On Monday January 28 the annual Big Day Out music festival was held at Melbourne’s Flemington Race Course. Organisers report that over 40,000 fans were drawn to the event, which was headlined by the most revolutionary rock band in the world – Rage Against the Machine.
An electric enthusiasm ran through the crowd from the moment the gates opened. All around the race course snatches of conversation about ‘Rage’ could be heard throughout the day. Thousands of people turned up to the event wearing Rage Against the Machine t-shirts.
By the time Rage were about to walk onto the main stage late in the day, the audience was on the verge of eruption. People were attempting to climb speaker scaffolding and some climbed to the top of the bar tent roof, just to get a glimpse of the famous band.
As the curtain was pulled back, a massive back drop of a red star was revealed. The worker’s anthem of The Internationale, played in the background.
The crowd responded with a massive roar. As the band walked on stage, lead singer, Zack de la Rocha said “Hi, We’re Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles” and launched into Testify, a song about the capitalist controlled media’s grip on people’s knowledge and it’s distortion of what is really happening in the world.
Rage continued through several more crowd favorites such as Bulls on Parade, Renegades of Funk and Bombtrack all delivering various messages about resistance, poverty, war and hunger, and their relationship to the capitalist system. Renegades of Funk in particular has a strong underlying theme about the masses of poor, working and oppressed people being the ones who can actually change the world.
Despite the clear revolutionary messages and stance of these songs, and the huge enthusiasm of the crowd, the level of consciousness amongst many of those cheering lagged behind the meaning of the lyrics. Despite this, Rage’s influence is a very positive one, pushing people to the left and helping to highlight serious issues facing society.
Following these songs on the set list were, Bullet in your Head, Know Your Enemy, Tire Me and Guerilla Radio. These songs make many of the same points that socialists make about the ruling class controlling the flow of information through the media and attempting to influence the masses to be compliant with their system.
Next was Calm like a Bomb, a song that is inspired by the struggle of the Zapatista’s in Chiapas, Mexico. This song links this struggle to global capitalism and the many similar situations around the world. “Pick a point on the globe, Yes the pictures the same
Theres a bank, theres a church, a myth and a hearse. A mall and a loan, a child dead at birth” are lyrics from one of the verses that emphasize these points.
The rest of the songs played were Sleep now in The Fire, Wake Up, Freedom and Killing in the Name Of. Zack even stopped in an interlude of Wake Up to give a short explanation of how imperialism breeds war, saying that “the current wars are not products of corrupt politicians and bad decisions, but of the entire system”.
Another point made in beautiful poetic style by Zack in Sleep now in the Fire when he raps “For its the end of history, Its caged and frozen still, There is no other pill to take, So swallow the one, That made you ill”.
What Zack is saying here is that the capitalists would have us believe, that history has hit it’s end in the epoch of capitalism after progressing through many phases, from Slavery to Feudalism, and that based upon this we just have to put up with the capitalist system from here on end, as the ‘pill that made us ill’, because there is ‘no other pill’ (i.e. socialism).
Rage’s lyrics are fantastic and so is their music. This makes for an inspiring show which softens the political ground for socialists and all anti-capitalists to raise these issues amongst the thousands of young people who attended.
Many people are drawn to Rage Against The Machine by their themes of resistance and fighting back. This shows a mood that exists under the surface in society for change. The challenge for socialists is to shift the support for revolutionary music into support for building revolutionary organisations that will change the world for the better.
By Kirk Leonard