By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
By then, Biz Markie was laying out a killer, if somewhat mainstream, set. Having eight wheels of steel does wonders for a DJ; the Biz was able to hit quick, successive series of cuts between era favorites like Le Freak, K.C. and the Sunshine Band and 50 Cent. (One highlight was the television reminiscences, which included 15 seconds from the Welcome Back, Kotter theme.) On the left side of the stage, a woman bravely tried to translate the Biz’s rallies at the mic — “all the black and the white, the Italians and the Puerto Ricans — we gotta get Bush out!” — into sign language for the hearing-impaired. Who knew there is a specific sign for “Put your hands in the a-ya. . .”?
Terry McAuliffe is no match in stage presence for the Biz, so when the spinning stopped for a brief visit from the chairman of the DNC, there was mostly polite interest in his typical “We are the party to bring new leadership to the country.” It was a reminder that at these events, there is always the question whether they’re attended for the Party or the party. At the Rock the Vote awards show last February at the Palladium, Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes offered this political oratory: “I know this is all about voting and shit, but I want y’all muthafuckas to make some noise. Or is L.A. a bunch of pussies?” But although that crowd was plenty populated by lithe, bronzed and Fekkai-coiffed girls on the arms of agents, I was surprised to discover that they were far outnumbered by genuine politically minded people who were ready for action in this election cycle.
At the Avalon in Boston, there was even more politics and less coif — until, that is, the Reverend Al Sharpton appeared onstage and managed to unite both elements with an address that had DJ backup from Biz Markie. “Remember 2000, when they didn’t let us vote?” roared The Rev. “Well, back in 1974, James Brown cut a track that tells you what’s gonna happen this time” — and with that the Biz let the vinyl turn to bring in the high-pitched intro to the Godfather of Soul’s “Payback.”
“This is probably the funkiest the Democrats will get all week,” someone remarked as the place went wild. And sure as hell funkier than the Republicans will ever get. Rock the Vote, after all, is nonpartisan; its bus and planners will be heading to New York for the RNC in August. I wonder what that party will be like. Because if all that new technology helps the Youth Vote to materialize, it will likely tilt left and probably not interest the Republicans. Nor, I suspect, would a surprise appearance by The Rev. and his calls for payback.
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