Tara Nevins, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for New Yorkers Donna the Buffalo, admits that her band is “not overly political,” but with campaign season in full swing for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, it may be time to add a little bit of social commentary to their popular mix of Americana music. And there’s no better way to do that than with a little tour with Peter Rowan entitled The Stampede.
Hitting the Highline Ballroom in NYC tonight, the tour doesn’t just feature the two acts, but will also see a brief talk from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben Jerry’s and the man who organized everything in order to tell people about The Stampede, which was created to raise awareness to the inappropriate use of corporate money in politics. Said Cohen in a press release announcing the eight-state tour, “Since 2000, special interest groups have poured over $11 billion into federal elections. The absurd level of money in politics from corporations and billionaires is raping and corrupting our democracy. The Stampede is a demonstration of public outrage and it’s working.”
It didn’t take much convincing, if any, for Nevins and company to jump on board as well.
“The message resonated with us,” she said. “I’m not an overly political person, and you’re not going to be hearing me talking about politics all day every day. But I’m all about fairness, democracy and what seems right and feels right, and I think his message is great. Why should you be able to cut a check for four million dollars to so and so and you get all this access and all this bribery potential? It doesn’t go along with democracy and the way things are supposed to be run.
“Big money in politics is a big problem and it has been for a long time,” Nevins continues. “You have people running for office and fundraising, and the elite – who are the rich – can afford a lobbyist or to cut some big campaign checks. And what happens is when they do that, they gain influence and they gain access that we don’t have. And that’s not very democratic in a country that is supposed to be about democracy, and it’s not very fair. It used to be that only a private person could donate, and they put a cap on it of $2500. Corporations were not even allowed to donate, and then in 2010, the amendment was changed to where corporations were allowed to donate, there was no cap on it.”
During the tour stops, attendees can buy Stampede rubber stamps for a suggested donation of $5. The idea is to stamp bills and get them in circulation. According to the organization’s website, each stamped bill reaches 875 people, and over 50,000 stampers have joined up since the start of the campaign. And while it’s a serious topic with an important message, Nevins doesn’t want to take away from the fun part of the tour either.
“I think people want to come out and they want to have fun, and I think they do shy away from politics, but what I want to make clear is that this is not about whether you’re Republican or Democrat, this is not about who your favorite candidate is,” she said. “It’s about what we’re about – we’re not trying to push candidates. It’s about the basic rule of politicking and what it’s become. But we’re planning on having a very ‘party on wheels’ tour that’s inspiring, and we want to get everybody to buy these stamps. You stamp your money and the money gets in circulation, and because of that, it’s a great way to spread the word and help Ben Cohen in his efforts to spread the word and get this amendment changed.”
It’s a great cause coming at a key time, but unfortunately, in this day and age, you have to wonder if people still care, especially when “Deez Nuts” can make the nightly news as trending high in the polls.
“I think people feel a little bit powerless to change something like that because the corporations with their money, they’re just so big. So it’s just easier to get involved with your day-to-day life, which is stressful and busy,” Nevins said. “I think people care, but at this point they’re a little bit desperate. I consider myself somewhat apolitical. I’m more about humans, human nature, living right, treating people right, and politics puts an ugly spin on everything, and typically, no matter who is president, some people are becoming disgruntled. There’s always something that’s not right.”
But any attempt at making a positive change is a good one, and if Donna and the Buffalo can get that across to at least one person, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We’ve been playing music for a long time, music is the universal language that we all know, and we’re not an overly political band, but we have a message to a lot of our songs, a message about basic, positive aspects of human potential, and this seems like a perfect fit,” she said. “It’s very timely with this election coming up, so what more perfect time to try to draw a little attention to this particular issue? But it’s not gonna be some kind of stodgy, political rally, believe me.”
Donna the Buffalo play the Highline Ballroom in NYC tonight, Thursday, November 12. For tickets, click here