NC Music Love Army
Monday, July 29, 2013
By all accounts, this week's "Moral Monday" demonstration was the largest yet. After three months of chanting and singing and praying in Raleigh's Halifax Mall, after more than 920 arrests—mostly doled out to protesters who have refused to leave the N.C. General Assembly's chambers when asked—a crowd of several thousand filled the outdoor space to once again decry the actions of the state's lawmakers. Led by the state NAACP, they affirmed their determination to fight on by marching down to Fayetteville Street, stopping in front of the Capitol building for more chanting and singing and praying.
A couple hours later, a smaller crowd packed inside the nearby Kings Barcade. The NC Music Love Army, a loose but fiery assembly of local musicians who aspire to be "the soundtrack to the Moral Monday movement," were set to play their first official show. They'd hosted an open rehearsal, and they'd performed at "Moral Monday" and on the radio, but this would be the first time they'd play songs for a paying audience—with all money raised being donated to the NAACP legal defense fund, which will defray the costs incurred by arrestees from the protest, a nice little bow tying all of this up.
But the problem is that none of this is really tied up yet. The actions of this legislative session—slashing public education funds, restricting abortion rights, limiting access to the ballot—are still in place. The crowd at Kings was revved-up and ready to keep fighting, but will they still feel so inspired on Nov. 5 when the Army plans to releases their EP of original protest songs? Can those tunes keep them simmering until the next November, when they'll have the chance to vote out the politicians that instigated their outrage?
The musicians certainly seemed like they have the zeal to keep leading the charge. The Army's house band, led by musical director Jon Lindsay, was limber and lively. They hit some rough patches, but for the most part, the quickly assembled unit performed admirably. The singers were equally energetic. Durham MC Shirlette Ammons spat bullets during "My Body," lambasting those who would claim the right to control a woman's healthcare decisions. She was backed by a chorus of equally indignant singers, including the Army's other lead organizer, Caitlin Cary. The ragged country shuffle of "Is This Here What Jesus Would Do?" was bolstered by the fervor of its rock 'n' roll frontmen—JKutchma, American Aquarium's BJ Barham, and The Old Ceremony's Django Haskins—who lobbed shots at lawmakers' religious convictions with embittered relish.
After the main platoon finished their six songs, more artists—lovingly referred to as the "Guerrilla Love Army"—took the stage. Carrboro singer Billy Sugarfix delivered a wry acoustic rambler that claimed the legislators were either "high on Viagra or drunk on Fox News propaganda." Greensboro's Laurelyn Dossett, who penned the quintessential protest song against N.C. Amendment One last year, proved that the musical outrage extends beyond the Triangle and Charlotte. Her song cleverly quipped that she was keeping lawmakers from hurting themselves. The extra performances were encouraging. If the Love Army is going to sustain themselves, they'll certainly need reinforcements.
As an encore, Lindsay, Cary and a few others jumped into crowd for a quick acoustic take on "We Shall Not Be Moved," one of the NAACP's favorite songs during the protests. It was a special moment, and the room was alive with righteous energy. But once it was done, the familiar hum of conversation returned. On his way out the door, a man in his 50s looked to get a chant going. "Forward together!" he cried over and over. At the protest hours earlier, hundreds would have responded, "Not one step back!" This time, he was drowned out. He soon gave up and trudged out.
Monday night, the Love Army effortlessly commanded the attention of a couple hundred people, delivering a performance that was shambling but inspiring.