“If you told my high school self that I’d be receiving an email from Natalie Merchant,” Paul Rudd quipped, “asking me to take the stage with Mary Stuart Masterson and introduce Antonio Delgado, I would’ve said, ‘What’s email?’.”
The event– Hudson Valley Votes– took place at UPAC on October 20 and featured prominent Hudson Valley residents. In addition to 10,000 Maniacs’ frontwoman Natalie Merchant, long-time David Bowie band member Gail Ann Dorsey, renowned songwriter Dar Williams, Lettuce collaborator Alecia Chakour, and Woodstock favorites Rachael Yamagata and Simi Stone participated in the musical portion of the evening.
The show, organized to trump up support for local progressive politicians, began with a rendition of Woody Guthrie classic “This Land Is Your Land.” The itinerary progressed fluidly; after the Guthrie cover, children and teenagers from Kingston’s Energy Dance Company took the stage and invaded the aisles, putting on a high energy hip-hop dance performance that earned a standing ovation. The youth movement continued with a subsequent performance by members of Woodstock’s Rock Academy.
“We aim to turn New York blue through the activism of young people!” one of the event’s organizers exclaimed. It was reiterated throughout the evening that young voters would need to show up on November 6 in order for the progressives’ candidates to succeed. In addition to young people, women carried the night. Many of the featured candidates were females running in their first elections; most of them expressed displeasure with the unequal representation of women in Congress.
Merchant, the musical director, sang a moving rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” vocally accompanied by Dorsey and Yamagata, with Jack DeJohnette on the piano. Dorsey, who womanned the stage more than anyone, showed off her vocal versatility all night. She also collaborated with Williams, Chakour, and The Rock Academy.
The musical highlight of the evening undoubtedly came, however, from the Resistance Revival Chorus. More than a dozen women, resplendently clad in white, put on a haunting acapella protest performance, singing about marching to take back Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House, and to take back power. They received a well-earned, deafening ovation from the exuberant audience.
Keynote speaker Antonio Delgado, who is challenging John Faso for a seat in the US House of Representatives, followed the Resistance Revival Chorus by continuing the tone of resistance. “We cannot solve problems,” Delgado claimed, “if we do not have civic discourse.” The charismatic politician joked about the difficulties of raising twin boys, spoke about challenges he faced growing up as a black boy in Schenectady, and vowed to supporters, “I will always be straight with you and I will always be accountable to you.”
While the political sphere in the country seems to be growing increasingly partisan, musicians showed the beauty of collaboration Saturday night. The crowd was energetic and the atmosphere full of hope. The sold-out event appears to have been a success, although attendees and participants may be waiting until November 7 to make their final determination.