Bands use music as political promoter

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    By Gretta Parkinson

    It seems the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, Ben Harper and R.E.M. have more in common than just music. These artists have united for a specific purpose – they want their fans to vote for John Kerry.

    More than 20 diverse acts, including the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie and Jack Johnson signed on to the Vote for Change tour that opened in Pennsylvania Friday.

    According to a statement posted on www.actforvictory.org, Vote for Change is a partnership among musicians with American Coming Together (ACT) and MoveOn PAC to influence a “change in the direction of our country.”

    These entertainers are serious about their convictions. Through a quote posted on the ACT homepage, Dave Matthews makes his motive and his opinion clear.

    “A vote for change is a vote for a stronger, safer, healthier America,” he said. “A vote for Bush is a vote for a divided, unstable, paranoid America. It is our duty to this beautiful land to let our voices be heard. That”s the reason for the tour. That”s why I”m doing it.”

    Sarah Leonard, who handles publicity for ACT said the artists came up with the idea of Vote for Change on their own to help raise funds for voter mobilization efforts. The tour will visit the 12 “swing states” to try to convince people to register to vote and lean to the left.

    “We hope [the artists] change some minds and swing some voters,” Leonard said.

    Leonard said she thinks most of the concertgoers are fans of the bands and not necessarily Kerry supporters, so there is great potential for sway.

    Anna Siebach, 22, a comparative literature and French major from Orem, Utah, disagreed.

    “The problem with things like this is that the base that they”re trying to reach … has basically already made up their minds,” Siebach said. “People who are going to [go] have already decided, so it won”t be affecting much of a change at all.”

    Siebach said she appreciated the artists” efforts to try to get people to register, but she thinks it would be better to get people involved in the election is a non-partisan way.

    “I think that it”s too bad when people feel like the only form of valid activism that somebody can take is their form of activism,” Siebach said. “I think that it would be better if they were more open-minded about it.”

    John Litchford, 23, an open major from San Jose, Calif., said ideas like the Vote for Change tour are not completely original.

    “If you look at it, Russell Simmons and Chuck D have been trying this in the hip-hop world for years now, and they always get kids to register to vote, but it”s never made a change in any election,” Litchford said.

    Litchford said Vote for Change might get fans excited about registering to vote, but it won”t actually get them to the booths on Nov. 2.

    “I think it”ll get them to register,” Litchford said. “I don”t think it will get them to the polls at all. I think that if they had the polls at the concert or if they had the concert at the polls, then, yes, [Vote for Change] would definitely make a difference.”

    Vote for Change claims to be doing something that”s never been done before, but Siebach said music and politics have been intertwined since the 1960s.

    “Historically, music has always been used in a political kind of way,” Siebach said. “[Vote for Change is] just taking advantage of that heritage that”s inherent in music.”

    Siebach said although it seems that most popular musicians are left wing, people just aren”t aware of the artists that lean the other way.

    “Very few people know of right-winger musicians like Joey Ramone of ”The Ramones”, who was a member of the NRA,” she said.

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