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21 Apr 2015

Desert Rock Chronicles: The Last Internationale Brings Its Protest Music to the Joshua Tree Music Festival

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The Last Internationale. The Last Internationale. MROSSI

Mark your calendars: On Saturday, May 16, The Last Internationale will headline the 13th Annual Spring Joshua Tree Music Festival.

The Last Internationale is a powerful trio of modern-day musical revolutionaries who ride the cusp between hard rock and folk-protest music. They move from aggressive rock riffs with arousing vocals to acoustic ballads with sweet melodies. TLI sound like what might happen if Joan Baez and Bob Dylan joined forces with Rage Against the Machine—and it works.

Delila Paz’s illuminating lyrics exposing social injustice are poignant and lucid. Guitarist Edgey Pires emboldens Delila’s socially relevant lyrics with gritty rock tones, forming an aggressive rhythm section punctuated by the forceful drum chops of Brad Wilk, formerly of Rage Against the Machine.

Paz and Pires began as a duo in New York. They wrote their first songs protesting violations against the labor force and human rights. Their first gigs were protest rallies and political conventions. They were out to carry the torch lit by folk musicians and political activists like Bill Ayers (Weather Underground) and the late, great Pete Seeger.

“Before the band, I was a campus organizer, writing books and studying political science and social movements,” Pires said. “When I discovered Son House, I decided music was a much better organizational tool and immediately hit the road with TLI, leaving my degree behind.

“TLI formed out of a need to write protest music that was relevant to the times. Nobody is really doing it, so we figured we might as well be the ones to fill that void.”

Paz said her goal is to expose the “wrongs that are being done to working-class people at the hands of the capitalist class.”

“I’ve been reading Frederick Douglass’ narrative,” she said. “In it, he writes that “slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.” … Music gets to the core of it all, to the deepest emotions. As a band, we not only want to go to the core of the emotional human spirit, but also bring a sense of dissent and rebellion in everything we do.”

The two met former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello through mutual friend Boots Riley (Street Sweeper Social Club), and he became an instant fan. They were looking for a drummer, and Morello hooked them up Brad Wilk. It was an instant match, and the three immediately began laying the foundation for their debut full-length, We Will Reign. They signed with Epic Records and began working with Morello and producer Brendan O’Brien, who has worked with Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others.

“Working with O’Brien, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello has helped us to grow as a band, but our sound has always been an eclectic mix of folk, blues and rock.” Paz said. “… The heavier we get as a band, the more we go back and ‘folk it up’ as well.”

TLI has toured with Robert Plant, Weezer, Kings of Leon, Neil Young, and Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts. Now they are looking forward to chilling out in the high desert.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday through Sunday, May 14-17, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. Tickets start at $60 to $90 for a day pass, and go up to $180 for a four-day pass. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

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