MusicMusic Features

A Year of Protest Songs From Athens and Beyond

A year after Donald Trump—Donald Trump!—was elected president of the United States, the country continues to grapple with the implications of the unprecedented and, frankly, still unfathomable event. (Donald! Trump!) While activists, organizers and Democrats continue to debate the most effective ways to #resist Trump’s nationalist agenda, musicians have responded the best way they know how. Below, check out a playlist of protest songs from Athens and around the country, as selected by Flagpole and other Association of Alternative Newsmedia member papers and compiled by Democracy in Crisis columnist Baynard Woods. [Gabe Vodicka]

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Devil in the White House by Lonely Horse</a>

Lonely Horse: “Devil in the White House” (San Antonio)

Shots fired! Lonely Horse come out guns blazing with “Devil in the White House.” Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock and roll explosion, the “desert-rock” duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS. [Chris Conde]

Keith Morris: “What Happened to Your Party?” (Charlottesville, VA)

Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as “our rockin’ protest grouch in chief,” Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as “Psychopaths & Sycophants,” “Prejudiced & Blind” and “Brownsville Market,” from his Dirty Gospel album, plus “Blind Man,” “Peaceful When You Sleep” and “Border Town” from Love Wounds & Mars. His latest release: “What Happened to Your Party?” [Erin O’Hare]

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk: “Justice” (New Orleans)

A melange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for “Justice” slyly marries video footage of Trump against pointed lyrics. “Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people,” says Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville. “We entered a new year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of ‘justice’ that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there’s only so much we can do, and this track is our way of expressing our worries.” [Gambit Weekly]

<a href=”″ mce_href=”″>Athens VS Trump Comp 2017 by Lingua Franca</a>

Lingua Franca: “A Man’s World” (Athens, GA)

Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak—check out The Powder Room’s roaring “On Notice” or Shehehe’s snotty “Red, White, Fuck You” for a more nihilistic take on the 2016 election—ascendant emcee Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance. [GV]

Thunderfist: “Suck It (Demo)” (Salt Lake City)

Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example—countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns—is how we’ll effect change. That doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk rock invitation to fellatio. [Randy Harward]

OG Swaggerdick: “Fuck Donald Trump” (Boston)

Among hip-hop heads, Boston’s underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. Over the past year, such acts as STL GLD and, more recently, The Perceptionists have released their most compelling works to date. But when it comes to straight-up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there’s something undeniably satisfying, even admirable, about OG Swaggerdick’s simple and straightforward election anthem. From the fittingly filthy rhymes to the strangers on the street who gladly join along in the video, they’re protest lyrics that you’ll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless. [Chris Faraone]

Dooley, Lor Roger and TLow: “CIT4DT” (Baltimore)

This Boosie-tinged Thee Donald diss, which dropped long before the inauguration, still thrills: “Boy ain’t even white, you yellow/ You said you’d date your own daughter, you a sicko.” Stakes are high here, too—the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim—and right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a “death threat” and bemoaned its Baltimore origins, where protest morphed into property damage and, as far as a lot of us were concerned, verged gloriously on revolution. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious. [Brandon Soderberg]

The After Lashes: “We the Sheeple” (Coachella Valley, CA)

Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explains the inspiration behind the band’s song “We the Sheeple,” which “was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump,” she says. “We have a president who calls anything he doesn’t like ‘fake news’ while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and [lying] like a crazy person… The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be.” [Brian Blueskye]

Priests: “Right Wing” (Washington, DC)

There’s been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests have succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off. “Right Wing,” off the band’s breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power, captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists and warmongers. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right wing ideals infects everyday life. [Matt Cohen]

Withdraw: “Disgust” (Columbia, SC)

On its 2017 debut EP, Home, Withdraw oscillate violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust-punk. On “Disgust,” the band proves the virtue of its versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims. It’s a potent statement, a searing declaration of allyship in musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics. [Jordan Lawrence]

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Covfefe EP by NODON</a>

NODON: “Alt-Wrong” (Burlington, VT)

NODON are an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, their songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump. “Alt-Wrong,” from their 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right’s figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, they scream their battle cry: “Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!” [Jordan Adams]

Clint Breeze: “Blood Splatter” (Indianapolis)

Featuring over a dozen guest contributors, including poets, rappers and jazz musicians, Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America. “Blood Splatter” is the record’s most cutting track, featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax. [Kyle Long and Katherine Coplen]

Rmllw2llz: “So Amerikkkan” (Louisville, KY)

When you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy or maybe even White Reaper—all of whom are great—but our city’s hip-hop scene is packed with poignant artists, and if you’re looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz’s “So Amerikkkan.” The song was released a few months ago, but, if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country’s past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes. [Scott Recker]

Michael Bone: “My Peace Will Outlive You” (Chico, CA)

Michael Bone is a musician, husband and father who has a day job teaching music to developmentally disabled kids, a night job playing drums for jazz combo Bogg and dozens of side projects, including running the 1day Song Club. The latter is a songwriting group that receives a one-word prompt, after which participants are tasked with writing, recording and submitting a song to be posted online within 24 hours. “My Peace Will Outlive You,” an angst-ridden yet hopeful slice of psychedelic pop, is Bone’s contribution to the prompt of “Trump.” [Jason Cassidy]

Dais: “Atrocity” (Rochester, NY)

Dais tells you exactly where it stands on “Atrocity,” the first track off its self-titled debut EP. The post-hardcore band makes a racing, pounding apology to the Earth before (sort of) slowing down to confront the powers that be. “The person who the States had elected was talking about withdrawing us from the Paris Climate Accord,” Rankin says. “We felt betrayed and began writing this song. It’s an apology to the earth for us not being as good to it as it has been to us.” [Jake Clapp]

Iris DeMent: “We Won’t Keep Quiet” (Iowa City, IA)

Back in February, Iowa City held a Solidarity Rally Against the Ban, proclaiming support for immigrant populations and refugees in the wake of Trump’s first and most ridiculous attempted travel ban. In between the community leaders, local politicians and youth speakers, a variety of area musicians performed, including the brilliant Iris DeMent. She debuted a song, “We Won’t Keep Quiet,” that captured the feeling in the crowd that day in a really powerful way. [Little Village]

Joshua Asante: “No Time For Despair” (Little Rock, AR)

Asante, best known for fronting the bands Amasa Hines and Velvet Kente, is also a photographer, someone who delights in the tangible process of making art. It’s in his latest work as a solo artist that this becomes most evident, with Asante hunching down over a briefcase stuffed with loop stations and processors. “In times of distress and turmoil, it’s easy to get kinda caught up in the collective despair, so the lyrics are very much about, like, yeah, times are tumultuous, but there’s also a lot of really wonderful magical things that are going on in your life… That is probably the supreme act of defiance: to be joyful, to be loving.” [Stephanie Smittle]

The Whiskey Farm: “Flag Pin” (Madison, WI)

Formed in 2010, The Whiskey Farm has produced four albums and won Madison Area Music Awards in the Folk/Americana and Ensemble Vocals categories. The band’s most recent album, Songs of Resistance, is its first record comprised entirely of social and political music, covering topics including immigration policy, faux patriotism, money in politics, gun control, equal rights and gerrymandering. “Flag Pin” is a tongue-in-cheek, blues-inspired indictment of opportunistic patriots. The band released Songs of Resistance as a benefit for the ACLU of Wisconsin. [Catherine Capellaro]

Cheap Perfume: “Trump Roast” (Colorado Springs, CO)

Cheap Perfume are a four-piece band who follow in the tradition of feminist punk acts like Le Tigre and The Slits. “Trump Roast” is, not surprisingly, one of their biggest crowd-pleasers, as Stephanie Byrne and Jane No deliver a “Dear Don” letter to the resident president, culminating in a final verse that grows more timely, and more serious, with each passing day: “You wanna ban Muslims? Well, we wanna ban you/ Your fascist ideas wrapped in red, white, and blue/ Your KKK clones won’t be the ones to choose/ Enjoy your last gasp, ’cause racism’s through.” [Bill Forman]

E-Turn: “Ill Legal Alien” (Orlando, FL)

Everything about Orlando MC E-Turn is a particularly eloquent middle finger in the face of Donald Trump. The Persian-American, outspoken, femme MC is a firebrand on the mic, and her lyrics deftly meld the personal with the political in ways that hardcore dudes could only dream of. The fury and technique with which she drops bars—and other, usually male, MCs—on stage is the proud definition of a nasty woman. Her anthemic “Ill Legal Alien” may predate Trump’s election, but the Swamburger-produced track is still furiously of-the-moment. [Matthew Moyer and Bao Le-Huu]

DBL DRGN: “Trim the Bushes” (Charleston, SC)

DBL DRGN filmed the video for “Trim the Bushes” on Election Day. With Bad Mojo dressed as a dragon, high-fiving passersby, the silly aspect of the visuals was meant to complement the circus-like atmosphere of the 2016 election. The video was released on Inauguration Day, another attempt to lift the spirits of those who felt the doom and gloom all too well that January morning. In the single, the duo rather brilliantly mash up George W. Bush with Bob Marley, while the video shows footage of Trump’s remarks on everything from immigration and Mexicans to birtherism, Putin, John McCain and women. The acknowledgment of all the things we as progressives find disturbing about the administration coupled with the sense that folks should keep their heads up (and alert) and stick together for the duration of the hand we’ve been dealt was the perfect combo. [Kelly Rae Smith]