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If you live in Cleveland, Kalamazoo, or Kissimee, or if your state is considered hotly contested this election-year, the gods of the democratic process are smiling upon you. Death Cab for Cutie, for example, will be singing for your vote. Bright Eyes will woo you. Bruce Springsteen cares little for New Jersey at this point, surprisingly enough. He's focusing more on Ann Arbor and Orlando. They all want to serenade you and seduce you so you will take a ballot November 2 and "vote for change."
This year, 17 "battleground" states where the Bush-Kerry contest is too tight to call are getting the lion's share of attention from both progressive and conservative groups. And now, they're getting attention from the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Pearl Jam.
In a press conference today, MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser and America Coming Together's Ellen Malcolm announced a powerful music-and-politics alliance. A coalition of musicians is banding together, as it were, traveling through nine of those battleground states spreading the word.
And the word is change – change the direction of the country, change the extreme right-wing lineup in the White House, change your apathetic ways. It's all about getting out the vote. The Vote for Change Tour, presented by MoveOn PAC with all concert proceeds benefiting the work of America Coming Together (ACT), will blanket nine states with 34 shows in 28 cities over the course of one week – starting October 1 – with participants including the Dave Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks, Jurassic 5, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Babyface, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, Keb' Mo, Ben Harper, and more.
"This unprecedented coming together of musicians underscores the depth of the desire for change in our country's direction," says bassist Mike Mills of R.E.M., which will be hitting Cleveland, Ann Arbor, St. Paul and Orlando with Bruce Springsteen, Bright Eyes and John Fogerty. "And it feels right to use some of the freedoms granted to us in a democracy to try and effect that change."
Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn PAC, calls this tour "the Paul Revere ride of rock-and-roll, sounding the emergency alarm for the most important election of our lifetime." Good ol' Paul had but a horse and his voice to sound the call; this tour will be fully mic'd, not only with the mega-wattage coming from the speakers, but with the star power of progressive musicians and the grassroots might of MoveOn's huge network.
Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, R.E.M., John Fogerty, Bright Eyes
Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5, My Morning Jacket
Dixie Chicks, James Taylor
Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo
John Mellencamp, Babyface
Schedule subject to change. Check MoveOn PAC for updates.
The "emergency alarm" that Pariser refers to is the motivating factor for change. "The tour is aimed squarely at the radical right-wing policies of Republican ideologues throughout the country," says Pariser. Malcolm, president of America Coming Together – beneficiary of the tour proceeds – concurs: "These artists feel so strongly about this election that they are doing something unprecedented in creating this magnificent tour. They are sending an important message to voters in the battleground states: You can change the country if you go to the polls and vote."
Says Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam: "The upcoming election provides everyone an opportunity to change the direction our country is headed and to elect a government that is just, rational and respectful of the views and rights of the people it serves. This coalition of artists wants to be a part of that change."
According to a press release, the Vote for Change tour was conceived by a loose coalition of musicians four months ago, the result of an informal conversation on how they could make a difference in this year's election and beyond. In a testament to the anti-Bush fervor that has gripped progressives this election season, the organizers managed to pull together a powerhouse lineup of artists, all donating their time and talent for the cause.
That's when MoveOn got into the act. "I contacted Bruce Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, noticing that he was a MoveOn member," says Pariser. "We met and agreed to work together, and to give all concert proceeds to the vital voter mobilization and education work of America Coming Together. Landau and the other managers regard building up MoveOn's membership list as important not only for this election, but for future progressive citizen action."
Bruce Springsteen sees his participation in the Vote for Change tour as the natural extention of his progressive politics: "I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been on stage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last 25 years and not taken part in this particular election."
MoveOn PAC – a sister organization to MoveOn.org – has a membership of 2.5 million people and has revolutionized grassroots political action by appealing to that base for small contributions. Pariser notes that "regardless of who wins in November (and we at MoveOn PAC hope it is John Kerry to be sure), MoveOn will be ready to counter the right-wing machine by educating the public and challenging politicians (and the media). MoveOn PAC, as it grows, will further help level the playing field against large corporate contributors and lobbyists, using technology to combine small contributions into a powerful force for change."
Money raised from the tour will go towards ACT's voter mobilization efforts in the battleground states. Malcolm says ACT will use the money "to continue our conversation with voters about issues and how every voter can make a difference if they go to vote."
In gathering a wide variety of artists appealing to different demographics, the organizers hope to bring a wider audience into the fray, and get more people involved in electoral politics. Ellen Malcolm acknowledges that people drawn to the concerts may not all be Democrats; that's OK, she says, because "when people buy a ticket they are in essence making a contribution to ACT so all Republicans, Independents, and Democrats are welcome to attend."
All the participants in the tour agree that the Bush White House has pointed the country in the wrong direction. Dave Matthews lays it out clearly: "A vote for change is a vote for a stronger, safer, healthier America. A vote for Bush is a vote for a divided, unstable, paranoid America."
Vote for Change tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster on August 21 for all tour dates in all cities. For more information about Vote for Change, including ticket information and updates, go to moveonpac.org.
Davina Baum is Managing Editor of AlterNet.