Outernational are the Pied Pipers of the Revolution.
I mean that in a good way. Like: they're not going to lead us to our deaths, but rather to a whole new world.
And you're gonna shake your booty a whole lot on the way there.
The first time I saw Outernational play (which I think was their second show ever) was as a kickoff to the march protesting the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. A few nights later they played an Axis of Justice show at the Knitting Factory, sharing the stage with revolution rock luminaries such as Tom Morello, Steve Earle, Serj Tankian, and Michael Franti. These influences are evident in their music, but above all else the band embodies the spirit of The Clash. It's in Miles Solay's swagger and the way he growls and spits lyrics with such fervor and love. It's in Jesse Williams' Paul Simonon-like wide-legged stance; this man is making a fierce and funky stand! Leo Mintek is coming into his own as a lead guitarist, alternately bringing dance grooves worthy of a BAD-era Mick Jones and wailing classic rock solos, all the while keeping time on stage with a deconstructed John Lennon knee bounce. The sharply dressed Dr. Blum is the band's secret weapon. Tucked between Mintek and a rotating cast of drummers who have included Chad Smith of RHCP, Dr. Blum adds shimmering keyboards, rousing accordion, and the clarion call of the trumpet to the mix, bringing to mind early tour mates Gogol Bordello.
I've known Jesse and Miles since well before there was an Outernational - we'd been in the streets together as activists for years. It made total sense to me when they went from organizing Philly Freedom Summer for Mumia to starting a band. They understood that music has the potential to reach far more people than their organizing efforts did, and that music can be a galvanizing force for a movement.
Political movements need songs that crystallize their hopes and propel their bodies forward. At the end of this, the American Fall (in perhaps more ways than one), Outernational has the chance to be the soundtrack of a renewed grassroots movement in this country. Their vision is unapologetically and uncompromisingly grand, their groove infectious, their lyrics aspirational.
This is Future Rock.
My friend, mentor, and hero Peter Sellars says that the role of the artist is to imagine the world you want to live in, create that world, and then live in it.
Outernational are the artists that we desperately need right now, showing us that there is a "whole other way." Best way to support the band and the world they are creating? Buy their music and merch (new album dropping SOON!) for yourself, your friends, your family.
To the future!!!