During her last visit to our fair burg, singer-songwriter Iris DeMent created a tempest in a teensy teacup when she refused to perform.
Her reason? According to the "World Socialist Web Site" she couldn't perform "while the U.S. was pursuing war in Iraq." She told the crowd: "It would be trivializing the fact that my tax dollars are causing great suffering, and sending a message to the world that might is right."
This was slightly post-Dixie Chicks, so DeMent got some angry right-wing talk-radio mentions. She also engendered some bad will among attendees by refusing to perform only after the opening act had finished. Meaning the audience was already in attendance, having spent their post-tax dollars on tickets, dinner, babysitters and the Barrymore's fine collection of beverages and movie snacks.
I don't understand this at all. DeMent was here, in not-so-pro-war Madison, playing to a bunch of people (600, as estimated by the socialists) who knew her emotional antiwar reputation, so it's unlikely they'd complain if she called Dick Cheney a goober in between songs.
But my main beef: She's a folksinger! If there is one form of expression better than the sandwich board, bumper sticker or mildly obscene T-shirt to voice one's antiwar, anti-Bush stance, it's folk music! Wartime is the folk-music Super Bowl, when all those years of covering "Blowin' in the Wind" finally matter. Why not channel that angst into a stirring anthem? She already rhymed "might" and "right," just riff off that! It'd be like an orchestra refusing to play because there are too many Valkyries swarming overhead.
Given that DeMent has since released an album, is touring again and is not in jail for tax evasion, my guess is she found a way to reconcile her ideals with her career and the continuing Iraqi quagmire. And good for her, because I used to really enjoy her minor role among the Emmylou Harrises and Lucinda Williamses of the folk-roots pantheon. And while eccentricity has its place (I have seen Victoria Williams angrily bicker with her husband onstage, twice), dereliction of hippie-folk-music duty does not.
Can she make it up to Madison? We'll see, but beware: We're being increasingly bellicose with Iran right now, and let's not forget Syria. I'd wait until after the first set to buy the snacks.