With the addition of A Perfect Circle/Tool singer Maynard James Keenan and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Saturday's Axis of Justice benefit in Hollywood is certainly the organization's biggest concert yet.
That Tom Morello and Serj Tankian's political action group is louder than ever just months before a presidential election, however, is just a coincidence.
"It's definitely an important time, but we take our politics seriously 365 days a year, not just in election years," the Audioslave guitarist said proudly on Tuesday (July 13). "Aggression overseas, the growing gulf between rich and poor on our homeland, those are things we deal with on a daily basis."
Saturday's show at the Avalon, the fourth in the Axis of Justice concert series, will feature Morello under his the Nightwatchman alias, plus System of a Down singer Tankian, Jurassic 5, Pete Yorn and Audioslave's Brad Wilk.
"The model is based on the Tell Us the Truth tour I did last fall with Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and the Coup's Boots Riley, where it's musicians with varied musical backgrounds but with similar ideological backgrounds, getting together to raise money for a good cause," Morello said. "The [Axis of Justice shows] are about great music. We keep the speeches to a bare minimum. It's about the one-of-a-kind collaborations that occur between the musicians and the very special moments."
Past benefits have featured a variety of collaborations and surprise guests, including Serj's System of a Down bandmates, who played an impromptu set at the most recent show. Each of the concerts benefits the Axis of Justice as well as a different cause. Proceeds from Saturday's event will go to food banks and homeless shelters in downtown Los Angeles.
"Homelessness and hunger is one of the real crimes that exists in America," Morello said (see "Tom Morello, Serj Tankian Break Law To Feed Homeless"). "In a country that has the most billionaires of any country in the world, to have people living and eating in the streets is really a travesty. And to whatever extent we can help eliminate the suffering of the poor, we're happy to do it. We're also an activist organization, so to change the dynamics of a society that allow homelessness and hunger is also an important thing we're fighting for."
At Saturday's show, Morello and Tankian will announce the first Axis of Justice meeting open to the public.
"We've always functioned as a political grass-roots watering hole, where you can find the local affiliates in your area to get involved, but what we found was that people want to join Axis of Justice, and that was something we were unprepared for," Morello said. "And now we're getting prepared for that, to be our own functioning organization to both do the charitable work and the civil disobedience."
Axis of Justice members will help organize task forces, work at food banks and do other volunteer work. For more information, check out www.axisofjustice.org.
"It's tremendously encouraging [that people want to be involved]," Morello said. "I think there's a vast untapped agitation among the youth of America who want to get involved and do something about what they see as this shameless corruption and criminal militarism that's going on in their name. And they want to fight back against it, and we're here to do it with them."