As we hurdle headlong toward the November presidential elections, musicians are drawing lines in the sand. A pair of nearly identical tweets from Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Brooklyn lit-rockers the National have confirmed that these strange bedfellows will be sharing a triple bill with Obama himself at a September 1 speech stop in Des Moines, Iowa. Further details will be forthcoming, but if the boys are looking for a real attention-getter, might we suggest a live mash-up of "Spoonman" and "Fake Empire"?
The National and Obama have had a long-running love affair, kicked off, in fact, when an instrumental version of "Fake Empire" was used in this 2008 campaign ad for the then presidential hopeful. The band also released a T-shirt back then cleverly wedding their song title "Mr. November" to a stately image of the future POTUS. They opened for Obama once before too, in 2010, alongside Ben Harper in Madison, Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Convention was supposed to begin today in Tampa, Florida, giving presidential candidate Mitt Romney a platform to campaign and maybe talk about how much he enjoys the Killers. But Tropical Storm Isaac is making the GOP's party less grand than expected and organizers have pushed the kick-off to tomorrow. As a result, the 50,000 or so expected attendees have had to rearrange their travel plans, along with several of the entertainers and bands who were set to perform. (Though neither Devo nor Silversun Pickups are scheduled to support Romney this week.) Other bands are backing out of scheduled performances altogether.
Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, who may rep Alabama but hail from Florida, outright canceled their Sunday gig at Liberty Plaza. The band was supposed to perform today, as well, but as organizers attempt to reschedule today's festivities, which included a recitation of the National Anthem by the Oak Ridge Boys, it's unclear what will make the cut in the coming days.
Musical artists scheduled to make official RNC appearances tomorrow include 3 Doors Down, Night Ranger, and Damn Yankees singer Jack Blades (whose GOP bio confirms he "is an American musician," lest ye doubt), Alabama singer Randy Owen, country artist Lane Turner, 2008 America's Got Talent winner Neal E. Boyd and New Jersey-based opera singer Philip Alongi. Wednesday will feature American Idol runner up Danny Gokey, Christian artists the Katinas, country artist Beau Davidson and NCAA basketball player-turned-American Idol runner up Ayla Brown. And Thursday's musical offerings include the Marvin Winans, Jr.-led Tampa Gospel Choir, gospel singer BeBe Winans, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks and the opera ensemble the Mighty Sound of SEVEN.
Then there are public concerts at Liberty Plaza, where Skynyrd were set to play, as well as several private performances. Country artist Trace Adkins is supposed to sing songs like his 1997 No. 1 "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing" (we're speculating for humor's sake) at the Plaza tomorrow. While Wednesday will see Willie Nelson
convince Republicans to legalize weed play an invite-only show to benefit Got Your 6, which "bridges the divide" between war vets and civilians. Also set to perform Wednesday, at the Plaza, is Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's new BFF, Kid Rock.
In recent weeks, the Wisconsin Representative has drawn ire from Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, after saying he was a fan of their music, as well as Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, whose music he used without permission. But Kid Rock is standing by his man. On Friday, the Detroit-based rap-rock-country artist made an appearance at Ryan's Michigan fundraiser to sing "Born Free." Politico quotes Rock as saying, "I was going to be a little weisenheimer and say, 'Which one is running for vice president?' Then they would introduce Paul and I would walk out and say hello.'' Ryan, likely glad somebody likes him, reportedly said later, "So one of us is running for vice president, but only one of us was listening to 'Bawitdaba' in the motorcade on the way over here." Ryan then got in the pit and tried to love someone (we wish).
The biggest catch for GOP lobbyists, though, is apparently a private performance by Journey. An advocacy group paid the band a reported $500,000 to welcome Romney & Friends with "Open Arms" at its Thursday fundraiser. The group will play a 90-minute set of songs sung by vocalist Arnel Pineda (classic-era singer Steve Perry left Journey in 1998 after releasing an album with this cover). According to TMZ, "Journey is NOT making a political statement by accepting the offer and made it clear — it's just another gig." In attendance will be Michaele Salahi, who made headlines a few years back for gate crashing the White House in 2009 and is now dating Journey guitarist Neal Schon. This time, she is officially invited.
One group of musicians who will not be performing this week are Tampa, Florida's many death-metal bands, who were (surprise, surprise) not invited by the convention's organizers. In the late '80s and '90s, several of the genre's most celebrated bands (Death, Obituary, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse) formed or relocated to the Big Guava. Not one to suffer sour grapes, Deicide drummer Steve Asheim thinks RNC revelers will fit right into the town. He recently told a Reuters reporter, "It's just like they're all coming home anyway. Down here every other block, it's churches and strip bars." Let the celebrations begin!