Sam Watts of Ghosts I’ve Met ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Still in its nascent stages, it’s not clear how or if the “Occupy” movement happening around the United States will permanently change the future economic landscape. What is clear is that it has started a conversation about how a system of corporations and big income earners continue to tighten the screws on regular Americans while fattening their own wallets. Tightening the screws on people who actually work for a living while refusing to accept that they shouldn’t be earning million dollar bonuses for taking improper care of our money and exploit the system itself. This inconsistency is finally starting to dawn on us as a population, and we should be pissed. Now we’re talking about it, and as a start some of us are voting with our money and moving it to more responsible holders. And some of us, like Mark Baumgarten, ourselves and the 10 artists who took the stage on Friday night, are doing what we can in other ways, hosting a tribute night to protest singer-songwriter Phil Ochs and book drive for Occupy Seattle’s library.
Phil Ochs was his own version of pissed and the inadequacy of capitalism as a cultural imperative was certainly counted among his thorns, though as a “third generation” folk and protest singer the problems of the Civil Rights era and Vietnam were larger and more present thorns. Whether the burgeoning conversation surrounding “Occupy” will lead to a societal uprising of that magnitude remains to be seen, bringing Ochs response to his time into the conversation can perhaps provide some perspective, inspiration, and maybe even some resolve for those engaged. “The power of solidarity is greater than the gun,” a lyric goes. But also greater than that of the dollar? One has to hope.
Among the group of singers who came to sing Ochs’ songs, or songs they’d written about Ochs, every performance was inspired. With ten verses to a song, and loquacious verses at that, it was a tall order. But from Stephen Nielsen who started the night with songs he’d learned for the show to the Gloria Darlings doing “Flower Lady” to Sam Watts doing “When I’m Gone,” I was struck by each performers approach and how each did justice to these songs that all come with baggage. In a strange way, it seemed for many of the artists, and particularly the ones who had written an original song about Ochs, for them the “tribute” element to the night was as important as anything else. Ochs was an artist who deserved recognition and they were going to do their damndest to live up to him. Whether it was the seriousness of the times or the threat of Ochs ghost looking over our shoulders, this didn’t feel like any other benefit cover night I’ve been too.
Ben Barnett ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Shannon Stephens ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Lukas Williams ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The Gloria Darlings ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Stephen Nielsen ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Ben Fisher ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Steve Beck ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth