Got my guitar, sleeping bag, jacket, and long johns. Think I'm ready to #takewallstreet.
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Sept 17 at Zuccotti Park
Twitter was my horse and I was Paul Revere. It was September 17, 2011 and I had just witnessed what I could only presume was the spark of revolution. The time had finally come.

After nearly ten years of war and atrocity in Afghanistan and Iraq, the complete plunder of the American economy, the co-opting of our political process by corporate interests (sanctioned by the US Supreme Court), the foreclosures of thousands of homes by predatory banks and financial institutions, and a persistently grim outlook on the job market - after all this and so much more, a small band of opportunistic lower-case anarchists and democrats were about ready to take back the reins of our wayward country, to be the change we wished to see, and to occupy Wall Street all the while, until somebody paid attention. I found myself at the center of the action.

I had waited for this moment at least two years, about the same amount of time that I had been writing protest songs - and these were my own response to the milieu described above. After moving to NYC where injustice, greed, exploitation, materialism, and corruption were unavoidable and unconscionable, I couldn't help but notice the relative silence coming from the arts community, the very people that, as far as I'm concerned, are charged with speaking up, crying out, and standing against institutional violence with Truth, Beauty, Peace, Justice. I found that this silence was most sadly (and ironically) deafening from the music scene. As an aspiring songwriter myself, I felt the great weight of responsibility fall on my feeble shoulders; I began writing protest music.

Nearly two years later, and only one month before the occupation was to begin, I released my first opus of such material on an EP called Protest Songs (Are Dead). Little did I know the perfect venue to perform these songs was soon to crop up in the financial district of Manhattan!

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After seeing the first general assembly at Zuccotti Park on September 17, I tweeted giddily as I picked up what was needed to camp the first night at #OccupyWallStreet. For the following week I occupied the newly-dubbed Liberty Plaza almost 24/7: participating in GAs, marching, playing drums and protest songs, dancing, interviewing, and otherwise building friendship and community with people of struggle - we who would call ourselves the ninety-nine percent.

And that tiny spark, flicked brightly on September 17, ignited a conflagration that quickly spread across the country and the world. I was continually encouraged by the news coming from Liberty Plaza, especially relayed updates from occupations in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and so on. This was indeed a real movement!

But as time passed and our humble occupation grew, so too did the police presence and abuse, tourist interference, and media attention (there was a virtual blackout from corporate media until the mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge). I felt increasingly uncomfortable at the occupation downtown and spent less and less time there, though my solidarity did not dwindle in the slightest. After that first week I only stayed at the park for morning marches, evening GAs, and overnight camping; after three weeks, I only came for certain special occasions.

I spent the time instead tweeting, writing, and supporting the occupation from my home in uptown Manhattan: I started the Zombie Music Campaign (a portion of which will go directly to OWS) and began working occupy visits into the schedule for my Zombie Music Tour to support the new Protest Songs album. On December 4 I started the tour and have since played for occupations in Philly, DC, Asheville and Chattanooga, with many more occupations to come. It has been great to meet with the other occupations, to see the work they are all doing to resist violence and injustice with peace, compassion, and a hopeful vision for the future ever in view.

The Zombie Music Tour continues tonight in Athens and the campaign, still going on now, could really use your support. 50% goes to five great organizations working toward peace and justice, one of which is Occupy Wall Street in NYC. The rest of the money will support the production of the Protest Songs album and tour.

I do hope you'll consider: if you believe in the occupy movement and/or the role of artists and musicians to inspire and speak truth to power, and if you have the slightest amount to contribute to my existential tip jar, then you can make a huge difference as I trek along on my Zombie Music Tour for peace and justice! Please check out this page for more info and I hope you'll consider nudging me along on my journey.

Please also be sure to learn about and support your nearest occupation. It can be very fatiguing out there, especially as smaller occupations meet resistance from police and local governments. Your local occupy needs your support!

Finally, if you're interested in the Protest Songs album, you can download it from iTunes or listen for free on YouTube. I hope you'll check it out!
Thanks so much for your support and solidarity. We are the 100% and we're all in this together.

Peace friends,
Gio

 
 
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I recently finished a new album, an EP called Protest Songs (Are Dead) which is available for free download on NoiseTrade, a great resource for independent musicians such as myself who are trying to expand their fan base and get their music "out there". I want people to have it free of charge. Remember I'm a freegan.

Still, I've received a number of comments from people who actually want to support my music and refuse to download it for free. I get it, we're not all freegan. And you want to support me.  

That's really awesome! 

But I'd still prefer that you guys download my music from noisetrade rather than from iTunes. Here's why:
  1. Noisetrade is awesome and deserves your support!
  2. For every 99 cent purchase you make on iTunes, the artist only gets (at best) 70. If you're going to spend $5 on my album, I'll get all  the money if you leave it as a tip on NoiseTrade! On iTunes I'd only get 3.70 (or something like that.. too tired for math).

Seriously. Try noisetrade.. neither of us will be disappointed!

The album is a cross-section of my oeuvre for the past 1.5 years (now also on iTunes!) and tackles some heavy topics. Be sure to wear your thinking cap!

Despite the ironic title, this album would likely be regarded "protest music" by most people, since it touches on a number of contemporary hot-button issues such as homelessness, immigration, consumerism, exploitation, war, violence, poverty. But it should be noted that the songs don't protest anything. They're not about issues or politics. There really is no social comment (excepting Protest Song and Pax Americana, but what we find there is still not quite protestant in nature). Instead, the songs on this album tell stories about people - a homeless man, an immigrant, sweatshop workers, civilian casualties.

As a songwriter I consider this my primary aim, to tell stories: fiction, non-, and perhaps mostly the space in-between. The songs on this album tell such stories - mostly tragic - of the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, the people and stories that are all-too-often overlooked.
So I consider it among my primary roles as an artist to hold a mirror up to society, revealing some of its faults, some of the places that we are failing to bring hope, peace, and justice to all, especially in times of such great economic hardship.

But holding up a mirror often leads to awkward situations. It's like pointing out when a person has a piece of something stuck in his or her teeth. Nobody likes having an ugly piece of something in his or her teeth, and they hate having it pointed out. It's embarrassing. But it's for this same reason that we are often thankful that a friend will point it out to us. We need to be made aware of the problem so that we can address it.

I've made a similar point about dishes: everybody wants a revolution; nobody wants to do the dishes. They just pile up higher and higher and we refuse to take care of it because "they're not all my dishes!" We fail to realize - or perhaps in our stubbornness refuse to recognize - that it doesn't matter whose dishes they are. What really matters is that there's a sink full of dirty dishes, they're piling over onto the counter and stove top. They are everywhere, they belong to everyone, and sooner or later, somebody's got to deal with them.I believe this is also true of addressing real social maladies. We all want a revolution - or the romantic idea of it - but we don't want to engage in the difficult and sacrificial actions that reconcile us to each other, those things which are truly revolutionary. We are often too lazy, ambivalent, stubborn, or sometimes downright ignorant of the real problems. So we never address them and we don't make any progress.

My new album is a picture of the sink of our society, flowing over with dirty dishes. It's a mirror showing us the broccoli stuck in our teeth. 

In Protest Song I invite my listeners to "boldly look the devil in the face and bring hope, peace, and love where there is violence and hate." In other words, we need to take a long hard look at the sink, put on our gloves, and get to scrubbing! We need to grab a tooth pick or brush and take that itty bitty bit of broccoli to town… except that it's more like we have a whole head of broccoli stuck in our teeth, some really monstrous problems to deal with! Weneed to be the changes in the world we want to see.

These songs are very important to me because they represent a time of great growth as a writer and artist. In the course of the past year and a half I've really discovered what I am called to as an artist. I've discovered that I have a special kind of perspective on the world, that I can see the world in a way that most people can't (or won't) and I've learned how to reflect this world to people in a more constructive way. This has been a difficult learning process. I've engaged many tough conversations with close friends, relatives, fans and supporters that have critiqued my new work and my overall approach in addressing the issues tackled in my songs, especially those on this album. I maintain that there's nothing wrong with pointing out the dirty sink or the piece of broccoli. But I've realized that simply pointing out the bad things in society doesn't get us too far. 

Hopefully it opens peoples' eyes to injustice and increases their capacity for compassion… but does it give them a vision for a different kind of reality? does it inspire them to positive action? are people galvanized and mobilized for the greater good? 

This is where I can really make an impact as an artist in this society; this is what I hope to work toward: to inspire and unite people under an alternative vision for the world and its future, a vision of peace, hope, and justice for all; then to empower them to move forward in solidarity.

This is what I hope to do. This is why Protest Songs Are Dead. I do hope you enjoy the album, always wearing your thinking cap, and beginning to dream up what such an alternative vision might look like! 

Looking forward to dreaming with you and as always wishing you
Peace,
Gio

 
 
I invited readers at my portfolio blog site to ask thoughtful questions about freeganism, to join the discussion. A dear old friend was up to the challenge. From my blog at gandollo.weebly.com:

What kind of a difference exactly are you trying to make? I know what you're trying to change, but how does a "freegan lifestyle" contribute to that change? ... Is there any way to go about making a difference without such radical life changes, or are we so far gone that the only way out is to completely change our lives?

These are great questions! Let's do this people!

Let's start with the real difference freegans are making from day to day. I would cite:
  • Rescuing viable food, clothes, furniture, energy, TIME from the waste stream
  • Feeding ourselves and hungry people in our communities (homeless or otherwise)
  • Educating people about waste and other inherent problems with capitalism, materialism, corporatism; holding up a mirror to these realities which are so deeply engrained and normalized in us
  • Liberating minds and consciences from the hamster wheel of consumerism
  • Otherwise building sustainable community with our neighbors
The truth is - none of these are really a big deal. As my interviewers have been quick to point out, rescuing a few bananas from my local grocery store doesn't stop the deaths of thousands and thousands of hungry people around the world. Showing people the ills of our economic systems - of systemic injustice and waste - won't lead to justice and sustainability.. 

Or will it?

Many people dismiss freeganism as futile because they don't see a direct connection between our activism and the injustices we are reacting to. They don't see it because it isn't there. There is no direct connection. But does that diminish the value of what we do or what we hope to accomplish? Not at all!

This brings us to the real difference we are trying to make, that which freegans really hope to accomplish: to increase the collective consciousness until we determine as a society that
  • The waste is unacceptable
  • Injustice and inequality are unconscionable
  • Our current economic systems and consumptive lifestyles - ostentatiously indulgent and wasteful, built on unchecked exploitation of poor people and the environment - are unsustainable
  • Running the hamster wheel of consumerism is a futile waste of time and energy, but the best things in life really are free!
  • We need each other
To be perfectly clear, one does not have to be a freegan to hold these values, work towards this kind of world, or possess this kind of consciousness. So to answer your final question,freeganism is only one solution, the one that some of us have subscribed to in response to the points above. There are certainly other solutions. Regardless, I can guarantee you that as you embrace the values listed above and respond to them in ways that make sense to you, your life will radically change. You will see that it is impossible to live the way we are expected to live - the way "they" want us to live - while still following our consciences. 

And this is all I really ask of people, that they obey their own conscience. I promise that, in doing so, you will also free your mind, your spirit, your imagination. And we'll gradually become the change in the world we wish to see.