Friday, March 09, 2007
Michael Franti in Fayettville: What's the Use of Political Music?
Michael Franti & Spearhed played at George's Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR on March 6, and I manage to catch the show. I first hear of Franti back in the early nineties, when he led Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, who are best known for their song, "Television: Drug of the Nation." I saw him perform with Spearhead in Seattle, I think it was back in 1996. I've not followed him so closely of late, but I still consider him one of the most important political artists around.
The concert was sold out, just jammed with a crowd of 2-300 that could loosely be termed "hippies." The crowd was very appreciative, very familiar with the music. Franti seemed quite surprised at the enthusiastic reception he received in his first-ever concert in Arkansas--and the crowd was of course very glad to hear themselves praised by the likes of Franti.
But all during the concert--which I enjoyed immensely--I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that this Sunday, March 11, the Omni Center for Peace and Equality is organizing anti-war, anti-occupation demonstration, on the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.
There were flyers advertising the march spread around in the club, and due to the efforts of a couple of my younger friends, the flyer managed to end up in Franti's hand at the conclusion of the concert and he read it out. I'm pretty certain, however, that despite Franti's endorsement, and despite the fact that Franti's music is consistently progressive and political (and the politics is expressed very clearly), that very few of those at the concert will come out to the march. Twenty at most, I imagine, and I will know most of them. The march (if the weather holds up) will probably include several hundred people, if the last march is any guide, but it won't be the hippies who attended the Franti/Spearhead concert. They're sympathetic with Franti's message, but they'd pay $20 and show up to dance and drink beer (and smoke some Chronic--a lot of that in the air) than participate in a demo. Our demo on March 11 will include people of all age groups (with a lot of middle aged folks like me), but it will be very short on young folks of the "alternative" or hippy variety.
So is Franti's music, so infused with radical politics, of any political use in a place like this? I discussed this with my friend Dave, and he suggested that probably, in a place like San Francisco, there would be more of a convergence between the audience at a Franti concert and marchers at an anti-war rally. I think that's probably true. And I'm not sure why all the good-hearted pot-smoking longhaired young people here are so unlikely to show up at a rally. I have no answers, only a feeling of depression...