Stand With Standing Rock Concert: Dave Matthews, Performers Offered Powerful Moments [Video]

The Stand with Standing Rock concert, organized by popular recording artist Dave Matthews and guitarist Tim Reynolds, took place in Washington, D.C., on Sunday night at the DAR Constitution Hall, just blocks away from the White House. The proceeds from the Stand With Standing Rock concert will go to benefit activists and indigenous members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. The money will be used for essential supplies such as food and camping equipment as well as going towards legal defense funds.

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Standing Rock Protesters {Image by John L. Mone/AP Images]

Indian Country Today reported that the Stand with Standing Rock concert sold out the day that tickets became available (November 4). In the announcement of the concert, Matthews spoke of his reasoning behind organizing the event.

“How can we continue to allow oil money to dictate our environmental and social policies?” Matthews said.

“The people of Standing Rock, and those who are supporting them, are standing up for their children and all of our children. We are letting the Dakota pipeline silence their voices. Not only are they desecrating sacred lands, but they also threaten to poison the Missouri River.”

Matthews visited Standing Rock in October, where he was filmed while playing an impromptu piece of music at the Oceti Sakowin camp.

In addition to the headlining set performed by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, the Stand with Standing Rock concert stage was shared by singer-songwriter and former member of indie rock band The New Pornographers Neko Case, Grammy-nominated soul singer Ledisi, and legendary musician Graham Nash, who is no stranger to benefit concerts and performing protest songs.

Rolling Stone was on hand to cover the Stand with Standing Rock concert and detailed some of the night’s highlights. The concert was largely composed of acoustic performances — Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds are in the midst of a national acoustic tour, for example — but Neko Case plugged in an electric guitar for a rousing rendition of her song “Man.” Ledisi performed a set dominated by cover songs, including a powerful version of the Sam Cooke song “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Ledisi, in an amusing moment, began a sing-along version of “Come Together” by the Beatles.

“I don’t know all the words,” she confessed, but on listening to the crowd sing along she added, “some of y’all don’t know either.”

Graham Nash took to the stage with guitarist Shane Fontayne. He opened his set with the song “Military Madness,” with a slight lyrical change to reflect the theme of the Stand with Standing Rock concert.

“After the wars are over, and the body count is finally filed/ I hope that Obama discovers what’s driving the people wild,” he sang.

The line originally stated “I hope that The Man discovers what’s driving the people wild,” and the change was a pointed barb at President Barack Obama, who many people feel has not done enough to halt the violence at Standing Rock and has avoided intervening for political reasons.

Graham Nash, Who Performed At The Stand With Standing Rock Concert
Graham Nash {Image by Laura Roberts/AP Images]

At the end of the night, of course, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds performed, with Matthews having introduced a number of the previous artists. The pair opened with a very poignant song selection, “Don’t Drink The Water,” a song from the Dave Matthews Band that was written about South African apartheid and the treatment of indigenous North American peoples like the Standing Rock Sioux. The two later performed popular songs such as “Satellite” and were joined by Nash and Fontayne onstage for a rendition of the Crosby, Stills, & Nash song “Teach Your Children.”

The pair also debuted a new song, “Song for Billijo,” which was inspired by the journey Matthews made to Standing Rock.

Perhaps the greatest and most powerful moments of the Stand with Standing Rock concert, however, were the appearances from Native American artists and speakers, who performed traditional music and told their stories. Among the most stirring was the testimony of Tokata Ironeyes, 13, who comes from the Standing Rock Reservation.

“I’ve seen things that no kid should have to see. I’ve seen my mother get arrested. I’ve seen my father on the front lines fighting for out people. I’ve seen my aunts and uncles being maced and beaten on the front lines… that’s something nobody should have to through or experience.”

The Stand with Standing Rock concert represents the latest step toward drawing attention to an event that seems to be ignored by many, the Standing Rock Sioux opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. As the situation in North Dakota continues to unfold, many people are lending their voices — and songs — to the cause.

[Featured Image by Amy Harris/AP Images]