While most were enjoying the eclectic sounds of Jack White, those of us who couldn’t make it into the show were left searching for an equally intriguing performance. While at SXSW you look forward to those moments when you become a part of something special and for those of us at the Occupy SXSW Showcase that special moment was led by Tom Morello. While the show had special guests and Tom did lay tribute to “The Boss”, it wasn’t until he led the crowd into the streets that the show really kicked off.
For those of you that don’t know Tom Morello is a bit of a political artist, and given the chance he will always make a statement. While Morello was a part of the events at SXSW that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to speak to the fact that it doesn’t always cater to his fan base. Before taking the show to the streets he asked the crowd to hold up their badges, then made a statement about his fans crowding the venue’s doorway. Morello had set up a projector above the entrance and a PA was feeding the show to the onlookers outside. Those of which couldn’t afford the high-priced SXSW badge or wristband were just happy to be a little closer the action.
When I first arrived, the word in the street was that Tom was going to do some sort of demonstration and unlike most of the rumors at SXSW, this one would prove to be true. As the band began to wind down Morello picked up an acoustic guitar and pointed its head toward the Swan Dive’s entrance, and then it began. Backed by members of Outer National, Morello lead the crowd in a sing along of what he thought was the most fitting for The Occupy movement. This song was “This Land is Our Land” and the crowd in the streets were ready to give it new meaning. In between verses Morello would speak about the change he hoped to see in world. I would quote the statements, but out of context they seem to lose their true meaning. This sing along was as powerful as it was moving. When the police pulled the plug the music didn’t stop as Morello used the power of the “mic check” to amplify his sound.
This moment will remain as one of my favorites of SXSW for years to come. While Jack White may have had Bill Murray, Morello had a movement and a cause that will ring on with more than celebrity sightings. With Morello’s words ringing though my head I walked back to the hotel with a new energy and meaning. That is the kind of feeling that will never be recreated. The best part of all of this was that the message was received peacefully. While I don’t think my last night at SXSW will top my experience at the Occupy SXSW Showcase, I have hopes that it will.
story and photos by Ryan Davis