Rock. But What About the Vote?

by Brandon McFarland

One of a handful of parties during the Republican National Convention in Tampa’s neighboring city Ybor was hosted by the Rock The Vote campaign, so presumably, it was about politics. Headlining the show was electro house DJ/producer Steve Aoki. There was no doubt Aoki (whose name sits right under David Guetta on Forbes’ “Highest Paid DJs” list) could bring out young folks out in the masses. But for what exactly? Maybe I’m too square to get the point besides just another party.

Most of the crowd, outfitted in everything from go-go dancing outfits to glitter painted Steve Aoki t-shirts (not to mention rave gloves), definitely were not Republicans.

So maybe the plan was to get all the young ragers together and make them sit through a small lecture before partying. Inside the venue however, it looked like your normal club atmosphere. No register stations, no voting information — just drinks, loud music and party people. Rock the Vote and its sponsor Pringles did spring for 25 flat screens showing Rock the Vote and Pringles propaganda throughout the night. I started to wonder if this event was connected to the RNC or even about voting at all.

Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote, told us she’s positive that parties like this are making a difference in an unconventional way.

“You know, you can go to places where they’re hanging out, you can go online, do mobile programs, you can go to college campuses, but sometimes you need to get people together. That’s what we do with our concerts. We get to convey the message of civic engagement and to define what it means to participate. When there’s 2,000 people dancing for your right to vote, it’s quite contagious.”

The club filled out around nine o’clock and excitement built as Aoki took the stage. The crowd, elated that the stringy haired DJ has taken to the turntables, begins to chant “Aoki!.” A perfect moment for a speech. I mean, we are in the middle of the RNC, right? Aoki takes the microphone and says, “I’m doing this for free so ya’ll better go f***ing vote!”

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