that someone is not protesting something. But this one was particularly notable because Sarah Lee Guthrie — yep, those Guthries — and her husband, Johnny Irion, showed up on Saturday to rock the proverbial casbah.
Check out Shay Totten’s coverage on the 7D staff blog, Blurt, for the full rundown and some great videos. In particular, watch the vid of Guthrie leading the crowd through her granddad Woody’s classic — and often misinterpreted — “This Land Is Your Land.”
Most of us only know the song’s first verse, which, if taken out of context, seems like a pretty patriotic little ditty. But in addition to the original two or three verses that follow — depending on the recording — there are several “alternative” verses, many of which were never written down or recorded and have since been lost to time, each of which paints a very different picture of Woody Guthrie’s iconic tune from the one you may have learned in grade school or Cub Scouts. To wit, here’s the original song’s last verse:
“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway.
Nobody living can ever make me turn back.
This land was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple,
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?”
There was a reason Guthrie had a sticker with the phrase “This Machine Kills Fascists” plastered on the face of his guitar — and I’m guessing it wasn’t so that his most famous song would one day appear in a Ford commercial. Sigh.
The Burlington protests have been picking up steam and increasing in size each week. And this week, they’ll be aided by a benefit show at Club Metronome on Thursday, October 20, called “Occupy Metronome.” Personally, I find that name a little confusing. Does that mean they’re protesting Club Metronome now? Because if that brings gravy fries back to the front window downstairs at Nectar’s, I will chain myself to the front doors in solidarity.
I’m kidding, of course — except about the gravy-fry thing. That still irks me, and it’s been, like, five years now. Back to the point, the show follows Thursday’s planned picketing of “too big to fail” banks in Burlington — looking at you, TD Banknorth — and is part of International Credit Union Day. Proceeds from the show will go to the General Assembly at the main Wall Street protests in NYC as well as to local protest efforts.
The lineup features an impressive roster of local talent, including hip-hop outfit One Over Zero, songwriters Mickey Western and Tommy Alexander, rockers Workingman’s Army, and a hip-hop supergroup of sorts dubbed the Mindfully Discontent Allstars. Great name. Should be a great outfit, too, with high-minded MCs Rajnii, Face One, Mud Buddha and Backwood MC all in the fold. And in between sets, DJ Agent 8 mans the wheels of steel, spinning — what else? — rebel music. Righteous.
In non-we’re-mad-as-hell-and-we’re-not-gonna-take-it-anymore news, the local comedy boom continues. This Sunday, October 23, standup fans will want to check out Girl on Girl on Girl at the Monkey House in Winooski, featuring Montréal-based comics DeAnne Smith and Jess Salomon. The Canadian standups, both of whom are gay, have garnered rave reviews on both sides of the border for their provocative, intelligent — and hilarious —take on lesbian relationships. In particular, Smith has become something of a YouTube sensation for her animated video “An Honest Lesbian Relationship.” You’re welcome. Two local standups, Martha Tormey (a girl) and Nathan Hartswick (not a girl) open the show.
Speaking of the Monkey House, it’s a big week at everybody’s favorite Little Williamsburg juke joint. Most notably on a local angle is the return of late B-Town post-punk rockers the Static Age, who will take to the stage for the first time in two years this Friday, October 21. They’ll be joined by venerable Queen City acts the Proper, the Smittens and Rough Francis. BTW, as an original member of the Static Age, RF front man Bobby Hackney pulls double duty that night. Badass.
Band Name of the Week: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. More Monkey (House) love here. But this one is a coup, and yet another reason I love the guys at MSR Presents, who copresent the show this Monday, October 24, with 102.9 Farm Fresh Radio — I believe this makes reason #254, if you’re counting. The self-described “riverboat soul” songwriter is, to put it bluntly, waaaaay too big for the Winooski nightspot, especially after his transcendent performance at the Newport Folk Festival earlier this summer that had everyone from NPR to Spin to the Boston Globe singing his praises. Trust me, if you don’t go to this show, you’ll wish you had the next time he comes to town, which will almost certainly be to play a much larger and less intimate stage. And, really, how can you pass up a singer whose hometown rag, the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, likened him to “a transgendered punk Bessie Smith” whose style “suggests a hobo Pee-Wee Herman”? I thought so.
Last but not least, just a heads-up that if anyone needs me this week, wait until next week. I’ll be in NYC at the CMJ Music Marathon — and maybe protesting some stuff. I bring it up not to inform you of my travel plans, but because I’ll be blogging all week long from the showcase, and you, dear reader, can follow my zany adventures on the 7D music blog, Solid State. So log in, open an $8 bottle of Budweiser, and it’ll almost be like you’re right there in New York with me.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire
Radiohead, TKOL RMX 1234567
Mayer Hawthorne, How Do You Do?
Finger, We Are Fuck You/ Punk’s Dead Let’s Fuck