People have been nearly begging for Rage Against The Machine to reunite as world politics have taken a drastic shift in the past few years, and it’s finally happening. The band have been a part of some huge political moments in our society and with the rise of fascist regimes across the globe their timing couldn’t be any more perfect.
Protests always have a soundtrack to the voices being amplified and Rage are filling the void others couldn’t cover once again. Take a look below for some of the best political moments in Rage Against The Machine’s history.
1. Shutting down the New York Stock Exchange
The band hired famous filmmaker Michael Moore to direct their music video for “Sleep Now In The Fire.” Hundreds showed up to the New York Stock Exchange steps when they weren’t even supposed to be filming, and Moore was arrested by NYPD. He yelled to the band to “Take the New York Stock Exchange,” and they did exactly that, along with a few hundred others forcing the riot doors to come down and halt capitalism for a day.
2. The 2008 DNC in Denver
In August 2008, the band headlined the Tent State Music Festival to End the War during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. After the concert concluded, they joined uniformed veterans from Iraq Veterans Against The War in protest. Along with thousands of attendees, a five-hour standoff with police ended in Barack Obama’s campaign agreeing to meet with the veterans.
3. 2009 “Killing In The Name” campaign
In 2009, U.K. residents were fed up with hits from the show The X Factor dominating Christmas singles charts year after year and started a campaign to push Rage’s song “Killing In The Name” to the top spot. They were successful in sticking it to show host Simon Cowell, causing the band to perform a slightly censored version on Radio 5 Live with proceeds from the campaign going to charity. This eventually led to a free show in London and a small handful of other shows across Europe in the summer of 2010.
4. Hanging American flags upside down on SNL
After dropping Evil Empire in 1996, Rage Against The Machine were invited to perform on Saturday Night Live with ex-Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes scheduled as the host. The band’s two-song set was cut in half after they attempted to hang American flags upside down, a sign of emergency, on their amps in protest of Forbes.
5. Touring with Wu-Tang Clan in 1997
You would think choosing an act to tour with wouldn’t cause political issues, but police forces all across the U.S. attempted to have their shows banned for “violent and anti-law enforcement philosophies.” The shows went ahead anyway despite numerous court cases trying to end the tour, and Wu-Tang Clan eventually were dropped from the tour anyway after struggling to get all nine members show up at the designated venue.
6. Having all of their music added to the Clear Channel memorandum
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, countless artists were demonized for lyrics, music videos and their general appearances. Everyone from Slipknot to Bruce Springsteen to Elton John were included in a list of songs recommended by Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) to not play over questionable lyrics in the aftermath of the attacks. Rage Against The Machine had the honor of being the only artist to have their entire discography marked on the list.
7. 2007 Coachella reunion
In January 2007, rumors began circulating that the band would be reuniting and were confirmed shortly after. They scheduled a show at Coachella and described their reasoning as a means to voice their opposition to right-wing ideologies under the George W. Bush administration. They played to the largest crowd of the entire festival with a massive Zapatista Army Of National Liberation (EZLN) backdrop to voice their message to as many people as possible.
8. 2008 RNC protest
In September 2008, the band played in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention. The day before the show, they attempted to play a surprise set at a free anti-RNC concert but were stopped by police. Instead, vocalist Zack de la Rocha brought a megaphone and led the crowd in singing their songs anyway.
9. 2000 DNC in Los Angeles
Rage played a show during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in protest of the two-party system, and despite pushes from the City of Los Angeles to force them to play a small venue across the city from the DNC, they were allowed by a judge to play across the street from the event. LAPD security measures included a 12-foot high fence and about 2,000 officers in riot gear. After the performance, numerous attendees provoked police, causing them to declare unlawful assembly, and a riot broke out ending in violence and arrests.
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10. Lollapalooza 1993 PMRC protest
The band’s set at Lollapalooza in Philadelphia was rather brief as they stood onstage for 15 minutes naked with duct tape over their mouths and each member donning a painted a letter on their chest to spell out “PMRC.” The Parents Music Resource Center are the group responsible for the explicit content stickers on albums today, and although Rage left some fans disappointed with their protest not including a show, they played for attendees at a later date.
11. Tom Morello’s op-ed against Paul Ryan
Republican politician Paul Ryan has spoken about his love of Rage Against The Machine numerous times but claims he doesn’t care for the lyrics. In 2012, guitarist Tom Morello penned a Rolling Stone op-ed where he called out Ryan for the ridiculousness of him enjoying his band, writing, “Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.”
12. Radio Free L.A.
Proving they hate politicians on both sides of the spectrum, Rage hosted a radio show on the night of Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1997 where people such as Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Leonard Peltier and other activists spoke between band performances in response to Clinton’s reelection.