U. Utah Phillips, activist, performer and one-time Spokane resident, will pay a visit to his old hometown Wednesday.
Phillips, who now hangs his hat in Nevada City, Calif., will play at the Hale’s Ales Brewery in the Spokane Valley.
A troubadour of the Old Left persuasion, Phillips belongs to that diminishing crowd committed to making social change in gentle and personal ways. In concert, music is merely the glue that holds together his provocative and humorous stream-of-consciousness monologues.
“Blather,” he calls it.
“I don’t play much, or sing much,” he told one audience, “but I can tell stories.”
A Phillips show is laden with stories and tall tales that usually conclude with an aphorism:
“When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you soon forget you voted for evil.”
“If you’re set on having heroes, make sure they’re dead so they can’t blow it.”
“A melting pot is when the people on the bottom get burned and the scum rise to the top.”
“Be your own best government,” he tells his audiences. And, as if to take his own advice, he has become something of a perennial presidential candidate on the Sloth and Indolence ticket.
He promises to “do nothing if elected.”
He actually did make a run at the Utah Legislature once, as a candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party, and picked up 6,000 votes.
Phillips comes by his beliefs naturally: His father was a Depression-era Communist, his mother a labor organizer. If he had his way, “Everyone would go home and throw their television sets into the street. Secondly, everyone would figure out what they wanted and what they needed, disentangle the two and stop wasting so much.”
Though graced with a warm baritone and a storyteller’s touch that rivals the best of them, Phillips shuns any greater connection with the entertainment industry than his affiliations with the Rounder and Redhouse record labels dictate.
“I’m working at a subindustrial level. I’m not in the industry,” he told an interviewer. “I own the means of production. I have no bosses - only partners - and I play for people I like.”
He has little affection for bosses. He sings an old labor movement song called “The Boss”: “Praise boss when many work bells chime/Praise him for bits of overtime/Praise him whose wars we love to fight/Praise him, fat leech and parasite.”
He has great affection for those who share his sensibilities - the folk family, he calls them. “Singing together and sharing food is holy activity. Not consuming, but creating. The folk family is the healthiest thing to happen in the United States.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: UTAH PHILLIPS Location and time: Hale’s Ales Brewery, 5634 E. Commerce, Tuesday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 ($12 at the door), available at Street Music, 117 N. Howard, or by calling 535-1868