During its heyday in the 1990s, rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine (RATM) was known for the political slant to its lyrics and the outspoken nature of its members. The band will return to its political roots tomorrow, July 23, when it plays its first show in Los Angeles in almost a decade.
The “Stop SB 1070 Benefit Show,” hosted by the RATM-founded organization The Sound Strike, is booked into the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, CA. As its name suggests, the concert protests Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, which was introduced as Senate Bill 1070 and is more widely known as SB 1070.
Scheduled to take effect July 29, the law has sparked national and international controversy over its restrictive terms, which require aliens to carry official documentation at all times. Bill amendment HB 2162 states that law enforcement officials may only investigate a person’s immigration status during the course of a “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” But that has not stopped opponents from questioning the motives behind the legislation and the ways in which it may be enforced.
“We’re here to use our music to unite people of all colors and economic strata in a single voice of solidarity to say no to legalizing racial profiling,” said RATM guitarist Tom Morello in a July 21 press conference publicizing the concert, according to Rolling Stone. “And we’re here to rock this mother to the ground.”
Band frontman Zach de la Rocha also spoke during the press conference. He described Interstate 10, which he lives near, as a road that “connects communities that I’ve called home my whole life to the state of Arizona, where decades ago my grandfather first crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Tickets for the show, priced at $50 and $100, went on sale July 19 and quickly sold out for the 4,000-capacity Palladium. Ticketing for The Sound Strike concert is paperless and requires valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, for entry.
Proceeds from the concert and all other donations collected by The Sound Strike will benefit several immigrant support networks and organizations dedicated to fighting SB 1070, such as The Florence Project and Puente, Arizona. The band expects to raise more than $300,000 for the non-profits.
The Palladium show is just one part of Rage’s larger protest against the new Arizona law — and a small fraction of the legislation’s impact on the concert industry. Approximately 200 artists have aligned themselves with The Sound Strike organization. According to the Sound Strike’s official Web site, each affiliated artist or band is pledging, “We are not going to play in Arizona. We are going to boycott Arizona!”
But some artists, who are not publically enlisted with The Sound Strike, are also taking a similar stand against Arizona. Several performers, such as Colombian singer Shakira, have spoken out against SB1070, while others have cancelled concerts within Arizona’s borders. Hall & Oates, Cypress Hill and Los Lobos all have cited their opposition to the legislation in their decisions to cancel recent or upcoming Arizona concerts.
The spreading boycotts and cancellations prompted Arizona promoter Charlie Levy, of Stateside Presents, to write an open letter to the law’s artist-opponents, asking them to reconsider their stance and its impact on the state’s live music industry.
Published on June 24 by The Arizona Republic, Levy’s letter read, in part, “By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law.”
Levy also ended his letter by designating it “a call out to all artists to come take a stand and perform in Arizona. We need you now more than ever.”
But Conor Oberst, an early supporter of The Sound Strike and a planned special guest at the July 23 concert, was quick to respond to Levy with a letter of his own, distributed via his official Web site and Billboard. Oberst’s response acknowledged the “symbolic” nature of the boycott, but noted the importance of that symbolism.
“The Boycott has to be so widespread and devastating that the Arizona State Legislature and Governor have no choice but to repeal their unconstitutional, immoral and hateful law,” wrote the singer-songwriter, best known for his work as Bright Eyes. “It has to hurt them in the only place they feel any pain, their pocketbooks.”