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Protest songs with Emily Lacy at Machine Project

October 13, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Emily Lacy

As Occupy L.A. and its kindred operations around the country work towards a sustainable idea of protest, events near the downtown encampment are sprouting up in solidarity.

Take the show happening Thursday night at Machine Project, Echo Park's adventurous art space oft reserved for dog operas, underwater musical performances and lectures on mushrooms. With local folk artist Emily Lacy and musician Daniel Brummel, Machine Project will be hosting an evening of protest songs from all eras, some of them rejiggered to fit the times, a flexibility embedded in the fabric of folk music.

Lacy, who's a regular performer at Machine Project, as well as a former resident of LACMA and Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, has long been inspired by folkie rabble-rousers such as Bob Dylan, or at least the Bob Dylan that was on display in the early '60s. At her show at the Smell a few months ago, she clutched her guitar, swayed rhythmically back and forth and played a focused set of spare and poetic tunes reminiscent of his Freewheelin' days.

For the show at Machine Project, Lacy and Brummel will revisit such Dylan songs as "Playboys and Playgirls," but they'll also dip into songs with much more potent legacies, including the anti-slavery song "No More Auction Block For Me" and "We Shall Not Be Moved." The Civil War-era hymn "John Brown's Body" and the Union classic "Which Side Are You On?" will also be performed.

Though Lacy has been part of singing groups that have cropped up at City Hall, she said in an email that she's interested in the idea of "pop-up protest events that occur in our own neighborhoods." It's part of galvanizing the protests, Lacy said, for the long haul and to encourage public singing as a way to humanize the broader values of the movement.

At the show on Thursday night, Lacy and Brummel will be handing out a "songbook for citizens," a small pamphlet that shares lyrics and encourages singing along. "The word 'citizen' is used," Lacy explained, "because it refers to the idea that we are all inextricably connected to the cities and states we call home."

The Machine Project showcase isn't Lacy's only plan for contributing to the Occupy protests, which, so far, probably had its biggest musical moment with Jeff Magnum performing at New York's Zucotti Park last week.

"The more range we can get for music at Occupy LA, the better," Lacy said, who plans to return to City Hall for more singing sessions. "I am for a peaceful, empathetic music, as far as what I want to contribute to the movement... if I can embody the spirit of protest with music, and invite other people into the process through their own participation, then that is an achievement for all of us."


Urban folk singer Emily Lacy drawn to experiment

L.A. councilmen tour Occupy L.A. encampment

Occupy Wall Street activists cool to celebrities' visit

-- Margaret Wappler

Protest songs at Machine Project, 1200 N. Alvarado St,. 8 p.m. Thursday. Free.

Photo: Emily Lacy in Elysian Park in Los Angeles. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times