Ripple Effect on the Capitol Lawn
Rage Against the Machine stole the Ripple Effect show. Literally, they stole it. They didn't even play, and they held the crowd like putty in their hands, leading thousands in an a capella sing-along as cops scowled from the sidelines and convincing concertgoers to march aimlessly down Cedar Avenue. For more on that story, check out my previous blog post, complete with video and the photo slideshow.
But before all the hoopla, there was a nice, calm show on the Capitol lawn, complete with burning sage, meditation, and hippies. Lots and lots of hippies.
The afternoon began with a laid back set by Jewish hip-hop phenom Matisyahu, who was backed by local jam band favorites Wookiefoot. As the rain let up and the sun tried its hardest to emerge from behind a layer of thick gray clouds, the crowd on the lawn grew to include a wide array of peaceniks and freaks (and I mean that in the most loving way possible), making the people watching almost as entertaining as the show itself. Girls in flowing skirts flailed their arms and danced like marionette dolls, a circle of meditators spread out blankets and lit sage and incense, and concerned citizens circulated copies of grassroots newspapers calling for revolution.
A highlight of the afternoon for local music fans was Indigo, who was commended by the event's host for being one of a small number of female MCs in the hip-hop community. Despite her small stature and initially demure composure, Indigo was a force to be reckoned with on stage, pacing back and forth and leading the crowd in a bounce-along as a drummer played funk beats.
"This is my crew" she announced between songs, in a surprisingly mousy voice that contrasted sharply with her more abrasive rapping, and a handful of dancers prowled onto the stage to join in the fun. "The only religion I subscribe to is hip-hop," Indigo proclaimed, before launching into "Hip Hop is the Way" and leading her crew in a breakdance jam. At today's show Indigo was also accompanied by Mayda, who is a powerful funk singer in her own right, and the two played off each other's vocals nicely.
Indigo (right) and her crew.
Another highlight of the day was Michael Franti, whose messages of unity and peace resonated strongly with the concert's attendees. Although Franti is normally backed by a full live band, today he accompanied himself with an acoustic guitar and had only one other guitarist and a drummer to back him up. Franti played a nice selection of songs ranging from his newest album, Rebel Rockers, all the way back to some of his earlier work with Spearhead.
Between songs, Franti took the opportunity to address the crowd and express his views on the election and the war. "People ask me which candidate I support," he said. "But I've never endorsed a presidential candidate." Despite being labeled as a political activist, Franti insisted that he fights for ideals instead of candidates, and said that his main concern in this election season is finding a way out of Iraq.
Michael Franti elicits peace signs from the audience.
In a strange God-like moment, Franti said he was happy to be with the people of Minneapolis (close enough) during the RNC and that we should be happy to be out in the sun, and just like that the clouds parted an a stream of sunlight was cast on the crowd. Creepy, Michael Franti. Creepy.
Anti-Flag closed out the normal portion of the concert with a set of upbeat punk songs about fighting the establishment, but after the sheer sincerity of Franti's music and words their message came off sounding a bit trite. "Brothers and sisters!" repeated lead singer Justin Sane over and over again between songs. "This song is about fighting the [insert stereotypical phrase for conservative enemies here] of the world."
As Anti-Flag finished their last song, Sane looked out into the audience and deadpanned: "Stay put. Shit's gonna get crazy." Oh, how right he was.