Boots reboot… Here’s what happened a week ago tonight, when Boots Riley and The Coup liberated Ypsilanti

    It just occurred to me that, after all of my hype in the run-up to the big show at Woodruff’s last Sunday night, I probably owed you a final follow-up post, so that those of you weren’t at the show could experience some sense of closure… Well, the show was a blast. The Coup rocked. Japanther was great. Minds were opened. Plans were hatched. Rumps were shaken. And, after expenses, and a few last-minute contributions, I’m told that Jeff Clark, and the kids of Washtenaw Eviction and Foreclosure Defense (WEFD), raised a total of $1,000 for the Pride Zone program at Ypsilanti’s Ozone House. Here, for those of you who missed the show, is some video shot by Ypsi’s Brad Perkins.

    [My interview with The Coup's front man, Boots Riley, for those who are interested, can be found here.]

    A big thank you to Jeff and the whole WEFD team for coordinating everything, to everyone who contributed via Kickstarter to bring the vision to reality, to the folks at Beezy’s and Zingerman’s for feeding the bands, to the staff of Woodruff’s for playing host, to Brad for shooting the video, to Jesse Morgan and Johnny Lupinacci for contributing their considerable skills, to Brandon “MC Kadence” Mitchell and Tony Morgan for representing Ypsi so well from the stage, and Steve Emshwiller and the folks at VG Kids for the posters. I think Jeff said it best, after the event, when he noted, “A handful of energetic community members, working together, can do just about anything.” Here’s hoping that we continue to strengthen our networks and move on from here to dream even bigger.

    As for the folks at Ozone, as you can imagine, they’re very happy to have the contribution, as State funding for what they do is getting harder and harder to come by. “These funds will go directly to our Ypsilanti Ozone location to be used in our PrideZone programming, a support group for LGBTQ teens ages 13-20, as well as training for crisis line volunteers, as 1 out of every 4 calls we receive is from a youth who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning,” said Ozone House Development Director Heather Steenrod. “We are so humbled at the outpouring of support that we saw Sunday night, and would like to thank Washtenaw Eviction and Foreclosure Defense, Beezy’s, Woodruff’s, The Coup, and especially Jeff Clark for pulling this all together and showing what community means in Ypsilanti.”

    One last thing… As Brad’s video of The Coup turned out much better than the ones that I shot, I’ve decided not to embed mine here. If you’re interested, though, you can find mine on YouTube (I, III). I did, however, want to share a a few of the Japanter videos that I shot, as Brad didn’t include any of their stuff in the above highlight reel. I know that the “art-rock installation paratroopers” of Japanther rubbed some of the people in the audience the wrong way when they introduced themselves with a screed about hating activists, but their music was damn good. I don’t know if it’s an analogy that they’d appreciate, but, as I was standing there, listening to them, it really took me back to some of my first Ramones shows. And, for a moment, I was incredibly happy. At any rate, I thought that you might enjoy it. And, as for the comments that Ian, the drummer for Japanther, made about activists, I don’t think that he meant that he wasn’t politically down with the cause. I think that he was just saying that he was more inclined to respect people that were involved in direct action than people who carried around signs, hoping to bring about political change through petitions and protest marches. At least that was my sense. (And, not to defend them, but I think that they may have been provoked to some extent by our mutual friend Pete Larson, who, standing just a few feet from the stage, was yelling, “You got cellulite!”, as Ian took the stage and disrobed. Pete, apparently, has known them since they were kids of about 13 years old, and has shared bills with them in the past.)

    It’s probably also worth noting that Boots Riley, and everyone on the tour, were incredibly nice people to be around. Many good, thoughtful discussions were had over the course of the day, and I’d like to think that a few friendships and alliances were formed that might carry beyond December, 2012.

    One last thing… I could be wrong about this, but, when I was doing my research, preparing for my interview with Boots, I didn’t see more than a passing reference to the fact that his father, Walter Riley, was an accomplished civil rights organizer, who had been active in the movement since the 1950s. And, as I find the connections between what happened in the past, and what’s happening today, to be incredibly interesting, I devoted a lot of time to it in our interview. Well, it’s now just a week or so later, and, in that time, two new interviews have been done with Boots that mine the same vein. I don’t mention this because I’m jealous. I’m not saying, “Hey, Rolling Stone is ripping me off.” I just think it’s cool that sometimes little things ripple through the universe, and I’m happy that more people are making the connection between Boots and his father, whether they were inspired by me, or it’s just synchronicity. (Those interested in reading the two interviews in question, can find them at Rolling Stone and The Rumpus. And, if you’ve got the time, and you’re interested in listening to other interviews about the history of the civil rights movement, you might also like my interviews with former SDS presidents Alan Haber and Tom Hayden… An interesting aside… Boots Riley mention to me over dinner that his father was, “for about a minute,” the president of SDS himself, during a particularly messy leadership exchange in the later 60s.)

    [note: When I said above that The Coup and Japanther were great, you shouldn't infer that Oakland's Kev Choice, who was also on the bill, wasn't. I'm sure his set was incredible as well. As I didn't witness it though, I didn't feel as though I should comment. (I may have my occasional ethical lapse, but I'm no Mitch Albom.) At the time Kev was on stage, I was out behind Woodruff's with the guys from Japanther and Pete Larson, learning about what life on the road in a bus without heat and power is like.]

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      8 Comments

      1. anonymous
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        It was an epic show. The music as good, but, more than that, I liked watching the way it came together, with everyone lending a hand. You should consider adding a “in takes a village” tag.

        As for Japanther, I found it funny that people were upset by the “fuck activists” stuff. Personally, I found it a nice foil for the work that Boots was doing.

      2. anon
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        i’ll take a “protest marcher” over an art student any day.

      3. Posted December 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Take them where?

      4. Joe
        Posted December 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I really liked Japanther’s music too. I came in expecting to hate them, but they were actually really good. As for the comments, I’m sure they were trying to be ironic or something, but it was mostly just stupid and unnecessarily rude, especially given the fact that they were playing at a fundraiser for an organization that does “actual action” organized by an activist group that also does “actual action.” Whether or not they were trying to piss people off, they just came across as assholes. That’s probably their intention, but then I don’t see why they’re touring with the Coup.

      5. Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        OK, now I understand, you’re referencing the fact that they are, or at least were, art students. The implication, I guess, is that they’re removed from the struggles of the working class, overly analytical, etc., despite their heated rhetoric. You could have a valid point. I didn’t know the guys until the afternoon of the show. I have no idea how much they’ve done to create change in the world. The guitar player mentioned having been arrested years ago for breaking into a construction site with spray paint at some point during the afternoon. (We’d been talking about the issues involved with crossing borders when you have a police record.) So, at least at some point, it would seem that one of them was doing something. But I really don’t know how engaged they are now. I’d be happy to ask them, though, if you’re interested.

        As for the art stuff, when we were back on the bus, they did talk quite a bit about their ongoing work with museums, which they say is considerably more lucrative than driving across county to play in towns like Ypsilanti. I’m not familiar with all of the stuff they’ve got going on, but I know that, in the past, they’ve done some stuff for the Whitney Biennial.

        And, personally, I think we’re missing the point, if we’re pointing at one another, accusing each other of not doing enough. There are many more deserving of our ire, I think. With that said, though, it really doesn’t bother me when bands try to create an adversarial environment.

      6. Posted December 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Maybe I’m just sympathetic to them as I’ve been known to insult audiences myself.

        (It should be noted that the recording I just linked to is over 20 years old. I’d like to think that I’m a little better at expressing myself these days.)

      7. 734
        Posted December 10, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        I don’t want to rush the parties involved, but what’s next? How will we push forward from here, and what will it look like? Are other community fundraisers planned using this same Clark/WEFD/Maynard/VG/Beezy’s/Woodruff’s model? Are other big bands coming through that might be interested in an Ypsilanti stop? Or might there be something different altogether in the works? This coalition should not be dissolved.

      8. Tom
        Posted December 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        734: That’s not only a possibility. It’s pretty certain that my friends and I in WEFD and the local activist/organizer community (drink!) will be doing exactly this sort of thing and more.

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      2. By Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview: Johnny Lupinacci on August 26, 2013 at 9:19 am

        [...] Theater, eating at Abe’s Diner at 1:00 AM with Derrick Jensen, or chilling with Boots Riley and The Coup at Beezy’s. But, honestly, the one memory I wouldn’t give up for anything would be the winter [...]

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