No, Barack Obama didn’t appear on stage towards the end of the “Barack the Vote Asheville” event last night at the Orange Peel. It had been rumored that he “may or may not be there,” and that was enough to add fuel to the fire that was the “Barack-a-rama.” There would have been a few opportune moments for him to appear in rock–star fashion: when Arrested Development asked for all of the lights in the house to be turned off, or when the crowd was chanting “Obama.”
But instead of his physical presence, there were scores of passionate volunteers, posters surrounding the stage, “free hugs for Obama” and lots and lots of energy surging from the young-to-old crowd. People were definitely “Fired Up!”
Banjo master Béla Fleck, singer/songwriter Abigail Washburn and cellist Ben Sollee were the first artists to grace the stage. A lover of Chinese culture, Washburn has made several trips to China, and The Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet are even scheduled to perform at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In addition to the selection of songs Washburn sang in Mandarin, the trio also played renditions of songs that marked the social-political revolution of the sixties — such as Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Béla Fleck played a truly stirring variation of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He told the audience that before Obama came on the scene, it had been 15 years since he had cared about politics.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy took the stage for a few moments between sets, opening her remarks with the famous quote from Ghandi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” She then introduced Arrested Development, the Atlanta-based positive hip-hop troop that finished off the night. The group had people jumping, clapping and swaying for the remainder of the evening, raising the energy in the house to new levels.
At one point, rapper Speech paused to echo similar sentiments to those of Béla Fleck’s, telling the crowd it was the first time in his life that he’d been excited about politics. As he was stated in the press release for the show, “Obama’s hopeful vision has single-handedly inspired a generation of Americans who were thoroughly disillusioned with politics and politicians.”
Projection screens on either side of the stage displayed early one-stop voting information throughout the night. Since getting this information out to the public was the motive behind the event, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t relay a few of those facts here. Early one-stop voting is happening now through May 3. During the early-voting period, you may both register and vote (this won’t be possible on election day, May 6) — this means even if you are registered as unaffiliated, you can vote. For early-voting locations and more info, visit www.sboe.state.nc.us.
— Mannie Dalton, calendar editor