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Protest songs from across the nation testify to one year of President Trump

Posted by Baynard Woods | Nov 8, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Features

In recognition that one year has passed since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, members of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia banded together to commemorate this point in history. Baynard Woods’ most recent Democracy in Crisis column was written for that occasion. Woods also compiled a list of protest songs, submitted by AAN members.

1. Iris DeMent, “We Won’t Keep Quiet”
Iowa City, Iowa

Back in February, Iowa City held a Solidarity Rally Against the Ban, proclaiming support for immigrant populations and refugees in the wake of Trump’s first and most ridiculous attempted travel ban. In between the community leaders, local politicians and youth speakers, a variety of area musicians performed, including the brilliant Iris DeMent. She debuted a song, “We Won’t Keep Quiet,” that captured the feeling in the crowd that day in a really powerful way.

— Genevieve Trainor

2. Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk, “Justice”
New Orleans, Louisiana

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk teamed up on “Justice,” which they released on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated president. A melange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for “Justice” slyly marries video footage of Trump to pointed lyrics. “Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people,” said Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville. “We entered a New Year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of ‘justice’ that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there’s only so much we can do and this track is our way of expressing our worries.”

— Kevin Allman

3. Lonely Horse, “Devil in the White House”
San Antonio, Texas

Shots fired! Lonely Horse come out guns a-blazing with the track “Devil in the White House.” Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock and roll explosion, the desert rock duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS.

— Chris Conde

4. Clint Breeze and The Groove, “Blood Splatter”
Indianapolis, Indiana

Featuring over a dozen guest contributors, including poets, rappers and jazz musicians, Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America. “Blood Splatter” is the record’s most cutting track; featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax.

“I wanted to symbolize the state of oppression that Black people experience every day … From not getting fair treatment in the justice system, to getting shot and killed by law enforcement, to being unfairly treated in the workforce — you name it. I wanted to make a statement on how we as black people view this oppressive society that we live in. I also wanted to give a different perspective from white people. I have a couple of my friends who are white on the album speaking about the nature of white privilege,” Breeze says.

— Kyle Long & Katherine Coplen

5. The After Lashes, “We the Sheeple”
Coachella Valley, California

The After Lashes is a new all-female punk band from the Coachella Valley that features Ali Saenz, the wife of former Dwarves and Excel drummer Greg Saenz. Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explained the inspiration behind the band’s song “We the Sheeple.”

“‘We the Sheeple’ was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump,” she said. “We have a president who calls anything he doesn’t like ‘fake news’ while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and lies like a crazy person.

“The policies he intends to establish are harmful to pretty much everyone who is not wealthy; unfortunately, so many who voted for him were unknowingly voting against their own best interests. The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be.”

— Brian Blueskye

6. NODON, “Alt-Wrong”
Burlington, Vermont

NODON are an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, their songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump.

“Alt-Wrong,” from their 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right’s figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, they scream their battle cry: “Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!”

— Jordan Adams

7. Rmllw2llz “So Amerikkkan”
Louisville, Kentucky

Nationwide, when you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy or maybe even White Reaper — who are all great — but our city’s hip-hop scene is packed with poignant hip-hop artists, and if you’re looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz’s “So Amerikkkan,” where he says “Fuck Trump, he’s a bum and Hillary trash, too.” The song was released a few months ago, but, if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country’s past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes.

— Scott Recker

8. Michael Bone, “My Peace Will Outlive You”
Chico, California

Michael Bone is a Chico musician, husband and father who has a day job teaching music to developmentally disabled kids, a night job playing drums for jazz combo Bogg and dozens of side projects including running the 1day Song Club, a songwriting group that receives a one-word prompt every other week, after which participants are tasked with writing, recording and submitting a song within 24 hours. “My Peace Will Outlive You,” an angst-ridden yet hopeful slice of psychedelic pop, is Bone’s contribution to the prompt of “Trump.”

— Jason Cassidy

9. DBL DRGN, “Trim the Bushes”
Charleston, South Carolina

There were several election-reflection songs that came out of Charleston following Nov. 8, 2016. One of those that stood out is by a local hip-hop duo — Damn Skippy and Bad Mojo — dubbed DBL DRGN. Before releasing the audio, the guys filmed the video for the song “Trim the Bushes” on Election Day. With Bad Mojo dressed as a dragon, high-fiving passersby, the silly aspect of the visuals was meant to complement the circus-like atmosphere of the 2016 election — it also brought a smile to the faces of voters on an otherwise stressful day.

The video was released on Inauguration Day, another attempt to lift the spirits of those who felt the doom and gloom all too well that January morning. In the single, the duo rather brilliantly mash-up George Bush (“Fool me once … can’t get fooled again”) with Bob Marley (“You can fool some people sometimes”), while the video shows footage of Donald Trump’s remarks on everything from immigration to birtherism, Putin, John McCain and women. The acknowledgment of the things progressives find disturbing about the current administration coupled with the sense that folks should keep their heads up and stick together for the duration of the hand we’ve been dealt was the perfect combo.

— Kelly Rae Smith

10. Cheap Perfume, “Trump Roast”
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Cheap Perfume are a four-piece Colorado Springs band who follow in the tradition of feminist punk acts like Le Tigre and the Slits. “Trump Roast” is, not surprisingly, one of their biggest crowd-pleasers, as Stephanie Byrne and Jane No deliver a “Dear Don” letter to the resident president, culminating in a final verse that grows more timely, and more serious, with each passing day: “You wanna ban Muslims? Well, we wanna ban you/Your fascist ideas wrapped in red, white, and blue/Your KKK clones won’t be the ones to choose/Enjoy your last gasp cause racism’s through.”

— Bill Forman

Additional Songs

Priests, “Right Wing”
Washington, D.C.

There’s been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests have succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off. “Right Wing,” off the band’s breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power, so perfectly captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists and warmongers. “Everything everything/So right wing/Everything everything/So right wing/Purse searches, pep rallies/Purse searches, SUVs,” sings Katie Alice Greer. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right wing ideals infects everyday life.

— Matt Cohen

Lingua Franca, “A Man’s World”
Athens, Georgia

Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant emcee Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance.

— Gabe Vodicka

Thunderfist, “Suck It” (demo)
Salt Lake City, UT

Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example — countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns — is how we’ll effect change. That doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio. And maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, calling him a “fat baby fuckface.”

— Randy Harward

Keith Morris, “What Happened to Your Party?”
Charlottesville, Virginia

Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as “our rockin’ protest grouch in chief,” Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as “Psychopaths & Sycophants,” “Prejudiced & Blind” and “Brownsville Market,” from his Dirty Gospel album, plus “Blind Man,” “Peaceful When You Sleep” and “Border Town” from Love Wounds & Mars. His latest release: “What Happened to Your Party?”

— Erin O’Hare

OG Swaggerdick, “Fuck Donald Trump”
Boston, Massachusetts

Among diehard hip-hop heads as well as artists, Boston’s underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. To that end, over the past year, such acts as STL GLD (Moe Pope + The Arcitype) and more recently The Perceptionists (Mr. Lif + Akrobatik) have released their most compelling works to date, largely inspired by the mess that Donald Trump has made (though not always naming-checking Dolt 45 directly). But when it comes to straight up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there’s something undeniably satisfying, even admirable about the Hub’s own OG Swaggerdick’s simple and straightforward election anthem, “Fuck Donald Trump.”

From the fittingly filthy rhymes — “never give props to a punk ass trick/motherfuck Donald Trump he can suck my dick” — to the strangers on the street who gladly join along in rapping in the video, these are protest lyrics that you’ll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless.

— Chris Faraone

Withdraw, “Disgust”
Columbia, South Carolina

On its 2017 debut EP Home, Columbia’s Withdraw oscillate violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust punk. And on “Disgust,” the band proves the virtue of their versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims — “You are not tarnished!” It’s a potent statement, a searing declaration of allyship in musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics.

— Jordan Lawrence

Dais, “Atrocity”
Rochester, New York

Dais tells you exactly where it stands on “Atrocity,” the first track off its self-titled debut EP. The post-hardcore band makes a racing, pounding apology to the Earth before (sort of) slowing down to confront the powers that be. “Show us a tyrant/And we’ll show you our grievance/Fuck that, we will fight this,” vocalist Travis Rankin yells and strains in defiance.

“The person who the States had elected was talking about withdrawing us from The Paris Climate Accord,” Rankin said. “We felt betrayed and began writing this song. It’s an apology to the Earth for us not being as good to it as it has been to us.”

— Jake Clapp

Joshua Asante, “No Time For Despair”
Little Rock, Arkansas

Asante, best known for fronting the bands Amasa Hines and Velvet Kente, is also a photographer; someone who delights in the tangible process of making art. It’s in his latest work as a solo artist that this becomes most evident, Asante hunching down over a briefcase stuffed with loop stations and processors.

Of “No Time For Despair,” Asante says: “In times of distress and turmoil, it’s easy to get kinda caught up in the collective despair, so the lyrics are very much about, like, ‘Yeah, times are tumultuous, but there’s also a lot of really wonderful magical things that are going on in your life. … That is probably the supreme act of defiance — to be joyful, to be loving.”

— Stephanie Smittle

The Whiskey Farm, “Flag Pin”
Madison, Wisconsin

The Whiskey Farm is an Americana/folk rock band from Madison, Wisconsin. Formed in 2010, the band has produced four albums and won Madison Area Music Awards in the Folk/Americana and Ensemble Vocals categories. The band’s most recent album, Songs of Resistance (2017) is their first record comprised entirely of social and political music, covering topics including immigration policy, faux patriotism, money in politics, gun control, equal rights and gerrymandering. “Flag Pin” is a tongue-in-cheek blues-inspired indictment of opportunistic patriots, including Trump. The band released Songs of Resistance as a benefit for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

— Catherine Capellaro

Compiled by Baynard Woods. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 231.


About The Author

Baynard Woods

Baynard Woods editor at large at the Baltimore City Paper. Tips to democracyincrisicolumn@gmail.com. Twitter @demoincrisis. Podcast every Thursday.

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