David Rovics – Housmans Bookshop

Independent bookshops like our independent venues are being economically battered and closed by our worst enemies. So it is extremely fitting that radical folk artist David Rovics finds himself playing a show in Housmans. The North London home of red and anarchist literature, along with an Aladdin’s cave of second hand titles in the basement.

The place is heaving with dozens of us squished into very little space merrily swigging our carry outs from the off-licence opposite. This is one of three intimate gigs in London on this tour. Tonight it is fully acoustic with no PA, which has the advantage of creating a respectfully silent audience. Free from those annoying bastards who think that talking during an amplified acoustic performance is somehow acceptable.

He begins with ‘Failed state’ a searing indictment against the politics of his homeland. The tent cities, the gigantic prison complex, the environmental barbarity combined with climate change denial. You get the idea. On a more uplifting note we get ‘Jeremy’, a song that explores the hopes and dreams of so many.

Then it’s our first of many current affairs bulletins. ‘I was a stranger’ a song that recounts the shocking truth of how Americans living along the Mexican border now face decades in jail for leaving out water to prevent migrants from dying of thirst in the desert. Yes you read that right.

The collective lumps in everyone’s throats are quickly cleared by the uproarious sing-along that is ‘St Patricks Battalion’. David can lift our spirits just as easily as sending them through the floor with his tales of injustice and woe.

We also fall about laughing with songs like ‘If only it was true’ which recounts the absurd claims made about Obama by the likes of Fox News and the good natured ribbing of those enthusiastic wokelings with: ‘I’m a better anarchist than you’.

Our history lesson continues with ‘Pogroms of 1969’ which recounts that victimisation of Catholics in Northern Ireland. ‘East Kilbride’, which celebrates the immense solidarity with Chile by Scottish engineers. ‘Ballad of the Wobbly’ is the gut-wrenching story of the Palmer Raids.

So many subjects, emotions and events get explored through the eighteen songs that bring us to the conclusion of ‘Burn it down’. A tune that is on a mission to get us all locked up.

A lovely night with a top artist in a cool venue.


Words and images by Guy Smallman



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