Funk ‘N Waffles hosts benefit concert for Standing Rock as a call-to-action

The stage at Funk 'N Waffles Downtown served as both a musical and political platform to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline Wednesday night.

Sounds of solidarity could be heard all night long from the corner of South Clinton and West Fayette Street in downtown Syracuse. The source? Funk ‘N Waffles. The event? A fundraiser for the Standing Rock Water Protectors in North Dakota.

Yesterday’s show had people not only bobbing their heads and jamming to music, but also thinking about those in Cannon Ball, North Dakota where a violent standoff is taking place over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Photo: Morgan Bulman
Donations were accepted at the door of the Standing Rock Fundraiser at Funk n' Waffles Downtown.

Local artist Alex Gideon wanted to do something to help. After raising thousands of dollars playing at Bernie Sanders benefit concerts earlier this year, Gideon realized how much of an impact music can have. He reached out to fellow musicians Joe Driscoll and Charley Orlando, who started putting the plan in motion.

“It gives us a voice,” said Gideon. “People feel a lot of times writing to their local congressman or getting involved doesn’t do anything, but you can’t silence a musician. You can’t silence the guy with a microphone.”

Orlando agrees, arguing music and activism often go hand-in-hand.

“All these bands are singing from a conscious heart,” Orlando said. “When you feel that in the air, when it comes at you, even if you disagree with the lyrics, it still hits you. I think people need to feel, they need to love and they need to heal. Music does all of those things.”

In fact, when Irv Lyons Jr. and Edgar Pagan took to the stage, the first song they played was “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, the first Native American band to have a No. 1 single in the United States.

Local band Buddish wrote a song titled “Stand Like a Rock,” inspired by the Water Protectors, while other performances by Steep, Skunk City and Akuma Roots expressed similar sentiments of solidarity.

There was a minimum $10-dollar donation at the door. All of the funds raised will be hand delivered to Standing Rock by a group from the Onondaga Nation, Gideon said.

Although monetary donations are the most effective, there are other ways people can help out. State University of New York College of Environment and Forestry (SUNY ESF) student Emily Pomeroy arrived early with two empty bins to collect hats, gloves, blankets, jackets and food.

North Dakota winters are notoriously fierce. The state's governor, Jack Dalrymple, issues a “Severe Winter Awareness Week” every year in order to prepare people for the storms.

Pomeroy and a group of her peers are also planning to travel to the Sacred Stone Camp within the month, so gathering up cold-weather gear is one of her priorities before departure.

“As environmental science students, I think we all feel a sense of responsibility to stand up for the protection of our natural resources,” Pomeroy said. “We just feel like we have to raise our voices and make this issue well-known.”

As attendees grooved underneath the venue’s signature purple haze, they also paused to listen to the experiences shared by those returning from the frontlines. Among them was the attorney for the Onondaga Nation, Joe Heath, who became visibly upset on stage after recalling police arresting over 100 protestors last Thursday morning in North Dakota.

Both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples have gathered together since April to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, which many say threatens clean water supplies for millions by crossing through the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

But Orlando knows this is what music does best – it brings the issues to the surface and forces people to listen.

“I want people to have a great time tonight, but I also want them to walk away with understanding what’s going on in the country they live in,” said Orlando. “I can’t even wrap my head around the fact they’re standing up for what’s right and they’re being bullied by our government… if a spill happens there, every single person is going to be without clean water. You’ll have Flint Michigan all over again.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.