Free-Your-Ass Manifestos

How do you make personal-as-political music matter when the war drums are getting louder? This was the inevitable question last Monday, before the second night of the National Hopeline Network's Take Action tour at Irving Plaza, featuring a delicious triple bill of Le Tigre, International Noise Conspiracy, and Northern State. Organized to benefit the 1-800-SUICIDE prevention hot line, it was a rare show of activism from an underground music community that—with a few exceptions—has recently adopted an all too passive stance on political matters. No one could argue with the worthiness of the cause. Yet considering how America's new McCarthyism and imperial strategies are redefining everything you've ever known about world order, this Plea For Peace seemed slightly mistimed. It begged one question: When boogying to raise money so that teens don't kill themselves, can we really dance down apocalypse?

What curse? Mekon Sally Timms
photo: Statia Molewski
What curse? Mekon Sally Timms

Northern State did not have to answer the question: They were the new kids at the rally, still figuring out what their point will be, trying to jump the gate of obvious constraints (suburban white girls, hip-hop). But new songs like "Vicious Cycle" and "The Trinity" showed they were prepared for something serious. (Get back to them, when they figure out what it is!)

Sweden's underheralded International Noise Conspiracy tried to revive the pacifist proletariat's holy ghost with a combo of Clash-style sloganeering and JBs-via-Stooges channeling, and almost succeeded. A fan's appearance on the stage-right amp-stack for a slew of Godfather-like moves during "Capitalism Stole My Virginity" was a beyond-verbal glance of the solidarity that was once punk's raison d'être, warped into near-extinction.

Le Tigre's very presence onstage demanded action, but they preached proven psalms to a hometown congregation. Electro punks as Jazzercise instructors, LT unleashed sexual liberation manifestos that raised the sweat level so extremely—cue Peaches for a guest reading of "Get Me Off"—that anything but personal community proclamations and bodily gyrations could be forgotten for an hour and a half.

Of course, when the sold-out show’s giddy audience was back out on the sidewalk, the drums of war were still beating. And no one on the stage had even mentioned it. —Piotr Orlov

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