By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Hail the true spirit of rock & roll! Bow down to that fire that still burns, no matter how many would try to squash it with overly virtuous piety. Once again a foul spirit -- self-righteousness -- has raised its ugly head to pollute our art form with its poisonous breath. For sins so great they must be enumerated separately, we must condemn the Live 8 concert, the latest musical event to stain rock's good name.
Crime the First: It is silly.
Why must we have another concert for Africa? Did not Live Aid solve its plight, just as surely as Farm Aid rescued the beloved family farm? Why must today's artists take on the problems that Cyndi Lauper and Lionel Richie solved in the '80s?
Could it be that musical acts actually lack the ability to correct the problems of third-world countries? No, say the makers of Live 8. They tell you on their homepage that if everything goes according to plan, "We will become the generation that ends poverty." All it takes, they tell you, is for you to watch the concert -- which will impress the leaders of the G8 nations so much that these actually powerful men will cancel third-world debt. These "musicians" think the leaders of the free world are as easily swayed as the rich guy from Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo: "Let's put on a show to save the rec center! After that, Africa!"
Silly thoughts in and of themselves do not garner you a fatwa, or there would be almost none left in popular music with a clean brow. We do not punish every Kabbalah red-stringer or vegan. No, silliness must be combined with something else to earn this condemnation.
Crime the Second: It makes musicians feel important.
Had U2 not been such a great band for such a long time, Bono would be the foulest traitor ever known to rock. The frontman would have earned a fatwa threefold for his self-important nattering if he did not deliver such a theatrically impressive performance. Like a child presenting his own molded feces and expecting applause, Bono makes pop music yet expects to be lauded as a statesman. Unfortunately his fans, like an overindulgent, cooing parent, laud his sculpted shit as if it were truly worthwhile.
It cannot be said enough: Musicians are not important. That is part of what makes them beautiful. Art such as rock can warm you, thrill you and make you feel free. And that is why we cherish it so and stand guard against Pharisees who would steal away its joy. But it cannot break your chains. As much as it saddens everyone who bought a Rage Against the Machine shirt in order to free Leonard Peltier, people in uniforms and people in suits are the ones who change the world. Let them do so, and let our rockers continue to rock. It is the natural order of things.
Crime the Third: It sends exactly the wrong message.
Perhaps, you may be saying to yourself, that even if this Live 8 business is silly, it certainly isn't hurting anyone. Right?
Wrong! It damages everyone. It hurts anyone who it tricks into believing that watching a concert is a valid form of volunteerism. It hurts everyone who might have actually been helped by those fooled. It hurts poor Africans by so trivializing their situation that it appears that their problems can be solved by Linkin Park. It hurts the artists involved by giving them dangerously irrational views of themselves. And it hurts the fans that attend by mixing music with endless, vapid preaching.
It is wrong to tell people, as Live 8 does on its Web site, that taking a picture of yourself or wearing a white armband will do anything to change anything. Beware of "awareness," the idea that a pink ribbon will cure breast cancer or that a yellow bow will stop a bullet from killing a soldier. "We don't want your money, we want you," they say. While money is not nearly enough to save Africa, you eating Cheetos and watching TV does even less.
Crime the Fourth: America is getting the shaft again.
Let us compare some of the acts from the London and Philadelphia Live Aid lineups. London: Elvis Costello, Dire Straits, Queen, David Bowie and the Who. Philadelphia: Simple Minds, Kenny Loggins, the Thompson Twins and Hall & Oates.
Now, let us compare the London and Philadelphia lineups for Live 8. London: Coldplay, a reunited Pink Floyd, R.E.M. and U2. Philadelphia: Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, P.Diddy and Keith Urban. Since the concert promoters have banned Bush-bashing from the concerts, is this a subtle way of telling us that America still sucks in their eyes?
Crime the Fifth: The music is going to suck.
Pink Floyd reunited? Who cares, if it comes with pleas of, "There's just one more brick in the wall...and it's called poverty!" Beyond all of the tiny waves this concert shall make in the real world, the horrible music it will surely produce will damage rock & roll. Oh, just imagine: P. Diddy dedicating a new version of "I'll Be Missing You" to children dead of hunger. Dido and Sir Elton John together at last. Snoop Dogg droppin' it like it's important. Mariah Carey...well, you know.