Music with Substance: Sage Francis and friends to rock out for social justice


Friday night marks the second major event for the non-profit group Substance, organizers of the Ripple Effect event during the RNC last September. Much like that event, Manifestation is dedicated to bringing people together through music for social justice.

“We are following a similar model as Ripple Effect,” said Jim Forrey, one of the founders of Substance.

The night will feature a mix of national and local artists. Headlining the event at First Avenue’s Mainroom is independent underground hip-hop heavyweight Sage Francis, and artists from the record label Francis founded, Strange Famous. This includes multi-talented spoken word artist and corporate justice advocate B. Dolan, as well as one of the label’s more recent signs, Doomtree’s Cecil Otter. Rounding out the Twin Cities portion of the bill is Building Better Bombs (which includes Stef Alexander, better known as P.O.S. Of Doomtree), as well as the God Damn Doo Wop Band. (There will also be an all-ages pre-show at the 7th Street Entry featuring Cecil Otter, The Battle Royale, and the tag team of producer Big Cats! and El Guante.)

In addition to assembling this eclectic and high-quality slate of artists, Substance has teamed up with numerous local, national, and global organizations from all over the progressive spectrum to make sure it’s more than just a memorable concert. These include HIRE (Healthcare, Infrastructure, Renewable Energy) Minnesota, Youth Against War and Racism, (founded by B. Dolan), Global Exchange, and CRASS (Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure). In addition, Forrey said the plan is to make First Avenue “beyond green,” including full recycling, using compostable cups, and having food and merchandise vendors that share Substance’s sustainable philosophy.

“We want participants to walk away motivated and empowered,” Forrey said.

Much of the experience and ability to put on an event of this magnitude was gained baptism-by-fire style with Ripple Effect and, more generally, the RNC. “It gave us a once-in-a-lifetime experience and excelled our skills far beyond our years,” Forrey said, but added that “our work as organizers didn’t stop when the national spotlight” was gone.

Something that has gotten substantially worse since the RNC, and is most likely weighing heavily on both the organizers of Manifestation as well as many of its attendees, is the current economic situation. Forrey believes that a recession is one of the most important times for organizations like Substance to be active.

“It gives people an outlet for their frustrations, to channel discontentment into productive work towards fixing society’s problems, and to empower people and provide hope” for something better.

One of the most memorable moments of channelled-frustration during Ripple Effect was the unannounced (and technically illegal) performance by Rage Against the Machine, complete with Tom Morello shouting the guitar riffs from “Bulls on Parade” through a megaphone. When asked if fans could expect any special, unannounced guests, Forrey cheekily responded, “If I told you that, they wouldn’t be unannounced, now would they?”

Justin Schell ( is a freelance writer and a grad student at the University of Minnesota’s Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society program. He’s working on a dissertation on Twin Cities immigrant and diasporic hip-hop and plays the washboard tie with The Gated Community.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet is a media sponsor of Manifestation.