The Rhythm of Peace

Anti-war weekend warriors mark third anniversary of Iraq invasion in Million Musician March

Carolyn Wonderland performs at City Hall in protest of the 
Iraq War last week.
Carolyn Wonderland performs at City Hall in protest of the Iraq War last week. (Photo By Jana Birchum)

As noon approached on Saturday morning, things were looking a bit bleak for the Million Musician March marking the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. The skies were as gray as Dick Cheney's hair, and intermittent rain kept many instruments in their cases, and marchers huddled in the parking bay of the downtown Federal Building. Organizers were roughly 999,900 musicians short of their target.

That's not to say the scene was sparse: There was a dumbek-toting Code Pinker ("I bought [the drum] thinking I'd learn how to play it, but it turns out I'm really bad," she said). The leftie geezer squad was out in full force, singing along with a guitar-strumming folkie. The rapper from a hip-hop group called the Arab League strolled about in an Osama bin Laden get-up, looking every bit like a stealth Republican out to discredit the peaceniks. And flitting among the crowd was fiddler and event organizer Richard Bowden in a three-cornered patriot's hat. "So it rained on our parade," he said. "It's already a success. If it reduces fear this much [pinching a thumb and forefinger together] then it's well worth it."

Bowden organized the event in conjunction with Austin Against War. Ever since attending one of AAW's meetings, which he described as "like five people sitting around a table," he has considered the group somewhat deficient in the joie de vivre department. Given the strength of the Republican media machine, he said, the entertainment world has a duty to keep anti-war sentiment visible, and anti-war activities fun. "If you're waiting for Austin Against War to end the war, it's not going to happen," he said.

That's about when the tuba kicked up. A 10-piece horn ensemble, including such luminaries as Mark Rubin and Ephraim Owens, began strolling down Ninth Street toward Red River, New Orleans-style, accompanied by a kazoo, a Cadillac hubcap, a ukulele, several washboards, shakers galore, and one juggler. Marching funkily along Red River, the thousand-strong parade was at first met with blank stares by the throngs of SXSW-goers, who apparently didn't have a copy of Vice handy to check whether tubas are a "do" or a "don't."

But with some hooting from trumpeter Oliver Steck, who was definitely a "do" in bare chest, running shorts, and swim goggles, the parade earned applause as it rounded onto Sixth Street. Participants marched soggily to City Hall to kick off an afternoon of music, mud, and revolution. Removing his sousaphone, a soaked Rubin smiled and summed up the march to nobody in particular: "That didn't suck at all," he said.

For info on the next anti-war event, visit

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Iraq WarAustin Against WarMillion Musician March, Austin Against War, Million Musician March, Mark Rubin, Ephraim Owens, Oliver Steck, Richard Bowden

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