Eye on the Scene: Rock the Vote

Rock the Vote

Rob Russell, the Tri-Cities' favorite rocker and no stranger to the stages of many Knoxville dives, has announced his "retirement from rock," which will be celebrated by a final show with his band, the Sore Losers, at Johnson City's Down Home on Saturday, Aug. 30. Music's loss, however, is the public's gain: Russell recently won the Democratic congressional primary, and he'll be running against former Johnson City mayor Phil Roe in the upcoming general election.

Russell reports that there are many similarities between the political arena and rock 'n' roll. "The things I love about campaigning are almost identical to what I loved about playing music," he says. "I really enjoy communicating with people—it's something I've been doing for a long time, both as a teacher and a performer, and it's definitely one of my strengths as a campaigner. I'm a good speaker and a better listener. I also love the writing aspect: doing research on issues, crafting policy statements."

With his participation in state affairs, Russell will be maintaining the rebel status of the rock 'n' roll tradition. "I've always been interested in politics, but from the outside," he says. "I loved criticizing the hacks, panderers, and hypocrites who make up the rogues' gallery we call a government. But what made me put up or shut up? One word: kids. It was one thing to rage and complain about how ours was the first American generation guaranteed to have a lower standard of living than their parents. It's quite another thing to be facing that reality with a couple of kids of your own whose futures are at stake."

Russell certainly faces an uphill battle. He had intended to run as an independent candidate until he realized that the Democrats had no candidate. Playing David to Roe's Goliath, Russell's campaign has only $4,000, while Roe has raised over $800,000.

"I absolutely hate asking people for money, something that you have to do as a politician, unless you are wealthy," Russell says. "I also hate booking: I'd finally gotten to the point with music that I didn't have to call and book gigs; clubs would just call me. Now I'm supposed to be chasing every vote, and that means scheduling appearances every place you can. In the long run, I'm treating this campaign the way I treated the music biz: I'm going to keep on working hard, doing it my way, until something happens or I'm just totally incapable of moving forward. And whatever I learn this time, good or bad, will make me stronger for the next go 'round."

For more information, visit RobRussellforCongress.com. (John Sewell)

Battle Royale

The 22nd annual Battle of the Bands at the University of Tennessee, sponsored by the Campus Entertainment Board and WUTK, will be held at the Humanities Ampitheatre on Thursday, Aug. 21, from 6-8 p.m.

At least 50 percent of the members of each band must be currently enrolled UT students. The line-up features the smooth jazz-rock of ESPR and the jangly college pop of Faux Ferocious, along with East Old Topside and the Andy Cult.

Previous winners of the Battle of the Bands include Superdrag and Copper. (Matthew Everett)