‘Beautiful activism’ on stage in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Forget sex, guns and hos. The Flobots is one hip-hop act that’s forgoing cliche topics in favor of introspective, activism-rich lyrics. With lines about the casualties of war – “man, woman and child dead bloody and numb” – or the disparity of wealth – “the system where the poor get poorly paid/ to hold the ladder/ where the rich get ricocheted/ into the stratosphere,” this six-piece from Denver is certainly pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop is and can be.
“Everyone feels we can do something with this music,” said singer/emcee B’rer Rabbit, aka Stephen Bracket. “Letting music be our activisim is something we’re all unified on.”
The Flobots are headlining a concert at The Sandbar in West Vail Tuesday night. Bands MTHDS and Kinetix will open the show.
Local talent booker Crawford Byers booked the show and calls the Flobots a “Colorado music success story.”
“I’ve always wanted to bring (The Flobots) through town, but it’s been difficult since the mainstream success of their single ‘Handlebars,'” Byers wrote in an e-mail. “When I was contacted about a show, I jumped at the chance to get them through this winter.”
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The band’s “creative live instrumentation,” which includes a violist, two emcees, a dummer, guitarist and bassist, is what separates this band from other hip-hop acts, Byers said.
“Theirs is a high-energy live show with a conscious message backed by solid musical chops,” he said. “They are also well known for putting their money where their mouth is, and constantly playing benefit shows to raise money for causes they believe in.”
The band has contributed time and performances to a number of non-profit benefits recently, including Concerts For Kids, and Somaly Mam Foundation. They also recently performed for members of the Energy Action Coalition at Michigan Powershift, and will be partnering with the nationwide network throughout their fall tour to help urge the Obama administration to take swift action on climate change, according to their press release. The band started a non-profit organization – fightwithtools.org – which is part of an ongoing project to engage music fans, Bracket said.
“We want to change music fans into activists,” he said.
And it’s the band’s fans that have inspired the album Flobots plan to release in early 2010, tentatively called “Survival Story.”
“It’s our fans that have been pushing us more and more towards activism,” Bracket said. “We felt we had more and more responsibility to those that support us, to give them something of quality, something that spoke to them and that they find meaningful.”
While the band’s 2007 release, “Fight With Tools,” was a rallying cry, lead emcee Jonny 5 says the new album is moving away from slogans in favor of stories.
“This album is a lot more personal, focusing on the contradictions in our own lives,” Jonny 5 said. “There’s a lot of negative energy in the news right now – Darfur, Fort Hood, Afghanistan – we need stories that give us hope.
“The world is an island now,” Jonny 5 continued, “we’re up against limited resources, and there’s nowhere to hide. More than ever we have to learn to live sustainably, and that means addressing things like violence, homelessness and wastefulness on a local level and trying to work together on a global level. We have no choice but to care for each other.”
The biggest concern for the band these days is how disenchanted people are when it comes to the hot-button issues of the day – climate change, the environment, corporate greed, etc.
“I feel as though there are so many different issues going on right now that demand our attention that we are blissly unaware of,” Bracket said. “A lot of time bands will talk to us about government conspiracy, we always just counter with we don’t need a conspiracy, right now there’s more information at our fingertips than there ever has been. They don’t even need to hide the things. Everybody knows about Guantanomo, everyone knows about the illegal wars we’re waging. People just don’t care.”
Aside from apathy, people don’t feel like they can do anything to change the world, which worries Bracket even more.
“If we don’t see ourselves as important and powerful, we won’t be able to create any kind of change,” he said. “It’s about not focusing on macro, but going back to what you can touch. You can see the most beautiful activism right in front of your eyes.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.