Experimental composer and cast of thousands remember those lost
Led off with a “peace-a-lujah” invocation by performance artist Reverend Billy, minimalist composer Pauline Oliveros’s Ringing for Healing participatory piece at the WTC site Saturday night brought out a few thousand bell chimers to mourn the 9-11 dead and moon the RNC invaders. Though much tinier than the next day’s march on the Garden, the event served as an early test of how protesters and police were going to get along.
Thankfully, law enforcement was minimal. The ringing in your ears came from town-crier handbells, ring-ting-tinglin’ sleigh bells, school bells, hotel desk bells, cowbells, and fire bells sounding around the whole perimeter. Distributed instructions told participants to surround the whole Trade Center region (which they did except for a few inevitable gaps) and ring at a slow pace to honor each 9-11 victim; anti-Bush screeds were mostly limited to creative T-shirt slogans (“NYC to RNC: Drop Dead”). Though left-wing organizers RingOut, who commissioned the piece from Oliveros, handed out bells if you forgot your own, they couldn’t get the crowd to chime in sync—most people rang relentlessly, save for a scheduled meditative 10-minute silence midway through.
Similarly, a plan to face each direction for two minutes near the end was ignored as the crowd banged, clanged, and rang away in any direction it happened to face. Ninety minutes into the two-hour homage, people started dispersing. As if arranged beforehand, a rain shower started up at almost the exact moment the performance was scheduled to finish.
Though it certainly would have made a more powerful statement if scheduled on September 11, Oliveros’s piece was a moving symbolic gesture, meant to radiate healing while the RNC ding-a-lings hid in isolated bubbles in midtown. JASON GROSS
Powerful PAC and punk periodical welcome the Republicans into town
PUNK ROCK PROTEST PARTY
Capitalizing on the city’s influx of protesters seeking solidarity, guidance, and release this week, activists of a spectrum of dispositions have been organizing a torrent of fundraising concerts, ranging from glitzy to gritty.
Last week MoveOn kicked off its “10 Weeks: Don’t Get Mad, Get Even!” campaign with a well-orchestrated event at the ornate and spacious Hammerstein Ballroom. This was large-scale grassroots organizing, complete with big-name celebrity musicians, filmmakers, and politicians.
Moby and Perry Farrell teamed up with an oversized band to perform some feel-good cover songs ranging from Buffalo Springfield to Paper Lace. During Jane’s Addiction’s “Idiots Rule,” Farrell quipped, “Not for long!” as he strutted around fist-pumping, while Moby punctuated his performance of “Purple Haze” with the crowd-pleasing provocation “I hear Rick Santorum will be spending a lot of time at the Cock.”
For Moby, shows like this are about the numbers—moveon.org claims “more than two million online activists.” ?uestlove boasted that the Roots alone, by making voter registration a prerequisite for concert entry, registered 8,000 people to vote at their past five shows. Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn PAC, says these musicians “speak to people who are generally turned off by politics.”
While lefty favorite Howard Dean was applauded at MoveOn for insisting that ordinary people run for office, the kids who showed up at Southpaw for Clamor magazine’s “Punk Rock Protest Party” to benefit the New York City Independent Media Center had no interest in campaign politics. In fact, most were too young to drink, or maybe even vote. They admired anti-FTAA footage between acts and danced along when Louise Sullivan of local post-riot-grrrl outfit the Syndicate summarized their general feeling of exclusion by shouting, “We’re not your constituency!”
Concert organizers at Toledo-based Clamor magazine acknowledged that punk “can sometimes simplify politics,” but also see its idealism as empowering, like when the Syndicate asked the audience to write “I commit” (to ending racism, sexism, etc.) statements, which the crowd yelled together in a “cacophony of commitment.”
While MoveOn’s Eli Pariser handed out “Kerry Kits” and warned that the RNC would try “to provoke us to do something stupid,” the singer of Brooklyn noise band Aa asked kids leafing through The People’s Guide to the RNC, “What are you going to tell cops at the protest? ‘Fuck you! Lick this, motherfucker!’ ” and then they started another frenetic drumbeat. LORI COLE