Surprising no one, music festivals this year are anti-Trump


This past weekend I attended VoodooFest as a music fan. With just over a week until election day, the politics swirling around the event would probably have enabled me to attend with a press pass instead.

Amidst the many tawdry and debaucherous Halloween costumes worn by the mostly Millennial crowd, there were a few Trumps and Hillarys. There were also the obligatory Planned Parenthood propaganda volunteers outside the gate.

While there was no official politicking by campaigns or companies inside the City Park venue, the artists performing on stage didn’t hold back their opinions.

Over the course of the weekend at least two artists, one a rapper, one a DJ, led their jubilant audiences in anti-Trump chants. I wasn’t in either of those audiences myself, but the chorus could easily be heard across the sprawling park.

Day 3 closer, Arcade Fire, introduced several of their songs with political messages, coming just short of naming Trump as the target of their partisan scorn. They lamented the unprecedented “playing on people’s fears” of the 2016 campaign, as if the Clinton campaign isn’t relying exclusively on fear of a Trump presidency as its motivating factor. The lead singer, who tried mostly unsuccessfully to lead the sparse audience in a wordless chorus to record for their new album, introduced another song by recounting the story of his vote for Al Gore in 2000. Okay, thanks?

It was day 2 closer, Tool, who had the most powerful message of the event, all because of subtext instead of volume. To do so, they hauled out the title track from their debut EP, which was fatefully released the same year we elected the first President Clinton. “Opiate” was originally a song about overzealous religious leaders, but in the Year of Trump it became a powerful warning about strongman authoritarianism.

Though probably lost on much of the inebriated but fevered and fist-pumping crowd, the “we both want to rape you” line was particularly horrifying and timely.

A few hours before Arcade Fire’s partisan campaign the next day, a more subtle but literal message was delivered. Puscifer, another band fronted by Tool’s lead singer, Maynard Keenan, recently released a cartoon video for their song, “The Arsonist” featuring a quartet of female heroes saving the world from a Godzilla-like Trump figure. Before performing the song during their day 3 set, Keenan addressed the alleged “political” message of the video. He said that parody and comedy fall under the umbrella of entertainment, not politics, and that he’d happily stay out of politics, as long as the politicians conversely oblige.

Keenan’s messages both days worked so well because of their intellect and subtlety. G-Eazy’s obscene chant might be viscerally satisfying, but isn’t that the basic problem with Trumpism itself?

As revenge for the very real decline of the white working class, Trump promises sanctions against various perceived but unrelated bogeymen. That kind of grievance politics might be satisfying to the most recent unintended victims of market economic cycles, but it won’t actually solve anything.

A lyric from a different Tool song offers a better way, at least to vent.

Something kinda sad about
the way that things have come to be.
Desensitized to everything.
What became of subtlety?

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