By Erica Rivera
November 15, 2019
t’s about time the planet got its own musical fundraiser. On Saturday at the O’Shaughnessy, Band Together will humanize the climate change crisis through an evening of music, storytelling, and activism with ticket proceeds benefiting Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. The non-profit’s mission is to empower individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.
The headliner is 19-year-old Xiuhtezcatl, an indigenous rapper and climate change activist from Colorado. As the youth director of his family’s organization, Earth Guardians, he trains youth to lead and act on environment issues. He is also one of the 21 youth plaintiffs in the Juliana v. United States lawsuit, which claims that the executive branch of the federal government has knowingly contributed to climate change for more than 50 years, infringing on their rights to life, liberty, and property.
Many of Xiuhtezcatl’s songs and spoken word pieces are about climate change and how people can do their part to help the cause.
“He’s using music as a vehicle to bring about this activism and get other people excited about what is possible. We’re excited about his energy, enthusiasm, and optimistic perspective,” says Jothsna Harris, Climate Generation’s community engagement manager. “Art—whether it’s written or visual or music – has the ability to cut through the noise that’s happening in our world right now with a clarity that brings in these other elements that are so needed—emotion, creativity, imagination.”
Also on Band Together’s line-up are local artists Aby Wolf, Astralblak, Ben Weaver, Chastity Brown, Chris Koza, Eric Mayson, Jeremy Messersmith, Lazerbeak, Lucy Michelle, and Strong Buffalo.
“It’s a perfect combination of an absolute slew of amazing artists coming together to perform under one roof and an extremely noble cause that I think we can all get behind as human beings,” says Lazerbeak. “Things like this are a total win-win to me.”
“My gift is words. When I am asked to use my gift, I respond by showing up,” says Ben Weaver about his decision to participate. “It is an important time to stand in our vulnerability together before the loss that is occurring on this planet, to witness the grief that comes from not knowing what to do, what to feel, or what is coming next, and to be together in this.”
About half of the artists will be sharing originally crafted stories in addition to songs. Harris says the stories will be personal, emotional, and will address themes of grief, healing, hope, resilience, community, and getting fired up about climate change.
For many of these local artists, like Chris Koza, Band Together will be the first time they’ve spoken out about climate change in a public forum. “The conversations with Jothsna and Andrew at Climate Change have helped me to better articulate the dread and concern I feel when thinking about the current state of the Earth’s environment,” says Koza, who will speak about the importance of community and how small choices can spur big changes for the planet.
Messersmith will share his experiences growing up near the Hanford Reservation in Eastern Washington state and talk about his ecological awakening.
Those who find themselves just tuning in to the climate change movement will find a kindred spirit in Lazerbeak. “I’m very early on my path to learning and educating myself on the issues, but I want to try harder, and that’s my message at this point,” he says. “I don’t totally know what I’m doing out here but I want to learn and try and make this place better for all of us.”
Climate Generation often pairs science with storytelling when talking about climate change because it has found that people’s stories and experiences help people connect with others and catalyze change. While people understand intellectually that climate change is happening, many need to be moved emotionally before they take action. Musicians serve as translators who make the issue feel real and urgent.
“People are already connected. That is inherent in all beings,” says Weaver. “I simply hold the door, light the match, shine the light, offer what I can to help thin the walls so the connection can deepen, return, ignite.”
While the line-up skews young, Harris says everyone alive today is part of the “climate generation.” “While youth, in many ways, are leading adults, those that are older are really not off the hook. We have different gifts and strengths and connections and influence, so we can all lead across the generations,” she says. “The unique role that youth are playing is that they are inheriting decades of poor environmental decisions that are made before they were even born so they have critical voices that are calling for accountability in a way that makes people listen. And they understand the moral imperative to protect and fight for their future in a different way than older generations can articulate.”
This special event comes at a crucial time in the fight against climate change around the world and in Minnesota. “We’re really feeling people galvanized around the issue,” says Harris. “What we do in this next decade to address climate change will really matter the most.”
Minnesota has much to be proud of as a leader for climate change awareness and activism. The state generates 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources, the clean energy economy here employs over 57,000 people, and over 6,000 people gathered in St. Paul for the Global Climate Strike in September.
But there’s more we can do, so the final component of Band Together is a call to action. Climate Generation does this by encouraging people in three ways: voice, choice, and vote. Voice means talking about climate change. Harris says that while over 75 percent of Americans understand that climate change is happening, less than one-third talk about it. “There’s a disconnect. People are feeling concerned but not necessarily confident in talking about it,” she says. “One of the most important things people can do to address climate change is talk about it because we need to normalize talking about it in order to shift culture and public opinion and political will.”
Choice involves working towards reducing emissions and carbon footprints, on individual, community, and collective levels. This can be challenging for musicians due to the air and road travel required to tour. As CEO of Doomtree, Lazerbeak has seen the artists he manages take Nalgene water bottles on the road, ask that venues provide tap water or gallon jugs of water instead bottled water, and cut down on unnecessary trips and extra vehicles on tour. Koza opts for vegetarian food or sustainably-raised animal products whenever possible and relies on reusable tote bags rather than plastic bags. Messersmith composts, uses a bike as transportation, is a vegetarian, and tries “to buy less shit.”
Vote means supporting political candidates that advocate for the climate and clean energy.
“Ultimately, what we want people to walk away from with this night is the feeling that they are energized and charged up, fired up, and excited about what is possible in Minnesota and beyond to tackle climate change,” Harris says.
With: Xiuhtezcatl, Aby Wolf, Astralblak, Ben Weaver, Chastity Brown, Chris Koza, Eric Mayson, Jeremy Messersmith, Lazerbeak, Lucy Michelle, and Strong Buffalo
Where: The O’Shaughnessy
When: 7 p.m. Sat. Nov. 16
Tickets: $55. More info here.