Drawing attention to social problems Concerts: These singers' benefit tours raise money and consciousness.

September 23, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

The story on the No Nukes concerts in yesterday's Today section gave incorrect days and venue for the shows. They are tonight(Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls and John Trudell) and tomorrow (Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter and John Trudell) at the Warner Theatre, 13th Street (between E and F streets) N.W., Washington. Both shows are at 7: 30 p.m. Call 410-481-7328 for tickets or 202-783-4000 for information.

Some folks, upon hearing that Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls TC and Mary Chapin Carpenter would be playing a series of No Nukes benefit concerts in Washington this week, probably thought to themselves: "Cool. Where can I get tickets?"

Others, however, may have wondered: "No Nukes? Didn't they take care of that back in the '70s?"

Don't worry. Bonnie Raitt understands. "Until there's an accident, people don't listen to stories about the nuclear issue in America," she says. "They think it's a dead issue."


It's not. In fact, there are bills pending in Congress right now that would establish nuclear waste dumps in Yucca Mountain, Nev., and Sierra Blanca, Texas. Moreover, says Raitt, even if those particular sites don't seem worrisome because they happen to be in somebody else's backyard, that waste would at some point pass through 43 states on its way to the proposed dumps.

"I don't think the public is aware of the fact that this stuff is going to be transported to all these places," says Raitt. "They're talking about 15,000 to 80,000 shipments over the next 30 years. I don't think anybody even knows that this is going on."

That's where Raitt and her fellow musicians come in. "Part of the reason that we do things like these concerts is to draw attention," she says. It's kind of like the function of the troubadours back in the old days. Before there were newspapers, they were kind of the town criers. It was the artist in the forefront, yelling when there's something that needs to be yelled about."

These No Nukes concerts will raise money to fight against two bills creating nuclear waste dumps that are pending in the House. Besides the concerts, the musicians will be holding a press conference today and lobbying for their cause in Congress.

Raitt and the others aren't just interested in raising money. They want to raise public consciousness, too. "[Nuclear power] is an ongoing issue, and the reason for the events to be regular is to draw attention to the cause, not just ourselves," she says. "It's nice to throw money at a situation that needs money, but [it's important] to keep organizations that are fighting for the cause working."

That sort of ground-level activism is also what keeps the Indigo Girls involved in such issues. "I've always been interested in politics," says Amy Ray, one half of the duo. "When I was in high school, I was into student government and things like that. I was into being involved, in the idea that you can change things. But my world vision was very undeveloped."

That changed when Ray went to college. But for her, the catalyst wasn't classes on public policy, but the lyrics of punk rock bands like the Clash. "It was kind of like [it is] for some kids who listen to Rage Against the Machine now. Maybe you hear [the band's singer] do an interview where he mentions [social theorist] Noam Chomsky, and so you read a Noam Chomsky book. I can't remember specifics, but I do remember as I started getting into some of this other music, there were a lot of political things that came with it."

One issue the Indigo Girls have worked for in recent years has been Native American rights. Part of the reason they're involved in this No Nukes benefit is to fight HR Bill 1270, which would create a radioactive waste site on the grounds of a Shoshone reservation near Yucca Mountain.

"There's a very strong issue of racism here," says Raitt. "When mainstream America doesn't want [nuclear waste] in its backyard, the government decides to bribe Native Americans to take it."

As Ray points out, social issues are often interrelated. "When we really started to work with a lot of these Indian activists on our Honor the Earth benefit tours, that was a big thing," she says. "Because it didn't just bring in indigenous rights and stuff like that; it brought in big ideas about NAFTA and colonialism and imperialism and patriarchal societies. Everything came into the picture."

Raitt is glad to see such activism at work but wishes more musicians got involved with these issues. "I need to get Puff Daddy on the No Nukes side. Radiation is going to affect a lot more people than just over-40 political activists."

Two concerts

What: No Nukes Benefit Concerts

When: 7: 30 tonight with Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls and John Trudell; tomorrow at 7: 30 p.m. with Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rodney Crowell and John Trudell

Where: DAR Constitution Hall, 18th and D streets N.W., Washington

Tickets: Sold out for first show; $42.50 for second

Call: 410-481-7328 for tickets; 202-783-4000 for information

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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