Singer-songwriter David Poe is organizing a pair of concerts to benefit Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry’s campaign. The Living Room in New York City will host Duncan Sheik, Joseph Arthur, Jesse Malin, Jesse Harris and Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay on July 20th. And the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Golden Smog, Kraig Johnson and Big Star will take the stage at First Avenue in Minneapolis two nights earlier.
Poe projects that the shows could raise about $100,000 for Kerry’s campaign coffer, but he also sees them as an opportunity to promote voter registration. He points out that since eighteen-year-olds got the right to vote, fewer have actually exercised it each year, with only thirty-six-percent of eighteen to twenty-year-olds casting their ballot in the last presidential election. “If you do the math,” he says, “and get that number up to around fifty-percent, Kerry could win this thing by a landside . . . and you won’t have to deal with anything like hanging chads. Politics and voting begins at the grassroots level.”
Following these two shows, Poe is hoping to organize a few others in some battleground states where support for Kerry and President George W. Bush is split evenly. “Like a lot of people,” he says, “I don’t want to wake up the day after the elections, kicking myself for not having done everything I could, especially if the outcome of election is not what I hope it will be.”
As with activism-minded artists like Moby (whose cafe, Teany, will provide beverages before the New York show) and Steve Earle, Poe and company have put pet causes on the backburner due to, what he calls, “intense dissatisfaction with the current administration,” prompting the current call for political fundraising. “This is quite different from a benefit for a charity,” he says, “because the recipient of the proceeds is not only a politician — rather than a clubbed seal — but he’s also a very wealthy man. So now I have to raise money from people who make less money than I do and give it to a millionaire. It’s an irony, and I loves me some irony. But having said that, I really do support him. He’s chosen to serve, unlike a lot of rich people, and he seems to have a voting record that reflects a concern for humanity.”
The two concerts are being organized in conjunction with the Concerts for Kerry Organization (concertsforkerry.com), which has hosted almost twenty shows so far this year with several more planed. Jack Black, Grant-Lee Phillips, Victoria Williams, Mark Olson and comedian David Cross will perform at other events in July.