In L.A., artists will try to play through what many consider a tough Inauguration Day
President-elect Donald Trump reportedly had a rather difficult time persuading A-list musicians to perform at his inauguration festivities.
Toby Keith, Jackie Evancho, 3 Doors Down and Lee Greenwood were all scheduled to appear at various events Thursday and Friday in celebration of the occasion. Regardless of your opinion of the president-elect, it’s clear the festivities will have a different tone than those for Barack Obama, which included Aretha Franklin performing “My Country Tis of Thee” and Beyoncé, arguably the world’s biggest pop star, singing “At Last.”
However, for many of the musicians performing across L.A. on Friday, a once-typical (and likely long-ago-booked) tour stop has now become something more important.
The music community, in particular, has long been candid in its support of progressive and liberal causes, and as a conservative regime — and a divisive president — takes hold in Washington, D.C., many artists feel their concerts suddenly have a different tone.
“On a day that many find trying, we’re happy to provide an evening of escape,” said AFI lead vocalist Davey Havok.
The veteran punk band’s members have long been outspoken activists for animal rights and other left-leaning causes, and while their Inauguration Day set at the Troubadour is meant to showcase their new self-titled album, it’ll now also have to be some kind of catharsis for AFI’s fans.
That’s true for artists across genres.
Over at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, singer-songwriter Dave Alvin, co-founder of the SoCal greats the Blasters, said he would try to take a long view of American music, with a “set of blues and roots music that celebrates America and its history in all of its glories, tragedies, struggles and triumphs.”
“Some may find the music and lyrics comforting or healing as we head into an uncertain future,” he added. “This is the sort of social and personal healing that music has always strived to achieve.”
Martin Sexton, the Americana singer-songwriter performing at the El Rey Theatre on Friday, had similar hopes for his crowd finding “the unifying and healing power of music.”
“I will address the peaceful transition of power during my show as I remind myself and the audience that we are so much more alike than we are different,” he added.
“No matter what my personal beliefs are, we all love our kids, need clean water and bleed red.”
Fans looking for a more visceral night out have options too. The Prophets of Rage, which boasts members of Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy, are throwing an “anti-inaugural ball” at the Teragram Ballroom. The show is sold out.
Over at the Echoplex, rapper Lizzo will reprise her hit single “Good as Hell” — a song she performed on Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” TV show despite her dashed expectations of a Hillary Clinton election night win.
She told The Times’ Mikael Wood that she welcomes all comers to her concerts — “If you respect me enough to come to my show, I feel a responsibility to include you in what’s going on so you can feel the heartbeat of my struggle,” she said. For many young women trying to find their voices in a difficult political era, the show could be a rare beacon.
The electro-jam band STS9 said that finding joy onstage would be tougher than usual at its Wiltern shows Friday and Saturday nights, but that it had a responsibility to try its best.
“We’ve struggled to find a sufficient way to express what we’re feeling right now,” said guitarist Hunter Brown. “Music is a refuge from everyday life that can also inspire hearts and minds and affect change in the real world. We’re interested in the mix of these seemingly opposing forces.”
“Music holds such an important place in times like these, where we may feel lost,” added bassist Alana Bowden.
Some artists are aiming to provide genuine hope in playing live on what many see as a difficult day.
“It feels exciting, in a way, to live in a time such as this. It can also be frustrating, considering no one seems to want to address it,” said Kera Armendariz of the L.A. folk-punk band Kera and the Lesbians.
The duo plays the Bootleg Theater on Friday, and while the inauguration may dampen some moods, Armendariz hopes a raucous live set may be an inspiration for action as well.
“The reason I wanted to play music was because I’ve witnessed the powerful effect it can have on people, communities and countries,” she said. “I am optimistic, but also see it as my responsibility now to be the strongest artist I can be, and hope to be a positive change in others’ lives.”
Meanwhile, many of the headliners performing at Trump’s celebrations, including Keith and 3 Doors Down, declined to comment.
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