The Best Weapon To Rock Against the TPP? Protest Music

By: Claire Woodcock

“There has never been a successful social movement in this country that has not had a great soundtrack,” Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Prophets of Rage, and Audioslave explains in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed piece on music and activism. “But what is the responsibility of the artist in troubled times to speak to the issues of the day?” he continues, “I believe the only responsibility we have as artists is to tell the truth as we see it.”

 Tom Morello. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Tom Morello. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

And that’s exactly what Morello and friends did on Saturday at the Summit Music Hall. Joined by punk band Anti-Flag, Denver’s own hip-hop outfit Flobots, buzzworthy bi-lingual rockers Downtown Boys and Golden Globe nominated actress Evangeline Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit), Morello and friends mobilized a folk, funk, hip hop, rock ‘n roll, heavy metal throwdown to shut down the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

 Ryan Harvey. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Ryan Harvey. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Organized by Morello’s new social justice record label, Firebrand Records, and digital rights group Fight for the Future, the event brought out other activists and performers to shed light on multinational corporations with new rights and powers under the TPP that threaten good paying jobs, Internet freedom, the environment, access to medicine, and food safety.

 Taini Asili. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Taini Asili. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

The setlist for the evening was a mixture of originals and covers that were meant to sound the alarm on all the harm the TPP can do. Musicians shared protest tunes reminiscent of musical activists like Ani DiFranco and Woody Guthrie. And then there was Morello, shredding hard:      

Speakers from Food and Water Watch, the Sierra Club, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and other groups described the TPP as a corporate power-grab disguised as a trade agreement that could empower corporate elites while having adverse effects on jobs and wages, the environment, public health, and democracy both in the U.S. and abroad. For years, the TPP was negotiated behind closed doors between the United States and other Pacific Rim countries with the aid of hundreds of corporate lobbyists, while the public and the press were barred from even reviewing what was being proposed in our names.

 Anti-Flag and the Flobots. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Anti-Flag and the Flobots. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

“When folks learn about the TPP, they become opposed on a trans partisan basis- Democrats, Republicans, Independents- and they get engaged. We’re here on the dracula strategy tour. We need to drag this sucker into the sunshine, and when people find out about it, they join our fight to stop it,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch said.

 Brer Rabbit of the Flobots. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Brer Rabbit of the Flobots. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Denver was the launching pad for the Rock Against the TPP roadshow, a nationwide series of activism-fueled music events designed to raise awareness about the toxicity and dangers of this deal. For a full lineup of Rock Against the TPP tour dates, roll here.

“Working people everywhere have had enough,” Morello said, addressing an eager Denver crowd, “The TPP is nothing short of a corporate takeover of our democracy. That’s why people are rising up to stop it. Corporate lobbyists want to sneak the TPP through Congress quietly; that means it’s time for us to get loud.” And get loud they did.

 Do It. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Do It. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

To get involved locally, check out Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado Jobs with Justice and Communications Workers of America. Learn more about the TPP here.

-Claire

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.