By Mike Appelstein
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Artists whose music is typically apolitical in nature have received some negative feedback from fans, other musicians and various media outlets as well. "Our band's political past is pretty...sleepy," says Death Cab's Walla. "This is really the very first thing that we've ever done. This is our first political statement, I guess you could say. Certainly [Death Cab singer/songwriter] Ben [Gibbard]'s songs are not political in any way, and we have always been sort of a 'You go about your business and we'll go about ours' sort of band.
"There are plenty of people who have voiced their distaste with our involvement in this tour," Walla continues. "Because our songs are so apolitical, there have been a people who have said, 'Well, I'm voting for Bush, and this really colors my opinion of your music.' And that's sad, but that's fine. It's all right. We must agree to disagree. I think it's both a right and a duty to speak up when you feel you've been moved. And I think that's the thing that makes this whole process work. So I'm not really into the 'Keep your mouth shut, you're just a dumb entertainer' argument."
While Walla says most of the negative comments have been relegated to message-board chatter, some of the older-skewing, more mainstream artists may have more at stake. Then again, they may also have the power to wield more influence.
Four months after the Dixie Chicks' London incident, during which time they received death threats, were booed at the Academy of Country Music Awards and indirectly got two Colorado radio DJs canned for playing their songs, the band spearheaded the "Chicks Rock, Chicks Vote" campaign for Rock the Vote, an organization that encourages young-voter registration and launched its own five-month, fifty-city tour in June along with partner MTV. The Rock the Vote bus makes a stop at Washington University on Saturday, the day after the presidential debate, and performances will include Ben Jelen.
Though he might be an exception among his swinging-youth peers, Walla knows exactly what he wants out of the upcoming election. "All I know is we're playing Las Vegas on Election Day, and that's also my birthday, so that's going to be a very, very triumphant or very sad, surreal day," he says. "I'm hoping for triumphant. All I want is a new president for my birthday."