Music by VICE

Artists at the Women's March Tell Us Why They Showed Up

We came, we marched, and then many artists like Holly Miranda, TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, Antibalas and more played benefits for Planned Parenthood. We tagged along.

by Kim Taylor Bennett
Jan 23 2017, 8:59pm

Pete Voelker

This past weekend millions of women, men, and children across the world united against one person: Donald Trump. It was heartening, overwhelmingly positive, and a truly awe-inspiring moment. It was historic. It was incredible to witness, to be a part of, and it did feel like an achievement. But as we all know and acknowledge, this is only the beginning. Or as one policeman was overheard responding to a woman in LA who asked how long this march was due to go on for: "About four more years, lady."

As we stated when Trump was elected back in November—"We're going to fight like fuck to use our platform here at Noisey to oppose everything Donald Trump and his administration represent. We're going to fight like fuck—because that's all we can do."

Below are shots from on the ground at the march in Washington. Afterwards there were a plethora of music events, many in support of Planned Parenthood: Sleater-Kinney, The National and comedians Tig Notaro and Jeaneane Garofalo took over the 9:30 Club, while over at The Black Cat there was the Anti-Ball. Pulled together by Stuart Bogie of Superhuman Happiness, Amanda, Ali Philippides, and The Pizza Underground's Deenah Volmer (we covered the whole shebang ahead of Saturday here), the event felt like a fitting end to a day that was all about unity. With Antibalas as the house band, artists such as Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto, TEEN, Holy Miranda, TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, Wilco's Nels Cline, Jeffrey Lewis (who wrote a killer song called "The Cat Grabbed Back" inspired by our Cheeto-colored president), and many more performed together. Elsewhere, poet Professor Louie, Dr Courtney Morris from Penn State, and poet Aja Monet, MJ Flores and Erin from Planned Parenthood added thoughtful, poised missives regarding the women's march and the next four years going forward, to mull over amidst the celebrations. We talked to a selection of the performers to find out about their experiences below. 

There's no doubt that many of us approached the march with trepidation: would there be violence? Would the crowds be uncomfortably overwhelming? Where the hell were we all going to pee? In talking to one friend prior to the march he wondered—what would the atmosphere be like at the these shows? Would people be getting hammered and dancing around? Trump is president, this is a deeply depressing fact, and in many ways any kind partying seems incongruous. But certainly at The Black Cat, the mood was celebratory, because we can't sit and mope. We have to use what we each have and do what we can do. In the case of this particular show, as Dr Courtney Morris, so astutely pointed out: "Music makes movements move."

Holly Miranda: "I didn't really know what to expect from the march. It felt like an amoeba of humans rolling around DC. I saw Alicia Keys do the poem "And Still I Rise," and Janelle Monae and Maya Angelou and Angela Davis… and then the Indigo Girls! I think I was here a year ago protesting the abortion laws, so it just feels like protocol now that any time I come to DC it's for a protest for women's rights. Last time we protested outside of the supreme court for five or six hours, I came down with Lady Parts Justice, and those laws were overturned in April. It wasn't just us standing there that made that happen, but I think it was heard, I think it's felt. If it's not immediately overturned, although that's the goal, I don't think that means that it's not effective. 

Sometimes I feel like, why are we all just walking around showing people our signs? [Laughs.] But there is something about it that feeds that spirit. It feels revolutionary right now. If there's any silver lining in this doofas becoming president it's that it's ignited a fire in people who I think maybe might have been complacent for another four years. I've been doing charity and activism for years and it feels good to see my friends be like, OK I'm flying in from San Francisco for one day to march with you and then flying back to get to work on Monday. That's not something that would happen in a different climate. 

I'm also trying not to hate him, which is hard, because I don't want to fill my heart with hate, because he's not worth my time to hate him. So how do you do that? That's an ongoing, daily challenge. Like Martin Luther King said, "Hate doesn't drive out hate." So how do you love this decrepit symbol? But also we created this, our culture and our society created this and he's not the only one. "It's not my president…" Well, it is and that's a way of deflecting it and making it not your responsibility, and it is. What are the steps that came before this person existing, and being able to rise to this level of power? We all drove down together last night, Kyp Malone, and Jared Samuel, and Ambrosia Parsley, and someone said something and Kyp said, "I don't sign up to the apocalypse. I sign up for we can fucking change this and let's fucking do this."


Kyp Malone, TV on the Radio: Any collective action and show of solidarity right now—I need it, personally, selfishly. There's a lot of negativity and an apocalyptic mindset being expressed. I was raised in the Cold War in an apocalypse cult, so I've got that in my head. I wanted more because when I feel like this many people are together, there's so much potential power, so when it was over I was like, did it work? Is he gone!? I always feel like it's a great thing for people to get together because they're great spaces for people to find themselves, find their voices, find their community, meet organizers, learn how to organize. From what I could see for a lot of people here this is very possibly their first engagement and their first act of dissent. If it went well for people and they go back to where they came from feeling more empowered and engaged and excited to continue the work, then it's a great thing. It's a baby step in terms of all the work that lies ahead of us collectively. I'm not trying to downplay it, because this is massive, but it's the beginning.

There's so much work to be done and so many different way to do it, but the act of getting together should really be our main objective right now because it seems like that was such a problem in the first place. It does feel like this is an acceleration of a course that we were already on. I do want Obama to go because I don't want there to be kings and queens and there should be a term limit, but I wasn't happy to see him go. Simultaneously I liked his image better. A lot of things that people are upset about with this idea of a Trump presidency are his ideas about immigration. Obama deported more people than any other president before him, he expanded the power of the secret police of America, and he made it alright to murder American citizens extrajudicially through his drone war, and left that for this douchebag to inherit. 

There's nothing to be done with what's happened and I certainly could have been louder over the past eight years. And I know a lot of other people who could have been louder and a lot of people who have been actively resisting the things that were wrong with the Obama administration. But I feel like it's important not to pretend we were on the right path because it influences the posture and the actions that we take going forward. If we pretend it was all peachy keen—it really wasn't. There were horrific things being done in our name under the Obama administration and I'm super excited that people feel more engaged, and I feel more engaged than I have for a minute. I'm ready to do whatever small thing I can do to chart the new course. 

To the best of my ability, it is my responsibility to make room for the feminine and to embrace it. I don't that mean in a patronizing way, but I feel like where we need to go and what we need to do, we're going to need as much of everyone as possible. To collaborate. I'm not saying that in a way of, dudes are gonna get it done, but it's going to require men standing up for and men making room for women. That's why I'm here. I have a long way to go, but I know that if there's an opportunity to stand up with women and I'm invited to do so, I'm going to do so. I want to invite the feminine in.

TEEN, Boshra AlSaad, Lizzie Lieberson,  Kristina "Teeny" Lieberson.

Lizzie: The march was what I expected in a way, in a good way, mixed with a lot of woah, there's a lot of people and then being calmed by the excitement and positivity and energy. Also I'm personally feeling reenergized in a way I was hoping I'd feel, after feeling so down and depressed after the results. It was also really nice being with my band and sister and friends.

Teeny:
 I think it's galvanizing people. It's not gauche to have an opinion about politics now. The medium's the message now. And even this show—it just kept growing and growing.

Lizzie: It feels like at this point you don't have a choice. You have to get involved otherwise nothing's going to change. 

Boshra: No action is its own form of action, and it feels good to feel proactive.


Yuka Honda, Cibo Matto: I'm playing with Trixie Whitley tonight on "The People Have the Power" and I'm also doing an improvisational piece. I went on the march today and I was so moved by how many people got together. Everyone had a very similar spirit, that everyone wanted to be graceful and civilized and organized. Everyone was so generous and kind. If I looked at someone they'd say hello. It felt like we were making a point: this is the direction we want to take. It confirmed our solidarity and hope, which is such a great thing to do the day after the inauguration.

Trixie Whitley

Dia Luna: The march was super inspiring. I was really impressed by how calm and collected everyone was. People were super polite and I was really surprised by the amount of mothers who were there with strollers and little children. One of my favorite signs was: "Thou Shalt Not Mess with My Reproductive Rights. Fallopians 4:28." There was another one with a picture of a woman with her legs spread open and it had a mouth and a mustache and it was smoking a joint and it was: "We go high when they go low." Benefits like this are important because people want to offer their gifts and people should offer what they can and that's going to make all the difference in the coming years—just being who they are and supporting each other in their endeavors.

TEEN

TEEN

Martín Perna, founder of Antibalas: I founded Antibalas 19 years ago, and it was always equal parts politics and music. This type of music that we play, you need a community of people to play it. I was coming out of the New York activist scene of the mid-90s, protesting Guiliani when he first took over, when they took away rent control and the beginnings of really heavy gentrification and pirate radio in New York, reclaim the streets, just part of the cultural wars of the 90s—cabaret laws and police brutality. As a band we were inspired by a lot of artists who have social consciousness, from political salsa in the 60s to Fela Kuti to folk singers like Viktor Jara to Nina Simone—artists are supposed to speak to their times and you can be successful in saying meaningful stuff and giving people a rewarding music experience whether or not they connect with the message or what you're saying. If you're really successful, it's both, and music has the capacity to challenge how they think and reframe how they think about an issue. Or if they're already in agreement with you, to be that much more enthusiastic about it. 

There's a lot power in music and this event is really special for us because we're 12 dudes. We regularly make music with women in a lot of different contexts, but as it's panned out the core group of Antibalas is men. So when we get to do something like this and find awesome women and fall back behind them and support them with whatever they need, that feels really good too.

Poet Aja Monet

Nels Cline, Wilco: The march was extremely sweet and a really lovely balm for my wounded heart. Mixing politics and music is definitely coming back, there's no doubt. I have mixed emotions sometimes about the timelessness of protest music of certain styles with certain lyrics. And I'm not particularly personally a political music player, but I'm also very inspired by political music at certain times in my life. I'm a big fan of the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra with which I used to play sometimes in the 80s, and certainly folk songs by Woody Guthrie that were just as powerful right now as they were at the time. I don't think it's incumbent on artists to be political and I don't think it should be de rigueur for songwriters to express their political views, but I'm going to be very enlivened and emboldened by any move in that direction in the culture generally, because I'm old, I'm 61, I remember the 60s and the 70s and punk rock too, and I'm down. I don't do much of it myself because I do a lot of instrumental music, but I find it a good direction.


Jared Samuel, Invisible Familiars: Tonight I'm leading a song, but I'm also backing Kyp Malone and Holly Miranda. Since even before he got elected I think we've all felt this palpable desperation of what do we all do now? And just feeling like the best way I can contribute a little bit, to chip away at all the horrible shit going on, is just getting involved with causes.  It feels like everyone is banding together in that way. I think there was such a long time where people were afraid to get political and I think there are a lot of people who feel that still, and that's a shame, but if not now then when?

Nikhil P Yerawadekar of Antibalas (left) and Stuart Bogie (co-organizer of the Anti-Ball).
Stuart: 
My experience working on this benefit was watching a whole broad community of new and old friends bring their music and minds and bodies to DC for the same reasons millions of people did worldwide. Also a lot of lists and schlepping and van related discussion! Ha! 

Watching the artists—every last one of them—sing and play to the hungry ears in the crowd was an affirmation that music has a place in the struggle and those duties fall on us. Personally, I also am becoming more and more aware of the privileges that the life has given me, and the complicated personal process of dealing with that. Thats where the growth is, and it isn't always pleasant for my ego but I am learning.


Angela Davis.



All photos by Pete Voelker.