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Prophets of Rage is going on tour — and the home of the Republican convention is among its first stops

Prophets of Rage is going on tour — and the home of the Republican convention is among its first stops
Prophets of Rage performs May 31 at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The Republican National Convention just got a lot louder.

Prophets of Rage — the politically minded new supergroup that combines members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill — will play Cleveland's Agora Ballroom on July 19, the Los Angeles Times has learned, a day after Republicans gather in the Ohio city to formally nominate their candidate for president. The RNC runs through July 21.

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The band also is taking its message on the road with an arena tour set to begin Aug. 19 in Fairfax, Va.

The gig during the convention recalls a famously rowdy concert Rage Against the Machine played during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000, in which that band's frontman, Zack de la Rocha, proclaimed that "our democracy has been hijacked."

But now, said guitarist Tom Morello, the stakes are even higher.

"Our country is on the brink of chaos," said Morello, who's joined in Prophets of Rage by two of his old bandmates — bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk — along with rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill.

"And I'm a person who's always trying to have a political impact through my vocation, which is music. So we believe we can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. It's time to make America rage again."

We believe we can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. It’s time to make America rage again


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If that bit of sloganeering conjures Donald Trump and his promise to "make America great again," that's no coincidence.

Last week, at Prophets of Rage's debut show at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood, the group took direct aim at the GOP's presumptive nominee with a bitterly raucous new song called "The Party's Over." Morello also wore a red baseball cap that lampooned Trump's familiar campaign item.

In an interview, the guitarist called the RNC "a historic crucible" that demands "all people of good conscience show up to protest." Yet he was quick to add that the band isn't endorsing a particular candidate.

"A lot of Trump's followers are absolutely correct in their assessment that the system is broken," he said. "In my view they're being waylaid by a racist demagogue. But the underlying suspicion of a broken democracy — of a system that is failing to meet the basic needs of the people who live under it — is very real.

"This music doesn't have an ideological litmus test to listen to it," Morello continued. "It's for everybody — Republican, Democrat, independent and anarchist — who feels deep down that the system is messed up."

Beyond "The Party's Over," the Prophets of Rage repertoire includes reworked versions of Rage Against the Machine songs (including "Bulls on Parade," "Guerrilla Radio" and "Killing in the Name") as well as tracks by Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. At the Whisky the band also covered "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys.

"It's a different sense of urgency," Chuck D said of rapping over the players' live accompaniment. "When Tim, Brad and Tom get together, it's one of those things where the planets just line up right."

Complete tour dates are expected to be announced Monday, with shows scheduled through mid-October. Prophets of Rage will play the Forum in Inglewood on Sept. 15.

Asked what the band hopes to accomplish in Cleveland and on tour, Morello said his goal is to "present a set of ideas that encourages more than debate — that encourages action. How has history changed in the past, whether it's women getting the right to vote or during the civil rights movement? It's people standing up for their rights in a variety of ways: using their intellect, using their feet on the pavement, sometimes using their fists.

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"This historical moment demands a radical soundtrack, and that's what we intend to provide."

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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