This Machine Shoots: Steve Earle at Interstellar Rodeo

Interstellar

Interstellar Rodeo, the Six Shooter Records 2nd annual Edmonton music festival, was this past weekend. The show wrapped up with a brilliant set by Steve Earle and the Dukes. The only other time I’ve seen Earle play was at the Ottawa Bluesfest in 2009.

Both times, Earle sang wonderful songs, and he also told amazing stories.

When I saw him in Ottawa, it was on a side-stage by the water, with drunk dudes in their early 20s in matching polo shirts and khakis yelling out for him to play “Copperhead Road.” Earle told them he’d play whatever he wanted. Over the noise of much of the crowd having isolated conversations, Earle talked about how his nephew had broken his arm falling off his bike. The emergency room doctors wouldn’t help the kid until Earle “wired down cash” to pay for it.  The health care debate was a hot topic at the time, and Earle made it clear what side he was on: he was with the everyday folks, hit by hard times.

The stories were similar at Interstellar Rodeo, but the scope widened further. Folks were listening, and nobody yelled out for “Copperhead Road.” There was a guy who had had a few drinks, but he just sang along with all the songs.

Earle talked about the struggle of New Orleans since Katrina, and the inability of the most powerful country in the world to take care of its own. Instead, the United States is caught in a tension between maintaining dominance abroad and pandering to the wealthy at home – but as Earle said, you “can’t take over the world and lower taxes.”

Earle is a gunslinger for the downtrodden, who shoots words instead of bullets at injustice. He sees the plight of folks in United States today as even more difficult than the dust bowl of the 1930s, which Woody Guthrie sang about.

Where he lives in New York City,  there’s an old church that Earle walks by everyday.  He said he never noticed the church’s soup kitchen before, because there was never a queue.

Now the line goes all the way down the block.

this machine floats

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