If I mentioned that I was about to see the recently reunited band Rage Against the Machine play a show that featured the legendary Wayne Kramer (MC5) on guitar, you'd likely wonder what music festival I would soon be attending. We've gotten used to expecting stellar and surprising line-ups at any number of summer music events, who up the ante each year by bringing back My Bloody Valentine or Slint, or who get Sonic Youth to play Daydream Nation in its entirety.
But those fans lucky enough to see Kramer shred, Motor City-style, along with the agitprop rock of Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha's Rage won't be at a music festival. No, they'll be playing during the week of the upcoming political conventions. With Cold War Kids, Silversun Pickups, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Moby and Death Cab for Cutie, the conventions sound as if they could be Coachella or Lollapalooza.
It might have something to do with Barack Obama. It's no secret that Obama has great taste in music, liking everyone from Kanye West to Wilco, and artists have made playing his rallies and benefits comparable in importance to, say, performing on Letterman — or, in this day and age, getting a lot of hits on YouTube. So it's no surprise that the Democratic National Convention is chock full of eager and earnest acts, each there to lend support not just musically, but also politically, because they actually believe in the candidate.
So, you're probably wondering, who's playing the Republican National Convention? Well, brace yourself: It's The Beach Boys and The Charlie Daniels Band. Okay, there are some younger acts, too: Leann Rimes and Smash Mouth. Remember their song "All Star"? And, if you're lucky, you might catch Mike Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense, also playing that week.
Alas, I guess I wasn't expecting the Republican convention or John McCain, ABBA enthusiast that he is, to magically wrangle the indie bands Arcade Fire or Fleet Foxes. But still, he could have tried to get ABBA to reunite; that would have generated some excitement and garnered McCain some respect among drag queens, my parents and other ABBA fans.
But then I remembered that ABBA themselves are actually upset at McCain for using their songs at his rallies. If the RNC and DNC were a talent show, the DNC would be kicking proverbial butt. The problem is that a lot of hip young artists just aren't lining up behind McCain, unless you count American Idol alumnus Kim Caldwell. Who? Something tells me that her loyalty to McCain may not be the driving force behind her decision to play. Hey, you take exposure where you can get it.
I want this battle of the bands to be more evenly matched, so I'm going to dole out some advice: There is a golden opportunity here for a new, up-and-coming band composed of young Republicans. Form today, call the McCain campaign tomorrow and use the Republican National Convention as your launch pad to success. Your main competition, as it stands right now, is the song "Kokomo" and the former Arkansas governor on bass. No contest. You'll have a record deal by the end of the week.
Right now, the difference between the acts at the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention are as different as, well, the candidates themselves. And maybe that's the intention.
So I think I have to root for the underdog on this one. The RNC is the sparsely attended local festival — the band at the farmers market — while the DNC is Bonnaroo or Central Park Summer Stage. Unstoppable. I might have to go to St. Paul to help The Beach Boys out. So go ahead and have fun at that other, cooler music festival in Denver. I'll be Surfin USA at the RNC in St. Paul.