Sunday, July 3, 2011

What's Left Of The Political-Punk Scene?

Music and politics have always gone hand-in-hand. And certainly, the punk-rock community has been at the forefront of the confrontation. With bands like Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Bad Religion, Against Me! and Green Day leading the fight today, it seems like the fuse is burning brighter than ever.

But can the efforts of these bands and others resonate with not only fans, but also within the political realm? In other words, is any of this really making a difference?

For the answer to that, you really have to look past the songs and albums. After all, the message is usually clear with many of these political-punks. To see if the bands and the genre of music really are causing a stir, take a look at the little things the bands are doing - working with political groups, attending rallies and generally being outspoken outside of their recordings.

A few months back it seemed like the world was thrown into an upheaval of revolutions and political unrest from the Middle East to the United States. Leading the rush at home were the Wisconsin protests against Governor Scott Walker's decision to place certain monetary restrictions on the state's unions.

This eventually gained national coverage and seemed to have struck a chord within our music scene, as well. Rise Against lead singer and Chicago native Tim McIlrath made an appearance during the rally (taking time out from finishing his band's latest release, Endgame) and joined the protest. Before jumping into a cover of Neil Young's classic, "Ohio", McIlrath was greeted by a chant of "Thank you! Thank you!" from the appreciative crowd.

McIlrath responded by saying, "It's an honor to be here today with so many people who give a shit about the direction of our world and the direction of this city in particular. It's an honor. I'm proud to be here. Thank you for having me."

Don't think this was an isolated event for McIlrath or the scene in general. Even those in bands that don't exhibit a political standing have stepped up to the plate to defend democracy and human rights. Back in 2009, musicians from bands as eclectic as blink-182, Bayside, Motion City Soundtrack and Anberlin took to their Twitter accounts to protest against a reportedly rigged presidential election in Iran.

By throwing a shade of green over their profile pictures (the official color for the democratic movement) the band members made it known that their political viewpoints toward the election corresponded with that of the Iranian people's.

It may have been a small gesture, but when you have thousands, or even millions, of followers on the social networking site, the ideology you project can have a profound influence on people across the globe. Don't forget, the Middle Eastern protests of this year were essentially put together via social networking sites.

These two examples may seem fairly insignificant to the big picture, but the fact of the matter is that things like this are going on everyday in the scene. With the amount of records being put out, the influence of movements like the Take Action Tour and the small hand that independent groups have within the music and political scenes, the message is getting across.

Perhaps it's not the big picture that's worth changing. Maybe it's just reaching common people that has the punk-rock community so grounded in the political atmosphere. Changing one life can go a long way, and what better way to do it than through music with a message?

**Backstage Press would like to thank our correspondent D.L. for suggesting this topic**

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