‘Welcome brothers and sisters to the anti inauguration ball! Tonight is a celebration of resistance. Now it’s not the time to agonize, now it’s the time to organize,’ Tom Morello told the very dense crowd inside the Teragram Ballroom on Friday night. It was the beginning of his empowering speech, a little break in the middle of an epic Prophets of Rage’s show at the Teragram Ballroom, a show that had been announced very suddenly, just a few days ago.
On Friday morning, I was in a very dark mood after watching bits of the televised inauguration of Trump as the 45th President of the United States. I had sworn not to watch the thing, but it was hard to resist, and not to have at least a glimpse of this normalization of fascism, xenophobia and misogyny, and I got really disgusted by journalists and commentators, schmoozing with the predator-in-chief-elect, acting as if we weren’t living in gross dystopia. Even Hillary Clinton showed up there, after hearing Trump’s slogan ‘Lock her up?’ all campaign-long? What the fuck was that?
Prophets of Rage and friends – because the show was not simply about them – gave me my sanity back and I feel extremely grateful to them for this, the night was much more than a punk rock rap show, it was an empowering moment, and a thing to remember for a long time,… a lifetime may be?
The night was a big deal, an Audioslave reunion had been announced, they had scheduled a live streaming, and outside the venue, 7 Eyewitness News was interviewing people waiting on line: ‘Is it about the music or about the politics?’ I heard the journalist asked a guy just in front of me, which, for me, was a stupid question. Beside Paul Ryan, who can separate Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine’s music from their politics? Of course it was about both, totally inseparable in my mind, and what was about to come on stage, completely proved me right.
But Tom Morello was not the first one to introduce the night, Jack Black was the sort of master of ceremony for the night, and he came first, with a short and direct speech, giving right away the tone for the evening: ‘Excited for some protest? A lot of people say, you know, I don’t think this is a really good time for a protest, it just started, give him a chance, you have to respect the office of the presidency’ Black told us… ‘and I say, fuck that bullshit! He blew that, with that racist, sexist, misogynistic, hateful campaign of his! Freedom of speech bro!’
A lot of people came on the relatively small stage of the Teragram Ballroom to express this freedom of speech all night long, which was an explosion of rage meant to take the power back.
‘I love Jackson Browne, but how does he fit in the middle of this?’ i heard a man behind me say, just before the show starts. Yeah how does a slide guitar fit in the middle of a rap song? It could have been a bit odd to see the name of the famous American songwriter on the same bill than the Rage Against the Machine/Cypress Hill/Public Enemy supergroup, but he fitted perfectly with his anti-establishment-protest songs such as ‘Till I go down’, ‘Which Side’, and it got even more interesting when he played a Steven Van Zandt song and when Tom Morello joined him on stage for a powerful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’. I was on Morello’s side of the stage, and he basically played almost all-night long, with Browne, Prophets of Rage and Audioslave, so I had plenty of time to admire his unique style and sharp guitar solos, he restlessly moved around his guitar like a crazy animal, that he held like a weapon while getting the sharpest sound out of it.
Jack Black had brought his pal Kyle Gass whom he introduced with a joke: ‘Jackson Browne and I we are going to start a band, ….I think it’s a good time to introduce it, Jackson Blackson, but I am not really crazy about the name, but really I already have a band!’ … he joked. ‘This song ,…we haven’t played it for years because it never felt appropriate, but now we can unleash the beast,’ he added before playing ‘The government totally sucks’ and they got such a loud applause with their ‘Bring back the fucking USAAAA yeah!’
One other surprise was a poetry duo, two young women named B and Z, whose poetry performance was the most amazing critic of our school and politically correct systems I have ever heard ‘The greatest lessons we will learn won’t come from your syllabus,…. Somewhere in America there’s a child holding a copy of ‘Catcher In The Rye’, and a child holding a gun, but only one of these things has been outlawed by our government… ‘Somewhere in America there’s a child sitting at a computer reading the home page of the KKK but he will never read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because of the use of the word negro’… The greatest lessons are not the one you remember learning.’ they were unstoppable and It hit such a nerve that I still want to quit teaching.
When it finally was their turn, Prophets of Rage literally exploded the stage, and people unleashed a huge amount of energy after so much anticipation, they got rowdy, very rowdy, but it was such a good and overwhelming feeling! There were plenty of hits, mostly RATM’s songs ‘Bombtrack’, ‘Guerilla Radio’, ‘Take The Power Back’, ‘Testify’, as well as Public Enemy’s ‘Shut ‘Em Down’… and if Morello hadn’t interrupted the set with his speech, I may have been crushed to the side of the stage. He told us about the five steps of resistance, he told us to resist, fight, defeat, drive out the Trump-Pence regime, he told us to show up, join, read up, stand up, rise up, and his rap tone sounded so powerful at this moment, so inspiring and wise that I was ready to scream, ‘Morello for president’? Yeah, anarchy in the USA was real at this moment. ‘Economic anxiety, plus the lack of facts make fertile soil for a tyrant to plant seeds of racism and xenophobia’… he continued. ‘Dare to fight for the world you want with no compromise and no apology. We declare this stage a No-Trump zone! We celebrate resistance tonight, we take the power back!’
‘Make a fucking racist afraid again!’ shouted at some point Chuck D… I could not keep up with all these bumper-sticker worthy sentences!
They pulverized the place, and may be they knew they had to alternate with other acts if they wanted to avoid a riot, so Chuck D introduced Chicago rapper Vic Mensa, who did a calmer set, followed by Chuck D, Cypress Hill’s B-Real for another Public Enemy’s fav ‘Bring The Noise’ and Cypress Hill’s ‘Insane In The Membrane’, inviting, yes another surprise guest, House of Pain’s Everlast.
But after all this, we were in for another treat, the highly anticipated reunion of Audioslave, and Chris Cornell was acclaimed like the second coming, he actually adopted a cross-like figure when he jumped in the crowd during ‘Show Me How To Live’… a three-song set implies that you are gonna played your mega hits, so there also was ‘Cochise’, then ‘Like a Stone’, making Cornell’s nasal howls battle with Morello’s razor-sharp riffs, while everyone around me had an overdose of euphoria.
More than everyone else, it was Morello who was running the show, he was changing guitars almost at each song and set, and, in a very dramatic moment, he turned around his iconic ‘arm the homeless’ guitar to reveal ‘Not my president’ written on the other side… Not only this guy has an undeniable and natural charisma but he knows about a good theatrical moment.
After the Audioslave set, we got more Prophets with ‘Bulls On Parade’, and the grand finale with everyone on stage for a raging ‘Killing in the Name’… Hearing Chuck D, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Jack Black, B-Real and an entire choir screaming at the same time ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!’ with all these fists in the air, has to be some historic rock & roll moment. Sweat was running on everyone’s face, and everyone left the place with that smile and energized feeling… and I was still feeling the adrenaline of the moment running through my body this morning. For 3 hours and half, we believed everything was possible, we believed we could overthrow the new government, we believed we could fight the power as Chuck D said at the beginning… We know we’ve got to fight the power that be, and that’s a good start.
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