Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shilling in the Name of...

There is irony in the Republicans holding their upcoming convention at Minneapolis’ Xcel Energy Center. As Paris Hilton and gas pumps remind us, the energy crisis is one of this election’s most pressing issues. It’s certainly an issue that 90s political rockers Rage Against the Machine might howl about when they hit the Twin Cities on September 3, smack in the middle of the GOP’s confetti-clogged nominating process. The band will rage against the evils of war, oppression and greed ten miles from the convention itself at…the Target Center? Target- the rich man’s Wal-Mart- may not have the abysmal public relations record of that other retail behemoth. But Rage playing under the banner of a corporation that lacks a living wage contract and labor unions should still raise some brows. And in a move that budget-minded Target shoppers would reject, tickets to the concert will sell for $60.

It’s true that a dwindling number of stadiums in this country have escaped the corporate branding iron. And $60 is a paltry price to pay for a big name band in this day of extortionate ticket prices. But things have not changed that drastically from eight years ago when Rage Against the Machine put on a free show at a public site across the street from the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Granted, that event erupted into a skirmish between cops and attendees that involved rocks, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Then again, the average Rage Against the Machine fan likely isn’t looking for concerts to end with a Kumbaya medley.

There is risk involved in tying ostensibly counterculture events in a corporate bow. Who can forget Woodstock ’99? Thanks in part to $12 pizzas and $4 bottled waters being sold at the sponsor tents, that wan facsimile of the original Woodstock ended in arson, vandalism and rape. Rage guitarist Tom Morello- who played the event- later said the melee “suggested an affinity between the looters and rapists at the event and the corporate entities that sponsored it.” Rage Against the Machine is looking for a reaction by playing down the street from the Republican convention. But the reaction that such pronounced dissonance between artist and venue might provoke is questionable. Some Rage fans might look at being pepper sprayed as a badger of honor, a way of sticking it to the man. But what does it say when you pay the man for that privilege?

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