“…The highest point of living life, is being engaged with the world around you. Not just sitting back and taking note of history, taking note of what happened, but being part of making what happens. – Boots Riley
Chicago, IL - Friday was a difficult day for many Chicago activists. First, news broke that although the “NATO 3” were acquitted of federal terrorism charges, the three protesters were convicted of “mob action” and “possessing an incendiary device,” charges likely to carry heavy prison sentences. Second, exactly one week had passed since three of the MICATS were convicted on multiple felony counts for temporarily halting construction at an Enbridge construction site in nearby Michigan. And third, it was a cold, grey day in the city, the kind of day in late winter that makes Chicagoans, activist and non-activist alike, yearn for spring.
In tears on a bus. Phone’s about to die. A million thoughts and feelings. #NATO3
— Feminist Bully (@bullhorngirl) February 7, 2014
However, Friday night brought a much-needed boost to the spirits of those assembled at Reggie’s Rock Club. The crowd at the local venue was treated to an inspirational show of music and light, as Boots Riley and The Coup teamed up with the Overpass Light Brigade and Overpass Light Brigade – Chicago.
Reggie’s was packed for the show, which featured Environmental Encroachment, Agents of Change, and Phillip Morris in addition to the headliner from Oakland, the Coup. The performances were spectacular, and made particularly moving by the political consciousness displayed by those on stage. Several bands gave shout-outs to the NATO 3, and Boots Riley gave props to the Chicago Teacher’s Union as well.
The visual crescendo of the evening came during the first chords of “Guillotine.” As the song began, LED letters started appearing at the right side of the stage. Members of the audience stepped forward to accept letters, and then climbed to the stage one by one. The line between audience and performer blurred as the collective message was revealed in soft pinpoints of light. Phillip Morris, a Minneapolis rapper who tore it up with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” posted this about the show: “The Coup crushed it as the headlining act, and they brought the Overpass Light Brigade up onstage with them to display the word “REVOLUTION” across the entire stage, which was probably my favorite part of the show.”
Boots Riley and Silk E worked their magic in front of the illuminated message. Camera phones and iPads flashed as the delighted audience captured the moment to share with friends and loved ones. As his performance drew to a close, Boots thanked the OLB for the work they have done and continue to do. However, what made the evening truly special was not the mere presence of lighted letters, but the collaboration between two groups committed to fighting the takeover of our democracy by a moneyed few, and the blending together of their respective art forms to form something new, uplifting and powerful.
More photos from the evening can be found here.