Punk Rockers Kick Off Anti-Bush Tour

Punk rock bands are hitting Portland this weekend to kick off a national anti-President Bush concert (search) tour laced with appearances in swing states.

The bands probably won't have much appeal to middle-of-the-road swing voters. But if the election is as close as the one in 2000, don't count out the kids in Mohawks, black leather and multiple piercings.

"I do believe a song can change the world, because people are inspired by music," said Justin Sane, one of the punk rockers who will appear in Portland. "There is a lot of emotion tied up in this presidential race. People are feeling the need to express themselves." Sane is lead singer and vocalist for Anti-Flag (search).

At the same time, some of the biggest figures in music — Bruce Springsteen, the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam and a dozen other acts — will launch their own concert tour next week to raise money and good vibes for the Democrats. They will begin with a Sept. 27 concert in Seattle, the closest the tour comes to Oregon, headlined by Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt.

Bush's own musical soundtrack was on display at the Republican National Convention, where country performers were given a bigger spotlight than the party's congressional leaders. Among them: Sara Evans, a singer and part-time Oregon resident.

In many ways, this should come as no surprise. In a culture where "Entertainment Tonight" is far more popular than "Politics Today," campaigns are increasingly reaching out for celebrity endorsements of any kind. And many musicians, who often are social commentators in their own right, think they have a lot to say this year.

Sane and other artists active in punkvoter.com say they think they can influence thousands of young people who aren't normally inclined to vote. Their Web site attracts 500,000 viewers a month. The political group's first CD, "Rock Against Bush," (search) sold 300,000 copies, and the second volume has passed the 70,000 mark, said Scott Goodstein, punkvoter.com's spokesman.

Republicans in the music business talked about launching their own tour, said Craig Schelske, husband of Evans, the country singer. The couple and their two children — soon to be three — split their time between Nashville and a Willamette Valley farm.

But Schelske, who ran for the Republican nomination in Oregon's 5th Congressional District two years ago, said the consensus among Republicans was that a political tour wouldn't sway many voters and that the artists could alienate many of their fans.

The Democratic concert tour "will be interesting to watch because nobody has done this before, but my gut is the impact is going to be nominal," Schelske said.

Aging shock rocker Alice Cooper (search) — who happens to be a Bush supporter — put it another way when he expressed disgust with the political concert tours.

"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for," Cooper told the Edmonton Sun in August, "you're a bigger moron than they are."