Go ahead, swish that around in your mouth a little bit. There's a distinct bouquet of ... truth, a hint of legitimacy, maybe just a smidge of damn-straight, and a very detectable fuck-yeah finish. Let's order a bottle.
In the event that you haven't seen "The Clip," it goes like this: Kanye West is standing next to Mike Myers during a live telethon on NBC to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Myers is sticking to the script. West has other ideas. He's visibly shellshocked as he fumbles through an ad lib about troops in Iraq and the National Guard being authorized "to go down and shoot us." Myers tries to pick up the ball, reads his lines about the devastation, and then West drops his now-infamous bon mot: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." (This is best paired with a side of "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney," a witticism yelped at the veep by an anonymous passer-by in Louisiana live on CNN a few days later.)
All throughout the media there's been conjecture as to why it took so long to mobilize response to the tragedy of Katrina: The administration didn't have a plan, the troops were off in Iraq, etc. Surely these and other theories have some truth to them, but I'll tell you the main reason it took a matter of days rather than hours for the gravity of the situation to sink in: There was no postcard.
Here's what I mean. The Iraq War has had a series of postcards: Dubya's landing on the aircraft carrier; scorched American corpses hung from a bridge in Fallujah; Abu Ghraib. 9/11 had the mother of all postcards; 'twas the postcard that launched a thousand ships. I'm not trying to be cynical, but in This Modern Age, even a hurricane needs an iconic image, if not a full-fledged marketing campaign. The branding of Katrina is occurring as we speak; its narrative is in the works.
There are thousands of people around the country trying to shape that narrative. Some of them, like West, are musicians. New York band TV on the Radio (whose Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes was on my list of best albums of 2004) happened to be in the recording studio when the hurricane struck. And like so many of us, the band members were profoundly moved by the horror of Katrina and its aftermath. Their response was to write the song "Dry Drunk Emperor," a characteristically grand tune, full of ringing guitars and a chorus of voices, and post it on their label's Web site (www.tgrec.com), free for all. Here are some sample lyrics that should give you the gist: "What if all the bleeding hearts/ Took it on themselves/ To make a brand-new start/ Organs pumping on their sleeves/ Paint murals on the White House/ Feed the leaders LSD/ Grab your fife and drum/ Grab your gold baton/ And let's meet on the lawn/ Shut down this hypocrisy." As of this writing, Mos Def and Houston's K-Otix have followed suit, with their "Katrina Clap" and "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People," respectively.
Some people say that this is not the time to play "the blame game," to get political, to have an opinion. I think these are the same people who railroaded the Dixie Chicks and Bill Maher after 9/11; we will kindly not listen to them. And besides, most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time; i.e., most of us can lend a hand while at the same time pointing a finger. I hope we continue to do so, especially those people like West, who have a larger soapbox than most from which to make their voices heard.
On a local note, a survey of the various benefits going on around town leads me to think that this city was practically designed to lend a hand. There are DJs and funk shows, jazz and rock -- there's Devendra Banhart, Camper Van Beethoven, and New Orleans' very own Rebirth Brass Band! And so without further ado, here's a list at press time of all the places you can go in the coming weeks to see some great music while donating to a worthy cause:
Camper Van Beethoven, Heather Combs, Graves Brothers Deluxe, The Catholic Combs
Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 12 Galaxies; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com for more info.
DJs Apollo, Vinroc, Sake One, and more
Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Club Six; call 863-1221 or visit www.clubsix1.com for more info.
Kirk Joseph (founder, Dirty Dozen Brass Band), Rebeca Mauleon, Bobi Cespedes, Carolyn Brandy, Calvin Keys, and more
Thursday, Sept. 15, at Yoshi's; call (510) 238-9200 or visit www.yoshis.com for more info.
Kevin O'Day, Arenas, Kirk Joseph, more TBA
Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Boom Boom Room; call 673-8000 or visit www.boomboomblues.com for more info.
Griddle, Austin Willacy, Brad Brooks, Candy From Strangers, Clay Bell, The Welcome Matt, Tremolo, Paradigm, Firecracker
Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Red Devil Lounge; call 921-1695 or visit www.reddevillounge.com for more info.
Friday, Sept. 16, at Yoshi's; call (510) 238-9200 or visit www.yoshis.com for more info.
Saturday, Sept. 17, at Yoshi's; call (510) 238-9200 or visit www.yoshis.com for more info.
Sunday, Sept. 18, at Yoshi's; call (510) 238-9200 or visit www.yoshis.com for more info.
The Brothers Goldman
Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Boom Boom Room; call 673-8000 or visit www.boomboomblues.com for more info.
Devendra Banhart, Mark Eitzel (American Music Club), more TBA
Monday, Sept. 19, at 12 Galaxies; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com for more info.
Zigaboo Modeliste, John Gros (Papa Grows Funk), Forgotten Souls Brass Band, Bill Iuso
Thursday, Sept. 22, at Slim's; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com for more info.
Rebirth Brass Band
Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Independent; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info.
xbxrx, Kid 606, Gris Gris, Gravy Train!!!!, Erase Errata
Thursday, Sept. 29, at 12 Galaxies; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com for more info.
"Club Loaded," featuring DJs Fletcher, Solar, Omar, Baby Ryan, and Derek B., with a live set by the Rolling Blackouts
Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Rickshaw Stop; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info.