The buzz coming from Harford County College this Saturday might literally be the overdriven distortion cranked up on an electric guitar, but, figuratively speaking, it will be the soundtrack to the war against youth political apathy.
Two months shy of the Presidential General Election, the push is on to encourage those who have not yet voted to register and learn a little more about the process. Enter Rock’n’Register, a six-band extravaganza scheduled for Saturday, September 13, at Harford Community College’s Susquehanna Gymnasium.
The event is part Battle of the Bands, part Battle of the Benefits and part Crash Course For Those New to Voting. Patrons will not only use actual Harford County Board of Elections electronic voting machines to cast their ballots for their favorite band, but will also vote for which local charity or service organization will receive the lion’s share of the event’s proceeds.
The doors will open at 2 p.m. and music should start fairly soon thereafter. Tickets are $6.00 in advance, or $8 at the door, and advanced sale tickets can be purchased on campus at HCC or online via www.rocknregister.com.
Rock’n’Register is the brainchild of Jobeth Bowers – a 27-year-old Carroll County native who moved to Harford County about a year ago and came up with the idea for the concert when he started thinking of ways to interest a younger generation to participate in the electoral process.
“I was in a band a long time ago and have been interested in promoting voter registration and awareness among young people for quite some time,” he said.
Bowers, who said he doesn’t have any direct ties into the political system and doesn’t have any particular intentions of running for office despite working for a Baltimore City law firm, found previous attempts at energizing the youth vote to be “bland.”
“Some colleagues were discussing holding a voter registration drive, and I found the idea of setting up a table outside of a grocery store or a Wal-Mart somewhat bland, and that we should find a reason to get people, especially young people, to specifically attend the voter registration drive. From my experience I’ve found that the one thing that is best able to draw a crowd of young people is a concert, and the ball got rolling accordingly to have a concert which was also a voter registration drive,” he added.
For the entertainment side of the event, Bowers turned to social networking sites like MySpace to find local bands that might be interested in rocking the vote.
After an online weeding-out process of nearly 100 bands and some last minute lineup changes, six bands will be playing at Rock’n’Register on Saturday, in the following arrangement:
2:00pm-2:45pm – King Vitamin
3:00pm-3:45 – The Niki Barr Band
4:00pm-4:45pm – Steel Nerve
5:00pm-5:45pm – Concrete Prophet
6:00pm-6:45pm – Yell vs. Chant
7:00pm-7:45 – Arlington Sleeps
The bands are from all over Maryland, but mostly from Harford, Cecil or Baltimore Counties, and represent a range of musical styles, Bowers said.
With the ball in motion, Harford Community College stepped up as the biggest sponsor of the event.
“They were excited about the idea and have been on board ever since,” Bowers said.
The Rock’n’Register team also reached out to political groups in Harford County, including the Young Democrats, Republicans and Green party. A number of politicians and elected officials are also expected to be on hand to talk to the young would-be voters. The Arena Club, who will be attending the event to provide information about their facility, chipped in with a financial donation.
In the true spirit of democracy, the door money from Rock’n’Register will be awarded based on a vote of attendees at the event.
The Harford County Board of Elections will be bringing two voting machines for newly registered voters to see before using them for real on November 4th. There will be a live ballot in the machines to vote for the overall best performing band, which local non-profit will benefit from the proceeds of the concert, and a few other questions.
The organizations hoping to secure the popular vote Saturday night, and bring home the much-needed cash, include the Humane Society of Harford County, Harford County Public Library, Harford Land Trust, Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office Children’s Advocacy Center and Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.
Bowers said the purpose of the event is multi-faceted, so as to not only register people to vote, but allow them to ask questions, connect to people and learn more about the political process and what and for whom they’re actually voting.
“This is the inaugural installation of Rock’n’Register, if you will, but if we can get the support for it, I am not opposed to making it an annual event, not solely on election cycles. There’s a new batch of young people turning 18 every year and it’d be a shame not to open up an opportunity like this to them to not only get them registered to vote, but to introduce them to the political system, allow them to meet members of political groups, etc.,” Bowers added.