But Keep Whats Important, and Knows Whats In Your Head
Editors Note: We are quite excited to announce the addition of our latest column. It will offer multiple voices and perspectives from the world of HeadCount. In case you are unaware, HeadCount describes itself as a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization devoted to voter registration and participation in democracy. We were created in 2004 by a group of artists, music industry professionals and fans, all determined to make sure the live music community is well-represented at the polls.
I guess in a lot of ways, I have a few people, or reasons, to thank for becoming part of HeadCount. One good friend pointed out an ad that the organization was looking for Leadership Trainees, to be a part of their 2006 Midterms Matter Campaign, with a focus on the elections of last year. To be honest, I was not the most political person in the universe, but was starting to realize that some things had to be done about what was happening in the world around usall of us.
At the same time when my friend suggested I apply, I was also finishing a stint working at Rolling Stone in New York City. I decided to leave and pursue other angles, but did not forget the political aspects that the magazine and its offices represented. Many of these realizations came before work, or at lunch, when I often ate under a series of Ralph Steadman sketches, while reading his counterpart Hunter S. Thompson.
I was also intrigued by the possibility of being part of something put together by two individuals I admired so very much. Pharmers Almanac scribe, Andy Bernstein, and Disco Biscuits bass player, Marc Brownstein, had founded HeadCount in 2004. They were two people I always felt an indirect link to over since my inception into the jamband scene back in 1993 or so. At one point I had probably memorized Bernsteins guide to Phish, more so than Trigonometry or Latin in high school, while managing to see the Biscuits around fifty or sixty times over the same time period. Having just finished my Masters in English a year or so prior to applying to HeadCount, and eager to pick Bernsteins brain about politics and how to further my writing within the jamband world, this fit just seemed like the perfect pair.
However, the single most deciding factor in my joining HeadCount was something far more personal. I had always considered myself very, very lucky to have seen the amount of music that I have at my age. Great friends, understanding parents, and one reliable car always managed to get me into a spot, or show a long way from my address, but still somewhere that felt like home. All that said, I always promised myself this: If Phish ever called it quits (again), I would devote at least some of my time towards making a difference in the scene. After all, without it, I literally would be lost, probably still struggling for my own identity, and not have amazing friends in just about every state around the U.S.—many of which I only get to see on tour. That, along with a political awakening at the age of 25 or 26 at Rolling Stone, drove me towards HeadCount.
I was honestly amazed, and very surprised to find that many people who worked for HeadCount were young, energetic, and shared the same ideals and philosophies about music, politics, and life in general. Each person displayed his or her own individuality, experiences, and best characteristics, while at the same time focusing on the same main goal. Over the last year or so, I havent felt this much part of a team since my I won the Little League championship back when I was 9.
With these like-minded individuals, the crux of HeadCount took place in the field. During the Midterms Matter tour, we were present at most if, if not all of the major festivals around the country. We also did shows by Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio/Mike Gordon/The Duo, Dave Matthews, O.A.R., The Allman Brothers Band, and even others still. With our main focus on registering voters, there was a lot of hardyet rewarding workto be done at these shows. From setting up the booth, to actually hitting the pavement or lawns with clipboards, this is where the majority of my time was spent during the past year. When we approached potential voters, I was often faced with a whole slew of questions, including what the midterm elections were, rules about voting, where to go, or who was running in a certain state/region. Many times, people who had been registered just stopped to talk about politics, the scene, or music in generalall of which tied into the message and ideals that HeadCount represented. One weekend at Randalls Island in New York City, I managed to register over 100 voters myself, many of whom were first-timers. I truly felt that if they had not registered with us, that they might have been weary to do so elsewhere. By doing so AT a show, they not only seemed to be enjoying the music, but also being educated about serious issues as well, in an environment that was familiar and comfortable.
But, dont let this fool you into thinking that you, yourself arent able to enjoy the same things as the fans. HeadCount was clear form the start that the music is the thing that ties us together. When a show is happening, often times one or two people will stay at the booth, while the rest of the volunteers will rock out with the crowdsometimes right next to someone you had just registered to vote a few moments earlier. That, I have to say, is pretty cool, and very fulfilling at the same time.
Outside of shows, we have weekly conference calls to discuss what HeadCount have done, what we are doing, and most importantly, whats up next; it has been a great way to stay focused. Each individual had a specific responsibility to the organization. My duties lie in writing the substance for our website, often times recapping the show or festival we had just attended.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization two established individuals in the scene helped create, but many more make tick on a daily basis. I also realize I am a small part of a teamin every sense of the wordand one thats growing everyday. I look forward to greater challenges this summer and beyond, and encourage all of you out there with even moderate interest to volunteer some of your time, and check us out at www.HeadCount.org.
Get out and Vote!