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Stateside with Rosalea: Patti Smith


Stateside with Rosalea

Patti Smith - Sunday 15 June 2003

By Rosalea Barker

It's a relief to get back inside and sit down at my typewriter... I've just been standing in the sun for three hours at a local park. Patti Smith and her band played for a large part of that time and the concert was broadcast live on KPFA, Pacifica Radio. It's one of the opening shots in what will be a summer of protests, the like of which has not been seen for thirty years. Think about it - there's an unpopular war on and a presidential election in the offing. It suits many people's purposes to encourage the protests against the occupation of Iraq.

But basically, it was a grand excuse for the locals to get out in the sunshine on a beautiful day. Locals in the Bay Area come in all permutations and combinations - it's where you'll see a lady with nose rings, facial hair and green dreads followed by a young woman in a demure red cotton dress with pull-thread ornamentation. Moms and dads with kids alongside moms and moms with kids and dads and dads with kids. T-shirts that say "I'm not you - get over it", "The people's republic of Cork", and "Don't mess with Texas".

Touts go around with newspapers like Street Spirit (sold by the homeless to raise money to get a bed for the night), Revolutionary Worker, and the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. It would all be something of a time warp were it not for the folks handing out Dennis Kunicich tapes and literature, and the clean-cut guys getting signatures on a petition to stop the petition to recall California's governor Gray Davis.

One of them came up to me and asked if I'd sign, and I said "What's it for?" "To stop the Republicans," he replied. I pointed out that I'm not a citizen and the form has the words "registered voters only" written in big black letters down the side. He said, "Oh don't worry about that. That's just the paper they printed it on." I declined to sign and he walked away before I could get a look at what the petition said. For all I know it was the actual petition in *favour* of recalling the governor and he and his mates were having a little fun with the sun-dazed hippies, who are all now so old and doddery - like myself - that they might just sign anything if you use the "R" word.

But... to the music. I got there after the first band had played but caught a wonderful Latin band, Los Mocosos, whose name means "Los Mocosos". You'll find information about them at the Six Degrees Records website. I don't know if they're still recording for that label but their third abum will be out soon. Six Degrees describes them as "a San Francisco barrio rock band in the great tradition of War, Santana and Malo". Don't forget what's happening here at home, the lead singer said, as he introduced a song entitled The Beast, which is about the San Francisco police. But mostly their music and their philosophy is all about fun. If there's such a genre as Latin ska, then they're it.

After a few more speeches from the ANSWER folks - "Jobs and education NOT war and occupation" - who'd organised the free concert, Patti Smith and her band came on stage. We're all volunteers, she said, and it's volunteers who'll make the movement against the warmongers grow. "We can't stop. We have to be a thorn in their f'ing side for the rest of their f'ing lives. And if we can't stop 'em, they'll never forget us."

Her band then opened with a surge of music that welled up like the waves on a West Coast surf beach. I'm no afficionado but I recognized most of what the band performed: Ask the Angels, Dancing Barefoot, Because the Night, Pissing in a River, She. Over the introduction to her final song, she held up an American flag and said: "I charge George Bush and his cronies with desecrating our flag. We'll reclaim it from those motherf'ers." The song was People are the Power.

George W. Bush will be speaking at a fundraiser at the San Francisco Airport Marriott on Friday June 27.

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