I want to take a few moments this morning and write down why this show, tonight, March 15 is so important. First of all, it's a political benefit for the refugees in Syria. The show will benefit Doctors Without Borders there. And I got the idea to make it a benefit from David Rovics.
David is an old friend, who played the Vox Pop coffeehouse in Brooklyn several times. He is in the middle of a world tour to raise awareness about refugees. David has a special knack for taking complex political issues and writing a succinct and moving and melodic song about them. I can think of several instances when I was moved from cold apathy to weeping hot love by his songs.
Take “Jenin” for example, which tries to understand the world from the point of view of a Palestinian suicide bomber, who loses his parents and school to Israeli bombers and bullbozers, and then makes a choice to sacrifice his life for the cause. A part of you says “yikes” is this pro-terrorist? But a part of you feels empathy for the causes and conditions that create terrorists.
Similarly, “Promised Land” was a song written after 9/11 when Rovics dared to consider the 9/11 event from the point of view of Mohamed Atta, the “lead hijacker.” And if you are of the persuasion that the real lead hijacker is secret government imperialism, Rovics wrote that song too: “Reichstag Fire” was his 9/11 truth-attracted line of inquiry. Here, he asks if 9/11 was a new “Luisitania” or “the latest Reichstag Fire” referring to the false flag events that started World War I, and Hitler's rise to power in Germany.
David Rovics songs are a hell of a lot of fun, too. Like when he gets the crowd to chant along in “three cheers and a grunt” for the Earth Liberation Front. Or when he gets the crowd rollicking back in forth in a swaying waltzy 6/8 time to “St. Patrick's Battalion” a memorial to the 175 Irish and Catholic immigrants who deserted the US Army and switched sides in the bloody US Mexican War of 1846-1848. It's a song that romanticizes what some would call an act of betrayal, but Rovics is right: The US Mexican War was all about grabbing huge chunks of land away from Mexico. That's how the U.S. “acquired” (aka “stole”) the entire SouthWest and California. The fact that 175 disadvantaged, immigrant, working-class people had the brains to see that, and the hearts to give up their lives, and really do something about it, is a little-known fact worth celebrating. They didn't betray the USA. They betrayed US imperialism. And you can't beat David's boom bap bap boom bap bap 6/8 time, his searing melody, his sing-along, we-are-all-in-this-together spirit.
David is reporting constantly about violence. Violence surrounds us. It penetrates our lives, our political rhetoric, our presidential candidates are varied extremes this year, from a fascist to a socialist, but no one dares stand up to Violence. I personally wish David would embrace the revolutionary path of the heart and embrace Gandhian “Truth Force” akak “Satyagraha” - the spiritual path of non-harming, nonviolence. But he's on a world tour and he's got his own path.
But when you soak in violence so much, and you really see the world – well, you want something fresher and new. Truth Force is the path I have personally chosen, for my politics and my life. And I think it's where you eventually end up, when you dig as deep as David digs in his songs and his work.
I asked David “five quick questions” on March 7, for this blog post. Here is what he said:
1. Where are you right now? How long is your tour and how is it going?
At the moment I'm in London, England. I'm on a 2-month tour, one month of which is in Europe. It's going great in terms of the gigs. But I got the flu a few weeks ago and that made it all very difficult, so on a personal, physical level it's been hard.
2. What is the theme of this tour? How far will you go?
Usually I theme my tours around my most recent album(s), which in this case focus heavily on refugees, currently and throughout history. How far? If by that you mean geographically, I guess the furthest away from Portland that the tour took me was maybe Munich...?
3. What are your three most recent songs about?
I've been writing almost nothing about how much I want to kill my landlord lately. I think I've written ten songs on that subject in the past few weeks, though I haven't really finished any of them. As far as the most recent songs I've actually finished, the topics were Hillary Clinton (is not a progressive), I want to kill my landlord (I did finish one of those songs), and Donald Trump is a Nazi.
4. What inspired you in the last month?
A lot of gigs that had more than 100 people at them.
5. Are you excited about the March 15 show in NYC? Why?
Yes. Despite the fact that New York City has become a playground for the rich and a shell of its former self, I still have many good memories associated with the city in which I was born, and I always like to play there
More Info on Tonight's Gig:
A Benefit Concert for Doctors Without Borders, Syria
Now is the time for New Yorkers to stand with the refugees.
"With massive unmet needs inside Syria, Doctors Without Borders should be running some of the biggest operations in its history. But the scale of the violence and the fast-moving nature of the conflict limits our ability to work inside Syria . . . Despite these significant constraints, MSF continues to operate medical facilities inside Syria, as well as directly supporting more than 150 medical structures throughout the country . . . the needs remain enormous." -Doctors Without Borders
David Rovics, Jeffrey Lewis, and Friends
"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
--Ian McMillan, BBC
David Rovics is the missing moral conscience of the USA. He is a pro-peace, pro-reform, musical revolutionary. He is able to write about Bush's deception in Iraq, or the tragedy of the hurricane in New Orleans with a soaring emotional melody and a certain moral intuition.
Jeffrey Lewis has been called "Weird? very...but also downright inspirational" by Rolling Stone.
"Ideas burst from Jeffrey Lewis like an overstuffed suitcase -- strange ones, funny ones, poignant ones, usually a mixture. . .. kicking out ramshackle fuzzbomb jams. . . it's difficult to imagine how any couple of hours spent in Lewis's company couldn't prove inspirational." - The Guardian
Our Line Up:
7PM - Sparrow -
Unbearably funny comedic poet of enlightened punk hippie wonder
7:30 PM - DK and the Joy Machine -
A stand-out singer songwriter half way between Patti Smith and Lucinda Williams- a mountain dulcimer that moves your soul.
8 PM: Mobile Steam Unit
Intense & Vibrant, Muscular American Expressionist Art Rock
9 PM: White Collar Crime
Politically-charged, piano-based punk of an eerie, uncommon beauty, fronted by Sander Hicks.
10 PM: David Rovics
Nationally-Celebrated Radical Peacesmith Songwriter Revolutionary
11 PM: Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts
Exemplary Genius of Intelligent and Bitingly Witty Social Satire
March 15, Tuesday
7 PM -12 Midnight
158 Ludlow at Stanton
PIANOS and White Collar Crime proudly host:
A Benefit Concert for Doctors Without Borders, Syria
$12 Buy tickets in advance - This show will sell out.