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music: Macrock Gets Political

Jazz rockers Modern Groove Syndicate, pictured, and acoustic hillbilly act The Mules/Shiners represented Richmond at the conference, now in its fifth year.

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Jazz rockers Modern Groove Syndicate and acoustic hillbilly act The Mules/Shiners represented Richmond at the conference, now in its fifth year.

Thousands of people came from Chicago, North Carolina, New York and Richmond — with less than 10 percent of the attendees being JMU students, according to a staff member.

When not watching bands, Macrock visitors had a chance to sit in on panels, most about issues facing musicians like booking shows, but there was also one about the war. Politically minded Ian Mckaye of Fugazi held a question and answer period late Saturday. Representatives from independent labels, such as Jade Tree and Iodine, were also represented, talking to attendees and selling merchandise.

More than 100 acts performed at Macrock including, Fairweather, Converge, Q and Not U, Ida, Mr. Lif and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. It was hard to gauge the popularity of some bands, whether they were established or a new group whose greatest achievement to date was completing the application to perform at the conference.

The Friday night show at Court Square Theater offered eccentric pop and low-key rock music including, Mirah, Mountain Goats and the psychedelic oddballs Of Montreal, who sang lines of Edwin Starr's "War" between songs.

Bro. Danielson, frontman for the chirpy, religiously inspired Danielson Famile, wore a tree costume while he sang and played guitar at piercing decibals. He insisted that his performance that night be a sing-a-long, so an overheard projector displayed sheets of lyrics on a screen. It wasn't apparent how funny he wanted to be, but the audience laughed at his vocal style as much as they sang his choruses.

One Saturday afternoon forum was about media democracy and featured representatives of Radio Volta and the Lost Film Fest, both Philadelphia-based media outlets, and Hactivist/Carbon Defense League, a group that promotes using available resources for creative activism. The audience asked questions about how to obtain and use cheap sound equipment — "anywhere and anyhow" were the answers, — and the future of public-owned radio. The panel also stressed the importance of independent media. Radio Volta gave away copies of the Philadelphia Independent, which carried the headline, "WAR KILLS PEOPLE."

Macrock's purpose is to help connect those working with college radio stations and independent music by providing a place to play and a forum to express themselves. An event like this is only as effective as the people who participate, and it served to show that after the kids have decided which ironic T-shirts to wear, they're probably thinking about something more important.

— Kelly Gerow

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