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These dudes could use a few extra dollars
So there’s this whole micro-economy built from the money that independent music generates. There’s not a huge amount of money to be made from a bunch of people jumping into vans and playing music in dive-bars across the country, but the whole phenomenon still feeds armies of label guys and publicists and booking agents and writers and managers. Ideally, the money also feeds the people who actually make and perform that music, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Indie-rappers and people in indie-rock bands, people who devote their lives to making music, rarely bring home enough money to quit their day-jobs or to buy health insurance. And if something catastrophic happens to them, they’re fucked. This is the last entry I’m writing before Christmas, which means I’m wicked broke right now and so are half the people I know. But there are a couple of musicians I admire who are going through rough times this year, and they could both use a little help. Neither of these stories is particularly new, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Boots Riley and J. Robbins. They’ve both been responsible for a whole lot of great music, and they both need help.
The Coup and Mr. Lif, probably my two favorite indie-rap entities, started touring together in November, and I was looking forward to seeing them together in New York next month. That’s not going to happen now. After doing a show in San Diego earlier this month, the tour bus that the Coup and Lif shared crashed, tipping over on its side and caught on fire. Everyone escaped the bus, but a few members of the Coup’s touring band sustained serious injuries, and everyone lost a whole lot of property. In his blog entry about the crash, Coup frontman Boots Riley tells the story of the crash and asks for help: “We lost everything in that crash and fire. We were packed to live and do shows on that bus for a month. Most of us had every stitch of clothing we owned on there. We lost clothes, computers, recording equipment, cameras, IDs, phones, keys to cars and homes. We lost cash.We lost all our damn instruments and equipment to perform with.” Riley has fronted the Coup, an Oakland-based left-wing rap group, since 1992. They’ve released five albums that balance fiery rhetoric with lush, organic melody, never letting one overwhelm the other, and they’ve done it while bouncing madly between record labels and audiences. The whole time, Riley has been going back and forth between music and activist work. He has a family, as do many of the band members whose instruments were lost in the crash. The band will make some money back from insurance, but that’ll take a long time. In the meantime, he’s set up a Paypal account so that he and the members of his band can accept donations, which they’ll need. I haven’t been able to find any information on a similar account for Mr. Lif; I don’t know if he’ll be setting one up or not.
J. Robbins is a record producer and the former frontman of Jawbox and Burning Airlines, and he did as much as anyone to shape the spacey, clangy aesthetic of DC post-hardcore. He co-produced the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I, maybe my favorite indie-rock album of the last ten years, and he also had a hand in a number of great albums from other bands: the Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good, Jets to Brazil’s Orange Rhyming Dictionary, Against Me’s Searching for a Former Clarity. Right now, he’s got a band called Channels with his wife Janet Morgan. The two of them have a kid hamed Callum Robbins who will turn one next month and who was recently diagnosed with a nerve disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. It’s a brutal disease; if Callum survives his first couple of years, he’ll live his entire life in a wheelchair and need constant physical therapy and operations. Robbins and Morgan want to do everything possible to give their kid the best life they possibly can, but it’s going to be unbelievably expensive just to keep him alive. They’re also accepting donations, and they’ll need them.
I’ve never met J. Robbins or Boots Riley, but they’ve both made a lot of amazing music, music that’s worth more than whatever money they’ve made. Now that they actually need money, it’s not there, and so they have to ask us for help. If you’re done with your holiday shopping and you’ve got a couple of bucks left over, please consider donating them to a couple of people who could really use them.
Voice review: Elizabeth Mendez Berry on the Coup’s Pick a Bigger Weapon
Voice review: Frank Kogan on the Coup’s Party Music