Accra Shepp is a very talented photographer who for months has been documenting the people of Occupy Wall Street using an antique box camera. In early December of 2011, Accra took a photograph of The Occuponics down at Zuccotti Park (AKA Liberty Square) and the band was very grateful to be honored in this way. You can check out more of his images online at the site of the Steven Kasher Gallery.
On Christmas Day, 2011, in Zuccotti Park the Occuponics, with other musicians, perform Feliz Navidad, a traditional Christmas song made popular by Jose Feliciano. Feliz Navidad is a great song to play in public spaces, because most people know the melody, the chords are easy to play, and the spirit of the song is infectious. This song has the power to cheer people up, and one should never underestimate the importance of being able to do this when people are genuinely suffering.
Despite the fact that many protesters continued to feel aggrieved after they were denied the right to protest by encamping at Zuccotti Park (AKA Liberty Square), Christmas Day at Zuccotti Park was a joyous experience, and the Occuponics were on hand to provide musical support to the demonstrators.
As the evening darkened, the lights in the park glittered gaily, as protestors pondered the meaning of Christmas and were kept warm by a wonderful meal prepared by the OWS kitchen. Much of the food was donated by local restaurants, a fact that everyone was grateful for.
On Christmas Day, the Occuponics performed many songs at Zuccotti. This recording captures the band doing one of their standards, Paul Stain’s Occupy Wall Street Song.
One of the best things about playing at protests such as Occupy Wall Street is the energy and spontaneity of people participating in the musical experience that finds its way back into the music. Here, at Liberty Square (AKA Zuccotti Park), the band jams on a simple blues progression with input from the audience. What resulted in this case was a song called “Zuccotti Park Blues.” Given that this performance happened only a short time after police raided the Zuccotti encampment, removing and/or confiscating many of the occupiers’ personal possessions, it is quite appropriate that one of the singers notes that “they even took my shoes.”
All of us in the Occuponics are grateful to video documentarian Jean E. Taylor for taking the time to interview some of the Occuponics for her video documentary on Occupy Wall Street (OWS), recorded in late 2011 at Zuccotti Park (AKA Liberty Square). In this sequence, the Occuponics’ Stephen Carl Baldwin talks about the process of making music for Occupy Wall Street.
The Occuponics jam on an original song they made up called “Hard Times” in December, 2011. This song highlights the hardship of the protesters after their campsite was evicted late on the night of November 15, 2011. “Hard Times” was the first of several original songs composed by the group which are often performed at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the New York City area. Usually what happens is that one group member will come up with a chord progression that everyone can play, someone will suggest a theme for the song, and others will begin composing melody and lyrics on the fly.
Veteran NYC street performer David Peel (often referred to as “The Godfather of Punk” because of his major influence over the development of the NYC-based punk music movement in the late 20th Century) jams with The Occuponics on December 7th, 2011, in Liberty Square (AKA Zuccotti Park). Dave started hanging with OWS early on, and was frequently seen playing what observers called his “Atomic Cowbell” in the drum circle. Here, Dave performs his original Occupy Wall Street song, “Wall Street Sucks” with accompaniment by at least one of the Occuponics.