Is it possible to judge a presidential candidate by the musicians who support him? With old-and-out-of-touch artists such as Pat Boone, Larry Gatlin, and Loretta Lynn contributing to his campaign, George W. Bush is clearly not down with the kids. But there's a finer line between Al Gore and Ralph Nader. Gore has an array of rock artists on his side, including Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Bette Midler, Bon Jovi, Glenn Frey, Herbie Hancock, Don Henley, Quincy Jones, Lisa Loeb, Nancy Sinatra, Joe Walsh, and Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, but Nader's fan base features alt country singer Iris Dement, Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, and Fugazi's Guy Picciotto -- artists with more cred in the indie rock world. Traditionally, young voters have gravitated toward Democrats, but the Green Party's popularity with the youth of today suggests the times are a-changin'. Perhaps Gore's snippy wife Tipper, responsible for spearheading the parental advisory sticker campaign a few years back, has contributed to his lack of appeal to young voters.
"The indie rock people realize that there's less and less chance for anyone to have a voice," says Eric Coble, spokesman for the local Green Party. "Ninety-nine percent of the people in this country are being controlled by a tiny minority. I think the more free-thinking bands that generally believe in fair play for everyone and making the system work --or undermining it -- are shifting to the Green Party, because the Democrats are the system, now. For practical purposes, for our lives in Cleveland, it doesn't matter if Bush or Gore gets elected, because they have the exact same corporate funders. The Democrats have become part of the problem. The Green Party is the solution."
Locally, Nader supporters include bands such as Cobra Verde, the Chargers, and Proletarian Art Threat (all of whom play at a Green Party benefit on October 11 at the Beachland), as well as Bullshit, the Perfect Guy, Viva Caramel, Brian Straw, and Rayzak Solar System (playing another Green Party benefit on October 13 at Speak in Tongues). Coble said that similar benefits have taken place in other cities, and Rage Against the Machine has played some Green Party shows in support.
"One of the appeals of the Green Party is that it works on the local, grassroots level," Coble says. "If you went outside of our state, you wouldn't know who these bands are, but they'll still be here after the benefits. If there's a big rally in Boston, there'll be Boston bands playing there."
One thing's for sure -- you can't judge a politician by the type of music he listens to. Coble reveals that Nader's favorite type of music is flamenco -- not the kind of stuff that's going to win you votes with indie rock fans. And then, he also has some strange listening habits that we simply can't endorse.
"The other day, when he was at the rally at John Carroll, he said that when he wants to relax late at night, when he's working at the office, he calls up United Airlines and gets their 'hold' music," Coble says. "They play nice classical music, and he just sets the phone down and listens to it."
It sounds like the Green Party contingent might have better taste in music than its leader.
Cleveland's Midnight Syndicate -- musicians Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka and graphic artist Joseph Varga -- will make a Halloween appearance at 10 p.m. on October 13 at Tyr Music and Spirits (12112 Madison Avenue, Lakewood) during a gothic fashion show put on by Grave Wear. While Midnight Syndicate hasn't played live in two years, the dark symphonic music on its two albums, Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows, sets the right tone for the holiday.
"Until we actually put together a live show, it seems appropriate," Douglas says of the fashion show. "We have started to develop a solid national following in the gothic market, and when Halloween comes around, the public's interest in our music is at a peak." This year, Douglas actually has some competition in the scary music department -- Martha Stewart has released an album of spooky Halloween sound effects.
"It's nothing like what we do," says Douglas of Stewart's album. "The reason we're doing so well is because what we are doing is so unique. There aren't any gothic bands doing symphonic movie soundtracks to imaginary films. If you look at things that could be classified as Halloween CDs, there's nothing like this. [Stewart represents] corporate America cashing in. It's like those orange-colored cassettes you can purchase at K-Mart."
While Midnight Syndicate might not be playing in Martha Stewart's household, it can count on Hugh Hefner (who's picked the music to play on Halloween at the Playboy mansion) and shock rocker King Diamond (who's been playing Born of the Night and Realm of Shadows as the pre-show music on his current tour). And for Douglas, who says Midnight Syndicate is putting the finishing touches on its third, yet untitled album (due out in March), that's what counts.
"We went to see King Diamond, and to find out that he was playing our music was awesome," Douglas says. "I met him, and he said that he liked our music, and we told him that he was like a legend to us. It was a cool thing. It's an exciting time, because we can see that we're making some waves nationally, and that's always gratifying."For more information, see the band's website (entityprod.com) or call Tyr at 216-226-8181.