Revolutionary ‘folk’ for the people

Jeff Moses

For three years, the Haymarket Squares have been making “Punkgrass for the People” as they call it. Marc Oxborrow, Mark Sunman, John Luther, Josh Garber and Mark Allred play political folk that would make Woody Guthrie proud.

“I like the simplicity of music that’s guerilla, you just do it, you don’t have to plug in, you don’t have to, whatever, just your voice and your guitar,” said Sunman the, band’s guitarist.

Guerilla is definitely a term the Phoenix band lives up to. They all play acoustic instruments so they are able to show up and play almost anywhere. They set up and played on day one of Occupy Phoenix, as well as outside the Mesa Arts Center during February’s republican debates.

“They’re music is perfect for our events and actions and protests and demonstrations,” said Sheila Black of The Women in Black and the End the War Coalition.  “They’re about progressive history, working for peace all the time and pushing against corruption and war,” she continued.

“They’re irreverent and they’re outside the lines and yes, they are revolutionary,” Sheila said.

Even the name Haymarket Squares is in homage to “The Haymarket Massacre,” a Chicago-workers uprising that is commemorated every year on May 1, or May Day.

The Squares’ song titles reflect their views with songs like “We’ll Always Have Religion”, “Oligarchy” and “We got a War”. They put a fun, danceable sound behind powerful, political lyrics.

The Squares don’t just focus on big national issues either; they bring it back to the Phoenix area with tracks like “Sheriff Joe” and “I Hate this City.”

In November, Jesse Jackson visited Phoenix and compared it to Mississippi during the civil rights movement, “That’s got some teeth,” said John Luther.

“I don’t think there would really be a need for a band like this if that wasn’t the case,” he continued. “I think the fact that we are in a place that is so ass backwards is part of why we need to exist,” he said.

 “Plus, people need to learn how to dance and listen to acoustic folk music again,” Sunman added.

The Haymarket Squares bring an important aspect of social awakening with them. “In the 60’s and any revolution back in history, music has been essential, and art also,” Sheila said, “There would not be a revolution without music.”

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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