Rockin’ the vote
Published:Thursday, October 30, 2008
By David Skolnick
Chevy event blends music and politics
About 3,500 to 4,000 attended the Get Out and Vote ’08 concert.
YOUNGSTOWN — The musicians’ message was both straightforward and subtle.
The performers at Wednesday’s Get Out and Vote ’08 concert urged the 3,500 to 4,000 people at the Chevrolet Centre to, well, get out and vote — for change.
The subtle part was: vote for Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, whose campaign slogan is “Change we can believe in.”
“You know that word ‘change,’ how it’s been thrown around a lot,” said musician Sheryl Crow. “I like the idea. How about you?”
But it was almost like preaching to the choir.
There were many concertgoers wearing Obama shirts, buttons and hats. Only a handful were spotted wearing Republican John McCain gear at the show.
Musician Norah Jones — who like the other performers at the concert has expressed support for Obama — playfully sang, “I can’t tell you who to vote for. I signed a contract” as she prepared for a song.
She later added: “You know in your heart who to vote for,” and, “I hope next Tuesday I’ll be happy.”
Among the songs Jones sang Wednesday was “My Dear Country,” which she said was written about the 2004 election that saw President Bush, a Republican, beat Democrat John Kerry.
“‘Cause we believed in our candidate, but even more it’s the one we hate, I need someone I could shake, on Election Day. But the day after is darker, and deeper and deeper we go, who knows, maybe it’s all a dream, who knows if I’ll wake up and scream.”
Also performing Wednesday were the Beastie Boys, who organized the Get Out and Vote ’08 concert series; Ben Harper and Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party. Farrell is the former frontman for Jane’s Addiction.
The concert was billed as a way to encourage people to vote.
But it was hard to overlook the musicians’ comments.
“We’re going to win in Ohio,” said Farrell during an ear-splitting 30-minute set. “Can anything stop us?”
As he left the stage, Farrell added: “Let’s take the country back. We can do it. No one can stop us.”
Several of Crow’s songs were political or she made a comment before singing to make them political.
She started with “God Bless This Mess,” and also played “Gasoline,” “Every Day is a Winding Road,” “A Change Would Do You Good” and a solid remake of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Higher Ground.”
The Youngstown concert was the third of six stops for Get Out and Vote ’08. The six-city tour that started Monday in Charlotte, N.C., goes to Dayton today and finishes in Milwaukee on Sunday, two days before the election.
Traveling with the tour are representatives of Rock the Vote, an organization that encourages young people to vote.
Members of the group distributed fliers to those at the concert that compared the positions of Obama and McCain.
The information seems a bit skewed in favor of Obama on some issues.
For example, on the Iraq war, the flier reads: “McCain led Senate efforts to authorize the Iraq war in 2002; to date, 4,179 Americans have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq.”
For the Democrat, it reads: “Obama opposed the authorization of the Iraq war in 2002.” Obama wasn’t a U.S. senator and didn’t vote on the bill at the time.
The Beastie Boys, Crow and actor Ben Stiller appeared earlier Wednesday at Youngstown State University.
Stiller and the Beastie Boys spoke briefly about why voting is necessary to the college generation.
Crow performed a few songs and discussed why voting is essential.
“If you go down to the polling places and the lines are long, it’s worth the wait,” Crow told the crowd. “I believe everybody’s voice should be heard.”
The brief appearances frustrated some students who expected more of a show. But the point of the appearance was to increase awareness of voting.
“We have this generation — the Millenials — who represent a huge population of the electorate, but they don’t talk about our issues,” said Kim Rogers, political director of the national Rock the Vote office. “They talk about things that affect our parents, they talk about things that affect our grandparents ... so we’re trying to change the narrative.”
Students attended the rally for both the entertainers and the meaning behind it.
“The next four years are going to be pretty important in our lives ... and who our president is is going to make a lot of difference in our jobs and our economic situation,” said Mike Ringler, a YSU freshman.
XContributor: Jon Moffett, staff writer