It's been more than 10 years since Rage Against the Machine released an album, but guitarist Tom Morello is still kicking up shit as the Nightwatchman, his folksinger alter ego who has more in common with Woody Guthrie than the punk and metal bands that influenced Rage. Back in February, Morello led a protest concert in Wisconsin against the state's clampdown on collective-bargaining rights. Now he's just launched the Justice Tour, which is playing all of three dates — including one at the Grog Shop on Tuesday.
"It's all about the working people," says Morello. "There's so much disinformation and propaganda around these issues. It's important to refocus on who's on the side of poor and working-class men and women."
The acoustic show — which also features Rise Against's Tim McIlrath and the MC5's Wayne Kramer — benefits the Nation Institute, an independent media center that broadcasts "broader truths than those spoon-fed to us by the major media outlets," as Morello puts it. The concerts put the spotlight on union struggles around the country (the other two shows are in union-heavy Madison, Wisconsin, and Flint, Michigan). "The unions are the last line of defense against a nation that's going to be of, by, and for the corporations," says Morello. "Who do we have on our side? Exxon?"
Morello's pro-union fight comes from a very real place. He was raised by his mom, who was able to "put enough food on the table because she was a unionized teacher."
On World Wide Rebel Songs, Morello's new album as the Nightwatchman, every song is a call to arms against the corporate hogs out to crush the working man (see Playback for a review). "Music has always been a crucial component of every successful social-justice struggle in the United States," he says. "Music speaks to a truth."
ANTE UP OR FOLD: Ante Up Audio, the downtown studio where artists have laid down tracks since 2004, closed its doors a couple weeks ago. Owner Michael Seifert says he just got tired of all the headaches.
DOWN ON THE FARM: The Daytrotter Barnstormer Tour isn't horsing around with that name. The traveling caravan of indie rockers plays in actual barns in remote locales across the country. The tour, which features some of Daytrotter's favorite indie rockers, comes to the Conrad Botzum Farmstead Barn in Akron on Wednesday, August 31, with White Rabbits, Doug Paisley, and Princeton headlining. Learn more at botzum.org/site/.
PHLEX APPEAL: Rephlex Records, the electronic-music label started by genre giant Aphex Twin in 1991, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a U.K. tour. The show is also hitting a couple of U.S. dates, with a stop at the B Side Liquor Lounge on Monday. Apparently, some of the artists played the Grog Shop back in 2002 (back when people were still calling the music the Next Big Thing) and dug it, so tour organizers contacted local promoters about playing here again. (The B Side is located below the Grog.) Dave Monolith, Aleksi Perala, Soundmurderer, and Jodey Kendrick (among others) are scheduled to perform. It's a rare chance to see some of the world's best electronic artists on one small stage — and a perfect cap to your Labor Day weekend.
BURIED TREASURE: Did you catch the movie Hanna's Gold last year? Didn't think so, since it never played theatrically in the States. No big loss, but you did miss "Just Because You're Gone" by the Kent band Color in December. The movie just came out on DVD, so you can now hear their blast of hooky pop-punk, during a party scene early on. Hanna's Gold is about a pair of Beverly Hills sisters who head to the mountains in search of buried treasure. And speaking of Beverly Hills, Luke Perry is probably the only name you'll recognize in the movie. Meanwhile, Color in December are at work on an album that should be out by the end of the year.
WIDE AWAKE: Youngstown indie rockers Asleep just wrapped recording on their new album with legendary noise architect and all-around pain in the ass Steve Albini. Unpleasant Companion, which will be released next month, was recorded at Albini's Electrical Audio studio in Chicago (it's being mastered in Chicago too, but will be pressed in Cleveland). Since Albini has always had a problem with the "producer" label, he's given an "engineer" credit on the album, which means he basically pushed the "record" button as the band started playing. The music bears Albini's hallmarks of thick, distorted guitar and a full, live sound, best heard on the Pixies' Surfer Rosa and Nirvana's In Utero. It sounds right at home here.
Singer-songwriter Zach's new album Luminosity is all about finding light within the darkness. He recorded it to help get through the long, gloomy winter we had here. On Friday he releases the record at the Gothic Building in downtown Akron. Despite the grim name of the place, Zach promises a festive affair, which will convert the bottom floor of the building into a "Luminosity Experience." Fans are encouraged to dress in bright clothes and bring glow sticks and other shiny things to light up the show. Zach will be doing his part by bringing his band the Bright Lights. So if you're into wearing black everything and being all depressed and shit, you may want to find something else to do that night.