The Mile High Makeout: Local musicians join Occupy Denver this SaturdayBy Eryc Eyl | October 21st, 2011 | 8 comments
The global Occupy movement is an international demonstration of solidarity unlike any most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Even if you’re not one of the hundreds of thousands occupying Wall Street, Wichita or Denver, all you have to do is turn on your radio, TV or computer to be brought face-to-face with the diverse group of disenfranchised citizens around the world demanding fundamental changes to the inequities that characterize the modern global economy. Here in Denver, a movement that began with a handful of concerned activists has grown to include thousands of people from a variety of ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds. On Saturday, a number of local musicians will join those thousands at Civic Center Park in Denver, lending their amplified voices to the global yawp.
“The Occupy movement is changing the political terrain,” says Jamie Laurie, a.k.a. Jonny 5 of the Flobots. He’ll be performing on Saturday, with the primary purpose of entertaining those who have braved cold, criticism and incarceration for the cause.
“Just seeing how dedicated and passionate people is awesome,” enthuses Bobby Rogers, a.k.a. King F.O.E. of BLKHRTS, another group performing on Saturday. “People believe in the cause enough to sleep outside and risk getting arrested every single night. They’re doing that for us, so this is just a way for us to give back and have a good time.”
Tim Holland, known to the world as underground MC Sole, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s event. He joined the protesters within the first week of Occupy Denver and is astounded to see how fast it has grown. Early on, he discussed the idea of doing a concert with the small group that gathered in Veterans Park, but a few short weeks later, the vision has evolved.
“I kept driving by, seeing 10 people waving signs,” Holland recalls. “I just figured I might as well get out there and grab a sign and stand with them. What’s more important than that? I stood out there with those 10 or 20 people, and it became this hub for anyone who gives a shit about what’s happening in Denver.”
After standing with those people a short time, Holland began helping to organize the concert. “Initially, this whole event was to get people interested in what we’re doing,” he explains, “but now people are very interested, so it can just be a good time with good music.”
In addition to Jonny 5, BLKHRTS and Sole, that good music will include experimental outfits Rubedo, Bedrockk and Hollagramz, and booming bass music from Project Aspect (a.k.a. Jay Jaramillo) and the Whomp Truck. Local activist, DJ and bass music promoter Jason Roth is part of the Occupy Denver public relations committee, and is excited about bringing the music he loves to the cause.
“There’s a lot of people involved in the movement that are music-oriented people,” Roth observes. “We’re a free-thinking bunch. It would be kind of weird not to see them there.”
Roth notes that musicians’ solidarity with the movement isn’t surprising, since it’s unlikely for an artist to be part of the top 1% of Americans who control the majority of the country’s wealth. “There are a lot of poor artists out there, so they can relate to being poor,” he says. “To try to get health insurance without having an employer helping to pay some of the costs is pretty difficult.”
But the Occupy movement stretches far beyond starving artists. Surveys have shown that the majority of protesters have jobs, voted for Obama and aren’t protesting just so that they can ditch class and get high. They aren’t left-wing radicals or hyper-inflated Libertarians. They are ordinary people. In fact, if the 99% math is even close to accurate, they are you.
“People involved in the Occupy movement want to change the political narrative to stop blaming government and help people see that it was big banks and financial institutions that ruined the economy,” notes Laurie. “Government hasn’t been effective at fixing the problem, and the way people are living during the occupations is a model for the spirit in which government should operate.”
Because the Flobots are hard at work on a new album — separated from the corporate machine that put out the group’s last two records — Laurie hasn’t been present at Occupy Denver as much as he’d like, but he finds himself drawing inspiration from the events going on near the studio where the band is recording.
“My role as an artist is to support tangibly through our art, to bring attention and further momentum,” he says. “Certainly, the content of the album we’re writing is going to reflect the time we’re living in. I like to think that these songs could be part of the soundtrack to the movement.”
On Saturday, Laurie and several other Denver musicians will provide that soundtrack, giving those who have been camped out some much-needed entertainment, pulling in those who haven’t been ready to show up in person yet, and galvanizing the movement with the power of music. It’s not clear, yet, what the movement will accomplish, but Laurie, Holland, Rogers and Roth are committed to making Saturday a fortifying and positive source of energy for it.
“Everything that has happened in the last week, two weeks, month has completely surprised me,” says Holland. “When history is happening, it’s a tsunami — you can’t predict it. There’s no telling where we’re going to be in a month. One thing that’s clear, though, is that the lost generation are finally finding their voices. I never thought this would happen, and it’s incredibly inspiring.”
For a musical perspective on the issues behind the Occupy movement, check out Sole’s newest video, “I Think I’m Ben Bernanke.”
For more information on Occupy Denver and this weekend’s event, visit OccupyDenver.org, where you can also read Tim Holland’s first-hand account of the Occupy Denver events of Oct 13.
Tim Holland’s first-hand account of the Oct 13 law enforcement interventions
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout for stories about Denver musicians doing extraordinary things. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.