CULTURE- BUXX BOX- Al's allies: All politics is local-- music

From Bob Dylan's enthusiastic support of Hurricane Carter to Kanye West's outburst on MTV following Katrina just last fall, determined musicians often find ways to deliver their art in arenas where issues of greater social importance can be addressed. 

One example of this occurring a little closer to home is the musical fundraiser for would-be congressman Al Weed to be held at the Satellite Ballroom on August 30. Performers John McCutcheon and Greg Howard are both enthusiastic about participating, even if the expressly partisan event makes for a slightly unorthodox format.

But McCutcheon thinks it's cut from the same cloth as the many fundraisers at which he's performed over the years. "Sometimes it's controversial– anti-death penalty or the living wage stuff– and sometimes it's First Night," he says. "To me, that's all political."

One month before the 2004 presidential election, the Dave Matthews Band set out to tour crucial swing states with the help of left-wing heavyweights like John Fogerty and James Taylor and unabashed Bush-bashers like Pearl Jam and the Dixie Chicks. McCutcheon had also hit the road earlier during that campaign season in support of Dennis Kucinich alongside former Charlottesvillian Tim Reynolds, who both Howard and McCutcheon think is one of the more admirable musicians-turned-activists around these days.

"And there's nobody better than Pete Seeger," adds McCutcheon. Seeger was already raging full-steam by 1955 when he was called before Congress and subsequently blacklisted for his communist sympathies. His activism continued through the Vietnam War– today environmental preservation is on his agenda.

"He has lived a life of amazing clarity and courage that's a textbook about how to have a career about something other than just about promoting yourself. Bono– I know he seems to be the flavor of the month," says McCutcheon, "but if it was up to the right and the left to get together and figure out what to do in Africa, everybody would die over there. He may be right. Bono was able to milk around $5 billion from the American government for AIDS relief in 2002, and on June 23, aging Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett donated over $30 billion to that very cause, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest charitable donation in history.

"By and large, the amount of polarization going on in American politics is tremendously damaging," McCutcheon continues. "I'm really interested in those projects and those people that go outside the normal political box. Let's put the playbook away and come up with something new."

"You have to put your mouth where your money is," says Howard. "If you really believe in something, it's not enough just to make a contribution. You've gotta stand up and say that you believe in it."

And while Buffett is probably exempt from that principle, Howard doesn't want anyone to be scared off by the $50 price tag on the fundraiser. "Campaigns are expensive," he says. "What's it worth to you? It's a $50 investment right now. Weigh that against the costs of unbridled environmental degradation, health insurance costs, more war in Iraq, and more of the same. It's not a lot of money."

John McCutcheon and Greg Howard at the Satellite Ballroom August 30. 7pm, $50.