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James Brown Live 1968

January 15, 2008

Monday is MLK Day. If you’re one of those fortunate 33% of Americans who actually get the day off, knuckles, yo. You deserve some extra shuteye. Nothing wears a body out like a grueling eight-hour shift in some faceless bureaucratic sinkhole. You have to work three times as hard when everything has to be done in triplicate, right? Just maybe not three times as fast, and one less day shuffling down fluorescent-lit corridors at a sleepwalkers pace for no other apparent purpose than to generate static electricity in your orthopedic shoes is reason enough to get on the civil rights bandwagon, isn’t it? Not to mention you can work that same slow, shuffling gait past all those sucker furniture salesmen and department store clerks who are surely wishing they could hitch a ride on the government gravy train too. Sadly, that’s about the limit of possible MLK Day merriment. Sure there are political rallies, a smattering of marches and parades, a lecture or two, but ultimately, MLK Day lacks the festivity of a St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day or even a Cinco de Mayo. This may have something to do with the fact that it’s wicked cold outside in January. It could also have something to do with the fact that MLK Day is a relatively new holiday – a holiday memorializing a man who got shot in the head by a stupid cracker – or maybe a conspiracy of stupid crackers, depending on who you believe. Regardless, it’s hard to find a party angle that doesn’t seem a little disrespectful. Given enough time however, you can bet that Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors will come up with something to put the PAR-TAY in MLK. That’s the bottom line: MLK Day hasn’t made it to prime time because corporate America hasn’t figured out how to make money off it. Give the Madison Avenue product pimps enough time and pretty soon the shelves at Walgreens will fill up with Martin Luther King Cakes, I Have a Dreamcatchers, Civil Right Guard, Selma-Nilla Wafers, and Montgomery Bus Boycottage Cheese. That’s when the real party starts. Until then you’ll just have to make do with relatively somber, reverent memorials to one of America’s greatest civil rights champions. Or, you could go to Alamo Drafthouse Downtown where, as a part of their usual Music Monday series will be featuring James Brown Live 1968, a recording of a live, televised broadcast of the James Brown concert at Boston Garden that took place less than 24 hours after the Martin Luther King assassination. City leaders felt that televising the concert would keep attendance down and thus limit the possibility of rioting in the downtown area. They were right. Only 2000 people showed up for the concert in a venue with capacity for 14,000. True to form, Brown still put on a blistering performance. The legacy of the concert however, is an extraordinary recording of Brown at the peak of his abilities and a moving historical document of the times. If you’re still revved up after the show you can attend an afterparty at the The Jackalope sponsored by Dewar’s featuring music from the film. Sounds like a crazy cultural clusterfuck, maybe not the promised land Dr. King described, but at least a little bit closer.

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