A converted effort

If you’ve been following the news lately, then you’re aware that a crisis is brewing in Vietnam. I mean, there must be, right? Why else would our two presidential candidates make this Southeast Asian country the central focus of their campaigns?

With control of the White House on the line, American voters can rest assured that whoever wins in November will most certainly address the ‘Nam question. There’s been so much energy directed toward it already in campaign commercials and at the dueling parties’ national conventions that to turn back now would be irresponsible and deceptive.

Welcome to Campaign ’04 — where image is everything and substance be damned.

But while Asheville proper has yet to see neither hide nor hair of George W. Bush or John Kerry in person, our fair mountain hamlet is still a whistle stop on somebody’s campaign. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, a fair number of music fans may help put the “civic” back in Civic Center when the Vote for Change Tour pulls into town.

Who needs a boring speech by a candidate when you can listen to grunge chameleons Pearl Jam and their running mate for this tour, Seattle emo-boys Death Cab for Cutie, espouse their own political beliefs? But then again, there are probably a few undecided voters here in WNC — and a few words from Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder just might tip the balance in a swing state like ours.

At least that’s what Vote for Change organizers are hoping.

Brought to you by the Web-savvy MoveOn political-action committee (the lobbying wing of MoveOn.org), Vote for Change is billed on the group’s Web site as “a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea — the need to make a change in the direction of our country.

“We share a belief that this is the most important election of our lifetime,” the MoveOn statement continues. “We are fighting for a government that is open, rational, just and progressive.”

The tour is a barnstormer: Forty shows in 30 cities in nine “battleground” states over the course of 10 days. The slugfest in these places will feature heavyweights such as R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band. There will also be some blasts from the past in the form of Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp and James Taylor, along with fresher acts ranging from Babyface and Ben Harper to lovable Bush bashers the Dixie Chicks.

Noticeably absent from the lineup are country crooners Alan Jackson and Toby Keith. Then again, there’s not much sense in a liberal PAC trying to land acts that keep standing residences in Bush Country. After all, the refrain to Keith’s “Taliban Song” is the sensitive and worldly “We’ll bid a fair adieu and flip a big boner to the Taliban, baby.”

Chances are, the Ford-truck spokes-singer is pretty happy with our country’s foreign policy right now.

Nonetheless, politics and music are old companions in this country.

Even at the dawn of the 20th century, the political left had its ears tugged by the Wobblies, the rank-and-file members of the Industrial Workers of the World, who boasted of being “the singingest union of them all.” The Wobblies even published their own songbook chock full of proletarian-empowering tunes.

A few decades later and Woody Guthrie wasn’t exactly campaigning for The Man with songs such as “Mean Talkin’ Blues” — he was crooning for every man.

And lest we forget the Clinton/Gore duo doing the white-boy shuffle on election night ’92 to the beat of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” (Oh, that they only had.)

However, the folks with the Vote for Change Tour are emphatic that, this time, the election really counts.

“This is the fourth presidential election [in] which Pearl Jam has engaged in as a band, and we feel it’s the most important one of our life time,” Vedder noted in a press statement.

“We believe in the power of the First Amendment, and have always exercised our right to free speech in every aspect of our lives and music,” the anthem-voiced singer continues. “This year there is no more powerful way for all Americans to exercise that right than by voting. Given the extreme political climate of a country at war, we are proud to stand among the many artists involved in this tour and to encourage Americans not only to vote for a president this November 2nd, but to vote for the change they wish to see in this world.”

Cue the opening notes of “Jeremy.”

The Civic Center show, at press time, was almost sold out. And if you’re one of those undecided voters who still have $50 (the not-so-democratic ticket price) in your pocket and a burning desire to get political, this reporter suggests taking the cash, stuffing it in an envelope and sending it to the candidate of your choice.

Unless, of course, you really want to hear “Jeremy.”

The Vote for Change Tour with Pearl Jam and Death Cab for Cutie comes to the Asheville Civic Center at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Tickets are $50 (251-5505). Call 259-5544 for more information.

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