Lately PJ, a friend of mine from college, has been rockin the local scene with DC Upset the Setup gear. Whenever I see the stickers on utility boxes around the city I am reminded both of him and of the music of my youth, ‘Kiss Me, Son of God’ and ‘Upset the Setup’ going through my head on a loop with PJ’s ‘This is DC.’
It’s hard to not have ‘Kiss Me, Son of God’ be the first thought whenever I come to face to face with politics here in our nation’s capitol. I am at heart a luddite, so I lack the equipment I would need to make a digital recording of the song from my cassette tape and convert it to an mp3 that I could give you. However, because it’s the two Johns we’re talking about here, you can still listen to the song, direct from their little corner of the web.
The song that always pops into my head when I see the stickers, ‘Upset the Setup,’ does not appear to live anywhere on the interwebs. Since it’s a 15 year old recording by a local Indiana band, Icemakers of the Revolution, released (as far as I know) only on cassette, that’s not surprising. I can point you to two former band members, Tammy — who married another one of my favorite local musicians and continued a career in music — Stephen — who’s now a professor.
The thing that strikes me the most listening to these old songs is how little things have changed. The Icemakers, along with the other local artists I loved, wrote dozens of songs — and participated in gazillions of actions — protesting the Bush policies and war of the early 90s. I could pick those songs up and plunk them down in new Bush era without having to tweak a single reference: war, unemployment, illiteracy, corporations taking over our food supply…it’s all still relevant. I try to be heartened by the acts of resistance I see around me every day, but they pale at times in the face of the constant and ongoing acts of lunacy.
On those days, it’s stickers on utility boxes that keep me sane.