Thursday, April 28, 2016

I was thrown off the Bernie Sanders Revolution Train.

I've been thrown off the Bernie Sanders Revolution Train...or maybe I threw myself off.  It doesn't matter, the result is the same.

I was on this train before Sanders even thought about running for president. I was there early, when it was mostly about the Wall Street banks holding our economy hostage. Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone was there before the rest of us with his groundbreaking expose of the power of these banks, writing:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Then there was the Occupy Wall Street movement, the counter-weight for the increasing power of the Tea Party. But like most liberal movements, its shelf-life of hipness expired quickly, maybe because warm weather meant festival season, which is a whole lot more fun than a downtown park in NY during the summer.

But then, almost out of nowhere, came this mad-professor of progressivism. He walked the walk and talked the talk, but most importantly, someone in his staff understood that breaking his populist ideology into small soundbites and posting them on social media was a really good idea. These memes were simple, they were sharable, they were gutsy with bravado, and they were fighting for the little guy against those giant, evil corporations. They were perfect for the people who had no interest in understanding the dysfunctional mess of American politics. The Sanders revolution train lurched forward with its first "chug."

But great shifts in society are only pretty within romanticized hindsight. More often though, what should be a great, or even sizable, shift in society can be dragged down by the very internal forces driving it. Bernie Sanders is not in control of this train any longer. In fact, it won't be long until Bernie himself will be contradicting the extreme manifestations of the movement that is based around him. Bernie will make substantial efforts into bringing some of his followers back to his basic philosophy and message of progressivism. Maybe this sounds a little familiar....

I wanted to write this a month ago, maybe two. Around the time I started seeing people claim, "I'll only vote for Bernie, and if Trump becomes president then so be it!"

On an emotional level, I get it. I know what it's like to discover that one candidate that seems so pure and perfect that you'll fully commit your whole identity to them. Which in turn means you have to fight their fight with your entire being, because you're fighting for who you are. Everything becomes completely black and white, which is so emotionally rewarding and easy. No more compromise. No more empathy for anything other than this simple, universally true dogma. It feels so....damn....good. (Wait, am I talking about Trump or Sanders here?)

But the guys who set up our country were very smart. They understood the danger of both political and religious dogma. They understood that revolutions happen and need to be slowed down by messy political wrangling. They understood that this messy political wrangling was actually a good thing. They did not want to set up a system where a demagogue can work the populace into an emotional furor and break down the basic tenets of society within one election. What they did not foresee was the widespread institutional corruption and corporate plutocracy that has all but crippled our federal government.

The populist revolutions taking place with both Trump and Sanders feel like the antidote to this political paralyzation--big, common sense answers to what each side sees as the main problems. Other than diametric political ideology, the biggest difference between Trump and Sanders is that Trump is winning, and starting to win big. He has slowly turned his massive rallies into consistent wins, and Sanders has not.

Sanders' most fervid supporters don't understand this. They are not able to understand why Sanders is not winning easily by huge margins. Their own personal polling data (facebook feed) shows Sanders winning with 90% of the vote and hate for Hillary around 107% of the country. There's only one explanation for a differing reality and that is they're being cheated.

Frank Bruni wrote a great piece about this entitled The Cult of Sore Losers. He writes, "The refusal to grant victors legitimacy bundles together so much about America today: the coarseness of our discourse; the blind tribalism coloring our debates; the elevation of individualism far above common purpose; the ethos that everybody should and can feel like a winner on every day."

I've sat back and watched these "Bernie Bros" turn into the left wing version of the Tea Party. Illogical, rigid, hateful, uncompromising, conspiratorial, and the ultimate holders of dogmatic truth. 

Right about here is where I came hurling out of this speeding train.  

If the race is between Trump and Hillary, which it looks to be, then progressives have a chance to not only take the Presidency and the Senate, but there's even an outside chance to take the House as well. That is a complete game changer. This will give us a chance to strengthen the Healthcare Act, not erase it; to raise minimum wage, not get rid of it; to invest in roads, bridges, and schools, and not tax breaks for billionaires; to protect civil rights, not get rid of them. And on...and on...and on.

But most importantly, it stops the possible seating of three conservative Supreme Court judges that will dictate the direction of the country for a generation. If Trump wins, so be it? Comedian Patton Oswald had a good response to that type of thinking: That's Fucking Childish!

The Bernie Sanders Revolution of Democratic Socialism has already made a huge impact on today's political landscape. But my fear is that when he doesn't take the presidency, his followers will just check out...again. Saying: It's all rigged. It's all corrupt. It doesn't matter what we think. And they're right about all those things! But the only way to change that is to keep this Sanders momentum going in state and local races, in mid-term elections, year after year. This doesn't need to be a Bernie Sanders revolution, instead, let's make it a progressive populist revolution and accept the messy political wrangling that it will take--just like the authors and signatories of the Constitution wanted.

--Brian Paul Swenk


Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Beautiful Story of Dancing Man

This is just a beautiful story.   No one should ever have the joy of music taken away from them, especially by shame.

It starts with a dancing man and some bad people

Enter.....Good People

Let's do this

Pharrell Williams understands the importance of music for all of us

So does Moby

Dancing Man is found!

Dancing Man gets a dance party with many beautiful souls

Dance on Dancing Man!   

--Brian Paul Swenk

If you enjoy, please share and help me spread the word about Lonesome Banjo Chronicles.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Stapleton wins four ACM awards for his debut album Traveller

Chris Stapleton won four Academy of Country Music awards last night for his debut album Traveller; Album of the Year, New Male Vocalist, Male Vocalist, and Song of the Year for "Nobody to Blame." His domination of the night prompted the band Little Big Town to thank him for not being nominated for Vocal Group of the Year.

Along with two Grammys for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Album, Stapleton, is having a pretty fantastic year.   
"Nobody to Blame" 

Stapleton's soulful voice and genuine songwriting are being welcomed by fans throughout the world and are a welcome antidote to the cookie-cutter, over-processed, regurgitation of today's pop country.
I got to chat with Stapleton soon after he released his album Traveller last year. He was aware the album was getting great reviews, but no one had any idea that it would sweep through the country music industry awards the way it has. 

Brian Swenk: I’m curious about your bluegrass history. A lot of us think that The Steeldrivers’ debut album is arguably one of the best bluegrass albums released within a couple of decades. My band covers a Steeldrivers song regularly, and we play the album on set breaks of our shows.

Chris Stapleton: Well, thank you so much for saying that. One of the best things you can do as a musician is create something that people care about, something that has staying power. A friend sent me a cell-phone video the other day of a band playing on the streets in Seattle. They were covering one of our songs, and I just thought that was so amazing, that we’ve had that much effect on people.

BS: Did you know that you would transition out of bluegrass?

CS: Well, I was a professional songwriter before I was in bluegrass. But I was always kind of a visitor, and I’m the worst bluegrass guitar player of all time (laughs). I love the music so much, and I love the subject matter and the songs — all those things. The Steeldrivers were born out of songwriting. We had all these great songs going to waste, and we decided to just start playing them. We had to figure out how to play some of them in bluegrass, since they weren’t written in that style. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but you just have to listen to your gut and make the right choices.

BS: When you write a song, do you have different techniques for the different music styles, or is it all the same for you?

CS: I get asked this question some, and I have to think about it a lot. For me, the process of writing a song is no different for what type of music it is for. You write a song from the best idea you have that day, whether that is pop or rock or bluegrass or folk. They’re all just songs, and they are all just blues-derived art forms. I keep that in mind, and I just try to write the best song I can on any given day. The difference of a song being blues or country or bluegrass is just the instrumentation, so I don’t try and approach it in any different way — I just try to write the song.

BS: “Traveller” just debuted at No. 2 on the country album charts. And as far as I can tell, you didn’t have any help with radio, right?

CS: That’s right. We do have a single on the radio now, but it hasn’t even cracked the top 50. But all that was kind of intentional. I asked the label if I could just put a record into the world and let us go play, and let’s see what we can build off it; and that’s how we’ve been approaching this.

BS: There are a lot of critics who are laying heavy praise on this new trend of underground country becoming popular, with people like yourself, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. Do you think country radio will catch on and start playing more of it?

CS: I’m not a fortune teller, but there’s certainly places for all types of country music. Country music radio has always been a (songwriting) home base for me, and it’s allowed me to do all these other things and play all this other type of music — even what I’m doing now. I’d certainly love it if they’d embrace me. Regardless, I’m going to keep playing shows and writing songs like I always have.

BS: I’ve noticed that I can play Luke Bryan’s version of your song, “Drink a Beer,” and there are a lot of people that won’t like it; but if I pull up a video of you singing it, they have a different reaction. Same song, but different voices and different reactions. It’s interesting how people can react differently to the exact same song.

CS: Well, there are people who like Luke singing it but don’t want to hear me sing. But as long as people are listening to music of some kind, then we’re all happy — we’re all in it together. As long as someone is selling tickets and figuring out how to make money with live shows, that pays for other people to take risks and take chances. And it identifies a need for live music out in the world. As long as people are still going out to experience live music, then I’m good.

A solo performance of "Sometimes I Cry"

--Brian Paul Swenk

If you enjoy, please share and help me spread the word about Lonesome Banjo Chronicles.