Somewhere around the middle of the band’s set on August 29 at the Regency Ballroom, a long-haired Conor Oberst addressed the audience.
“I’ve been watching the Republican National Convention,” he said, noting that he felt his choice of programming was somewhat masochistic and adding that watching the series of rote speeches made him “almost want to vote for Barack Obama.”
Anyone who knows anything about Desaparecidos knows the band — led by the Bright Eyes frontman — is very political, and very far left. I knew this going to the show, and though I hadn’t thought about it much, if I had, I might have anticipated that I’d roll my eyes at such a comment and think to myself, “Just play, Conor!” And that’s not because I don’t share much of his sentiment. I do. But to watch him pontificate on left-wing virtues after sipping on what were clearly Coors Lights for half the set, one could be forgiven for thinking him a hypocrite. A quick search of the interwebz will tell you that the beer giant is rather right in its politics.
Nonetheless, Oberst’s words resonated with me — just as the music of his punky side-project got me so pumped, I actually did a little bit of headbanging (which reminded me I need a haircut). It moved me because it was raw, full of youthful angst and vital.
Video by YouTube user MAKEYOUSICK
Over the last week, I too have been paying close attention to the RNC. I’ve been listening to the speeches on NPR, and watching the coverage of the event on TV after work. And at the ripe age of 27, I find that I’m much more tolerant to conservative ideas that I used to reject offhand at 18. The father of a college friend once told me a joke. “If you are young and conservative, you have no heart. If you are old and liberal, you have no brain,” he said. Well… that’s just a joke, but it is a little funnier to me now than it was then, when I was in college and full of ideals.
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, for one, I’m trying to strike a balance. I haven’t been writing for The Bay Bridged all that long, but I assume we try to stay away from politics in this space. But I think that even someone who has made their mind up to support good old Mitt this November — at least someone like that who is also reading this blog — might be able to appreciate how great it felt to listen to a set of masterfully crafted, seething, political-post punk — to stick my middle finger in the air and flip of “the man.” Fuck yeah! That felt good.
The anger and vitriol that Oberst summoned throughout the band’s fourteen-song set was palpable. It was exciting. It was energizing. And it made me feel, just like the Republican speakers have been saying throughout this week’s convention that we can do better — regardless of what party we are most closely associated with. It was a release. It was primal scream therapy. It was catharsis.
“I want to pledge allegiance to the country where I live,” Oberst half-yelled/half-sung on the third song of the night, “Happiest Place on Earth.” “I don’t want to be ashamed to be American.” It’s a rollicking tune, railing against consumerism and the military industrial complex. And when he sang the words “swing lo satellite/hot white chariot,” I got chills.
Anger can be cleansing, and the freedom to express that anger peaceably is one thing we can all be proud of no matter what our politics.
The group played several new tunes, as well as the hits, such as the aforementioned “Happiest Place on Earth,” “Financial Planning” and “Greater Omaha.”
Here’s the setlist: “Greater Omaha,” “Financial Planning,” “Happiest Place on Earth,” “Mall of America,” “Backsell This Song,” “The Left is Right,” “Survival,” “$$$$,” “Anonymous,” “Damaged Goods,” Marikkopa.”
The three song encore went like this: “Mañana,” “Spanish Bombs (The Clash cover),” “Hole in One.”