Swing states, get ready to rock.
Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks, Babyface and more than a dozen other stars are fanning out to play concerts in the most hotly contested terrain of the presidential election. MoveOn.org, a group dedicated to defeating President Bush, yesterday announced the "Vote for Change Tour," which will land in 34 cities in nine states.
"The overall message is that we're very unhappy with the direction that George Bush is taking this country," said Laura Dawn, an official with MoveOn. "It's not a publicity stunt. These artists are just concerned American citizens who decided: We can do something about this, so we will."
All proceeds from the shows will benefit America Coming Together, which bills itself as "the largest voter contact program in history." Organizers say it is the largest coalition of musicians ever brought together to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.
It also marks the boldest foray into politics yet by Springsteen, one of the most widely admired pop stars in the world. The Boss famously objected to the use of "Born in the U.S.A." by Ronald Reagan during the 1984 presidential election. But at the recent Democratic convention in Boston, the Democratic nominee entered the FleetCenter with "No Surrender," a track from the very same album, blasting over the loudspeakers.
"I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been onstage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last 25 years, and not taken part in this particular election," Springsteen said in a news release yesterday.
A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign sounded less than impressed with the tour and had some harsh words for MoveOn.
"All the showbiz in the world isn't going to get John Kerry elected," said Terry Holt. "And remember, in his acceptance speech last week, John Kerry called for substantive debate. Well, MoveOn is a group organized around the mission to defeat George Bush and they do so with some controversial and out-of-bounds name-calling."
Performers on the "Vote for Change Tour" will work together in several multi-artist mini-tours that will travel around the country simultaneously. Springsteen, for instance, will headline a bill with an undercard featuring R.E.M., John Fogerty and an indie band called Bright Eyes. The Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5 and My Morning Jacket will team up; the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor will work together; a group called Death Cab for Cutie will open for Pearl Jam; Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Keb' Mo will tour together, as will John Mellencamp and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.
All the shows are scheduled to take place between Oct. 1 and 8. Citizens of solidly blue or solidly red states are out of luck. The tours will only reach cities in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Missouri. Ticket prices have not been established.
MoveOn hopes the shows will galvanize young voters against the current administration as well as bulk up the organization's membership rolls. At present the group claims 2.5 million members, and Dawn, the MoveOn official, said that 20,000 people joined yesterday upon hearing about the tour.
"All you need to do to join," said Dawn, "is send us your e-mail address."