Tom Morello Leads the Occupy Guitarmy
Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello gathered some of Occupy Wall Street’s more musically inclined protesters in Bryant Park this afternoon in preparation for a march to Union Square as part of the May 1st General Strike. On Thursday, Morello started making the request for thousands of guitarists to join him in Bryant Park at noon for today’s General Strike. Morello himself showed up shortly before 1 pm for a q&a prior to rehearsing the Occupy Guitarmy. Most of the questions concerned the role that musicians play in the Occupy movement, which were largely answered with a degree of mild indifference by Morello. In particular, he emphasized the idea that musicians should only be politically active if they’re naturally inclined to be, bucking the idea presented by Radiohead visual artist Stanley Donwood (among many others) that art is inherently political.
He further suggested that the Occupy movement isn’t even expecting direct involvement from established politicians, and that whatever change can occur needs to originate at the bottom, not the top. To further reinforce that idea, he not only recognized but also lauded the fact that OWS doesn’t have a clear, singular message, reasoning that a movement that represents 99% of the population will inevitably be geared towards a wide variety of issues.
In all, a few hundred showed up with mostly acoustic guitars, plus a smattering of basses, mandolins, ukuleles, and banjos. Following a brief warm-up with Morello, the guitarists started marching south from Bryant Park towards Union Square, intersecting with large groups of drummers and horn players that by and large drowned out the efforts of the guitar players. After 2 hours of marching, Morello and his “new band” reached the stage set up on the south side of Union Square for messy yet heartfelt renditions of Morello’s own “Worldwide Rebel Songs” followed by Woodiy Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Despite the size of the march, all participants maintained very good behavior, and under the shadow of heavy police present, it did not seem as if anyone was being restricted from openly expressing themselves.