For many people, it's close to the tip of the tongue. We have an experience easy to recall, but likely to get weathered by repeated recollection so that it becomes a memory of a telling and not a feeling. The words follow each other in the same order. The memory gets reformed as a collection of bundled letters not flashes of brilliant images. I hope that never happens to me for yesterday. I'll risk retelling it at least this once.
On the car ride from Winston Salem to Greensboro, we talked, and listened to a new mix, several old favorites peppered with some brand new ones. After a long stretch of colder days than usual for the time of year, May flashed, green and Sun filled. We were in route to a get out the vote event, one of countless happening all over the country this year, and the mundane setup of folding tables, t-shirt vendors, concession stands, and sticker and poster booths made it feel more like a spring carnival than a call to civic duty.
Some were probably on hand just for the free show understandably, afterall, The Arcade Fire sold out nearly everywhere they played last year in a matter of minutes. The voting part was a tedious chore, done quickly in order to listen to music outdoors on a nice day. They came equipped with songs charged with political and social justice undertones, but like many actors, songwriters, and other celebrities, the messaging stood the risk of being washed out with too bight a smile to convey struggle, too loud a guitar solo to communicate concern.
No such fate fell on lines like these from a man like Win Butler.
The king's taken back the throne
The useless seed is sown
Butler explains just before he begins that this was written in the wake of the 2004 election. Deflated and confused, he penned these words, and as he begun, the audience, many of whom had listened on turntables in hip apartments, and in cars sitting in traffic, talking over the voices of friends, heard the words familiar, but for the first time. What was this guy doing? A Canadian no less, with a teeming knot of moving bodies on stage, dozens of odd instruments, what was he doing here on a day like this telling people to vote? Fighting tears as he sang
Who's gonna throw the very first stone?
Oh! Who's gonna reset the bone?
Walking with your head in a sling
Wanna hear the solider sing:
"Been working for the Church while my family dies
Your little baby sister's gonna lose her mind
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home"
Hear the soldier groan "We'll go at it alone
If apathy was an epidemic, this man's words are a shot in the arm, an all powerful inoculation. It was sunny and warm, the crowd, of more that a thousand danced, and listened, and hopefully voted. We watched as they did it for us, the let us watch them, un-polished, stripped of shiny celebrity veneer. As a group of scared, and concerned people, watching from just outside the voting booth, Win and his words, his family and friends came to the heart of the battle, and begged us to care.
With permission from David Bowie himself, Win told us that we could be heroes. He sang for more than an hour for free, the many onstage played flawlessly, with the exception of the banging of the drums so hard that one drew blood from his shaking hand, but played on, even an encore.