Sept 25 is the Day of Remembrance of Murder Victims. Congress set the day aside back in 2007 to honor the countless Americans taken too early from our planet, but over time, that day has turned into something far more symbolic. As each year passes with new remembrance hashtags and visibly corrupt court cases, our country fails to act on simple laws that could enact powerful change. Concert Across America to End Gun Violence aims to change that.
This Sunday, over 200 concerts across our country will take place to raise money, awareness, and change toward ending gun-related deaths and violence. Brighton Music Hall invites viewers of all ages to see Vapors of Morphine, Bill Janovitz with Mike Gent and Tanya Donelly, Hallelujah the Hills, and Marissa Nadler take the stage to tackle the issue.
For most artists performing, this isn’t just about advocacy. It’s a response to frustration, too, to a wave of acts that seem to never end. Among the collective numbness and flood of statistics, there’s still an urge to speak up, to voice outrage until it’s loud enough to halt the violence.
“It’s beyond parody; the gun manufacturers have a direct, financial influence over the lawmakers, and the argument is muddied by receipts,” says Ryan Walsh, the frontman of Hallelujah the Hills. “Sometimes you can feel helpless and the urge to just give into that helplessness is magnetic. But it’s always better to do something: small acts, local actions, symbolic acts, even. I really believe when a lot of people merely resist staying on the couch, good things start to happen.”
Then there’s the familiarity of what should never seem familiar. In her neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Marissa Nadler saw people go about their day as if nothing happened shortly after a man was murdered outside a local 7-11. Then she witnessed something similar once more. “A few years ago, there was a quadruple homicide at the pizza place in Jamaica Plain on Center Street, and eerily, the place was business as usual the next week,” she recalls. “I think we all need to be a little less numb to the idea that it’s normal to shoot people and unify as a country to try to fix it.”
That’s where their profession kicks in. Songs are one of the easiest forms of protest to rally behind, unify strangers, and jumpstart change that has a long trail ahead of it.
“Music is the antithesis of violence,” says Vapors of Morphine frontman Dana Colley. “It is cathartic, and in being a catharsis gives expression to emotions that can otherwise be difficult to articulate. It can give voice to frustration and desperation, a way to vent other than taking up violent means. So much of gun violence comes from frustration, alienation, and a sense of hopelessness combined with a disregard for human life. Music reminds us that we are capable of greatness and there is hope, especially when there seems to be none.”
This isn’t singsongs and patriotic flags. As the event draws closer, several musicians, like Nadler, need time to reflect. As she zooms out to inspect the multiple issues tied to gun violence—from mental illness to support systems—she can’t help but recall the way semiautomatic assault weapons have altered moments of her own life.
“I was teaching at a special needs high school at the time of Sandy Hook, and I remember how scared all of my students were, as well as all of the teachers,” says Nadler. “I thought at the time that Sandy Hook was the last straw, that our country would see some change, but we haven’t, and the incidents keep intensifying. The MCX that was used in the Orlando shooting fired 24 shots in nine seconds, and all of those deaths could have been prevented.”
Like most of us, these musicians have solutions on their minds: closing loopholes in internet ammunition sales, tightening automatic weapon availability, mandatory meditation classes in public schools and police academies. We can bring an end to the violence as soon as we choose to end it. We just need to take that action.
“If we can insist that people wear seat belts, we can insist that we want a country where people are held to a standard of responsibility when dealing with what are, essentially, killing machines,” says Colley. “We have been told that the debate is off the table. I refuse to accept that.”
VAPORS OF MORPHINE, BILL JANOVITZ, HALLELUJAH THE HILLS, MARISSA NADLER. SUN 9.25. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. 6PM/ALL AGES/$20. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM.