‘We Rock With Standing Rock’ At The Henry Fonda, Sunday December 18th 2016
On Sunday night, ‘We Rock With Standing Rock’ benefit concert at the Henry Fonda demonstrated that you don’t need to be loud to make your voice heard, while the voices were often fierce or even angry, the music was actually more quiet than loud. The night only did get raucous toward the end when Fiona Apple but especially TV on the Radio took the stage. There was a lot of anger, and a lot of tears … ‘Sadness is my favorite form of protest’ said Moses Sumney, but if there was some sadness, there was also a lot of hope and love.
The benefit concert had been organized by Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and he introduced the night with Bobbi Jean Three Legs, the young Lakota woman who lead a 500-mile run against Dakota Access pipeline, reporting on the situation about the Standing Rock community, who recently celebrated a victory from the Dakota Access Pipeline project (#NoDAPL). ‘At the end of the day, we are all one’, she said while telling her story. ‘No one should have to buy water, I just can’t believe how big this movement got, it’s a world wide movement now,’ she continued… ‘We all deserve a future, we deserve to live to be grandpas and grandmas, we deserve to live to tell our story to our grandchildren, we deserve for them to have a future…. we have to work and fight hard for their future so they don’t have to stay online for water’. And the tone of the night was given. ‘We should all be living in harmony now’, …‘It’s because people like you care’, she added during a moving speech explaining her people’s difficult fight and the harsh conditions due to cold weather. The mantra of the night was ‘water is life’, and if a battle has been won, it is surely not over and. Since the community will need continued support, the proceeds from the night were going to benefit The Official Oceti Sakowin Camp (Seven Council Fires) Fund, Native Children’s Survival, The Seeding Sovereignty Project and GiveLove.
The evening was a marathon of performers, as a succession of diverse artists played through the night, only one song or two, in a more or less quiet ambiance in front of a captivated crowd. None of the performers wanted to be the highlight, all of them genuinely aware they were participating to something bigger than themselves.
The entire indie scene showed up, as we heard the folksy tune of SANTIPARRO, the indie duo Bouquet, who did a song about radical American women and had changed the lyrics for the circumstances, the always charming Becky Stark, who had even brought her cute little baby girl with her, The Chapin Sisters and their sublime a cappella harmonies followed by The Mynabirds, and a passionate rendition of the appropriate ‘Buffalo Flower’,… all the songs sounded luminous, sad but hopeful, part of a collective desire to make the world better when it falls apart, as Laura Burhenn said.
‘Water is life, water is sacred,’ said Nahko who seemed to be on a mission, and he sang the kind of protest earth-shaking song with a hip hop delivery and a powerful voice which could have been the reincarnation of Bob Marley’s. Holly Miranda and a group of friends gave an emotional song with lyrics like ‘don’t let the midnight oil burn low’ followed by Jolie Holland who announced she would be doing a Leonard Cohen text over a music by Buffy Sainte-Marie (‘God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot’), and she was so taken by the song that she was in tears at the end… it was a very poignant moment. Benjamin Booker was such a good surprise and if I didn’t catch the name of his intimate and passionate song, I am gonna follow him to find out more. The Moldy Peaches Kimya Dawson gave a truly amazing performance, without even her guitar she delivered a cappella song, ‘Hands-up, Don’t Shoot, I Can’t Breathe’, about African-American struggle which parallels that of indigenous people as she said, ending breathless after such a wordy piece.
Humble Moses Sumney admitted he felt fragile right now, ‘not a heavy night at all’, he said but his subtle performance was everything but fragile, and after a delightful honeyed ‘Plastic’, he did a splendid rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Feeding Off The Love Of The Land’… if you have never heard Moses, I am just letting you know he is about to drop his first album next year. Valerie June and her banjo brought the house down with a stripped down version of ‘Somebody to love’ thanks to her Appalachian accent powerhouse.
Then, more speakers reminded us why we were here, and rock & roll royalty Riley Keough (although she never made an allusion to the fact she is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) said she watched this movement grow, which was first totally ignored by the media. While admitting her ignorance regarding the situation of reservations when she was young, she expressed her shock when she learnt about this forgotten piece of American history. She reminded us to not declare victory yet, while asking us to start our own Standing Rock everywhere. Then Actress Patricia Arquette introduced Robby Romero, an Apache Native American musician and a true activist fighting for the rights of the earth, responsible for all kinds of ecological projects all over the world. Of course, he was coming back from Standing Rock, and he did a song starting with that line ’I was born in the reservation in 1973’. The always elusive Devandra Banhart played two of his eerie tunes with his delicate guitar fingerpicking, I recognized ‘Quedate Luna’ and the bossa-nova of ‘Theme For A Taiwanese Woman In Lime Green’.
Then Fiona Apple arrived on stage like a fury, she was in superb form, hitting hard during ‘Sleep to Dream’, angry as the hell she wanted to raise for sure. She made everyone laugh out loud when she continued with her Anti-Trump parody of that Christmas Song which opens with the lyrics, ‘Trump’s nuts roasting on an open fire, punctuated with an intense gut-spreading ‘Donald Trump Fuck You’, Her performance also included a cover of the Brains’ ‘Money Changes Everything’ and her too brief performance reminded me why I miss her so much, she is one of the kind
Sky Ferreira was a no show, although she appeared in the crowd for the grand finale at the end of the show, and naturally TV On The Radio closed the evening with a loud rock mini concert, starting with one of my favorite, the ascending to celestial heights ‘Young Liars’, followed by 3 more. We are gonna need a shit load of love, right now, ‘said vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, ‘and isn’t it nice to have a fucking purpose as well’. After the beautiful and quieter ‘Province’ the stage exploded with a violent ’Wolf Like Me’.
All hearts were heavy and eyes were not dry anymore, Devendra Banhart called the night a ‘manifestation of support of community’ and ‘an expression of love’… it was the type of night to restore faith in humanity.