I attended the Virgin Festival in Baltimore.
As Ben Harper played and sang the same old songs about revolution I thought about how easily movements are co-opted, how ideology is a game of constant hypocrisy we call compromise.
Harper needs a carrier wave for his thoughts of against-raging and spliff-smoking and his label needs to target the demographic of dread-locked college kids, old hippies, young hippies, and People Who Give a Shit (Who Will Never Change Anything). So they engage in this sickening relationship, a commercial venture that binges on the culture of excess and purges it with war whoops and anti-government bravado.
But he plays the dobro like he wants to crack open a fault line, eking out roaring waves of feedback that clang and clatter. This is what the Devil's fiddle-playing sounds like, and it's heavenly.
I saw Ben Harper almost ten years ago and he hasn't altered his shtick a whit. How could he? Being a revolutionary means always saying the same thing.