Minnesota Musicians Vote No

Local artists make use of their mics to speak out against marriage inequality and voter repression.

Leah Garaas

Marshall McLuhan was before his time when he coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” This election season, Minnesotan acts are using music as a medium to advocate voting against two amendments on the ballot this year — one proposing that the state recognize marriage as being solely between one man and one woman and the other requiring all voters to have government-issued photo identification.

“Musicians have the ability to get involved in a meaningful and fun way that people will respond to,” said Magic Castles frontman Jason Edmonds. “Artists act as the medium of expression for what society is feeling, so we respond, and that creates hope for the community.”

The voter ID amendment particularly interested the Twin Cities hip-hop scene. Artists formed Face the Vote to act as an instrument for their communities.

The performers, including MaLLy, Toki Wright and I Self Devine, recorded a collaborative four-track EP featuring songs opposing the voter ID amendment. Earlier this month, they released a video for the first single, “Turn Out (Vote No!).” They plan to release two more videos before voting day.

Other artists are performing showcases and donating the proceeds to organizations campaigning against the amendments.

Drew Christopherson, one of the two drummers in Poliça, said the band had to decline the request to perform at the Triple Rock last Friday because they were leaving for London the next day to tour Europe for three weeks — but Christopherson and vocalist Channy Leaneagh still wanted to be involved, so they offered to DJ between sets.

“In high school I started getting into punk rock and that led me to all kinds of causes,” Christopherson said.

Nathan Grumdahl, guitarist for The Bombay Sweets, lives in economically and ethnicallydiverse South Minneapolis. His neighbor, who works as an EMT during the day and a cabbie at night, doesn’t have a state-issued ID with his current address.

“Obviously people are going to lean to the left because of their economic position, but they don’t have time to get an ID,” Grumdahl said.

Grumdahl was raised by a Lutheran minister in the northern suburbs and supported equal rights for same-sex couples at an early age after his aunt came out to his father in the late 1980s. While it was easy for Grumdahl, his father found it hard to accept her sexual orientation.

“But with time,” Grumdahl said, “he rose to the occasion and took an intellectual approach to it. They are on good terms.”

“I think it’s a weakness in our culture when people are fundamentalists. There’s a problem when communities in America are not tolerant of morals in disagreement with their own,” Christopherson said.

Grumdahl encourages Minnesotans to discuss the amendments with friends and family — he knows voters who have shifted their political standpoint within 45-minute phone calls.

“It’s not a political issue to me; it’s a family issue to me. It affects people I care about,” said Grumdahl, “It’s my right to say, ‘Why are you voting that way?’”****