billybraggbumbershoot1.jpg
Laura Musselman
Who: Billy Bragg

When: 8:30 p.m.

Where: Starbucks Stage

Anyone hoping that Bumbershoot 2010 would be an escape from the rigors and stresses

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Bumbershoot Review: Billy Bragg Needs Only a Guitar and a Message to Prove He's a Badass

billybraggbumbershoot1.jpg
Laura Musselman
Who: Billy Bragg

When: 8:30 p.m.

Where: Starbucks Stage

Anyone hoping that Bumbershoot 2010 would be an escape from the rigors and stresses of the Great Recession, the epidemic of global poverty, or the polarization of American politics would have been disappointed by Billy Bragg's amazing, inspired set Sunday night. The famously political singer held nothing back during his set Sunday night: taking the stage with only his electric guitar--his common set-up these days--Bragg sang and delivered mini-speeches about capitalism, war, and global politics for more than an hour. Here are his most badass moments.

1. He covered Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home In This World Anymore," and made it feel topical and fresh. Bragg began paying tribute to Guthrie a decade ago when he recorded Mermaid Avenue, but there's no better time than now for Guthrie's Depression-era songs. As Bragg pointed out before launching into this song about losing everything, the lyrics about a world "where the gambling man is rich/ and the working man is poor" could have been written any time in the last 18 months.

2. He made fun of Starbucks. Repeatedly. While performing on the Starbucks-sponsored stage, Bragg cracked jokes about how ridiculous the coffee sizing is ("Why is the smallest sized called tall?") and pretending that the company's founder was named Mr. Starbucks. "I'm damned if I'm going to drink coffee on this stage," he said, and drank tea instead (it was Throat Coat, if you're curious) while declaring his affinity for the beverage does not mean he endorses a political party favored by Glenn Beck.

3. He called "democratic capitalism" and "self regulation" oxymorons. Bragg then drove home his point about a broken, greedy economic system by singing "NWPA (No Power Without Accountability)."

4. He convinced the crowd to sing along and perform orchestrated arm movements to a song about African poverty. Bragg re-wrote Bob Marley's "One Love" as a protest song about the debt imposed by the IMF and World Bank on African nations. He then acted out arm motions to the lyrics--"One love" (point to the sky)/ "One Heart" (point to your heart)/ "Let's drop the debt" (point downward)/ "And it will be alright" (give the thumbs up)--and the crowd followed.

5. This statement: "If any of you are going around thinking Obama is as bad as Bush, you have very short memories."

6. He ended his set with hope. Bragg's second to last song was "I Keep Faith," a mellow semi-ballad about believing the people's ability to change the world.

 
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