Headlining this year's Big Day Out is Rage Against the Machine. RATM stands out as one of the few bands to achieve mainstream success while putting an openly anti-capitalist message.
Starting in 1992 in someone's living room, the band railed against war, racism and the capitalist system. Part of the musical appeal of the band was the rap lyrics of Zach de la Rocha combined with the unconventional guitar work of Tom Morello.
Morello's political education began early. His parents were involved in the civil rights movement, and as a child, members of the Ku Klux Klan hung a noose outside his father's garage. Morello told the January 17 Sydney Morning Herald, "The question I have often turned over in my head is this: if today I knew the Klan was coming down the driveway to harass my family, would I be hiding inside or would I be waiting in the bushes with a baseball bat?"
However, the band also recognised that merely writing political songs will not change the world. In an age when many bands encourage young people to buy ring tones, RATM encouraged people to read Marx and get active. In one memorable video, the band defied the police to play at Wall Street and then invaded the stock exchange. Recently touring with Anti-Flag, they have also helped them to do the same.
The band had a history of supporting progressive movements, appearing at rallies and promoting the movement of the Zapatistas in Mexico.
Despite this, after the initial break-up in 1999, Morello hoped that they could be better activists, rather than just musicians.
In 2005, Audioslave, formed by three quarters of RATM, defied the US blockade and visited Cuba. There they put on a free concert in a show of solidarity with the Cuban people.
In conjunction with Serj Tankian from System of a Down, Morello founded Axis of Justice — an attempt to unite progressive musicians with political activity.
RATM reformed in 2007, claiming that the barbarous policies of the Bush regime had enraged them enough to perform again. During their first performance in years, de la Rocha declared "this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel that in order to sustain itself it needs to destroy entire countries and profit from their reconstruction".
De la Rocha has incited media outrage by suggesting that rich white US administrators be "hung to death and shot", according to the SMH article.
Morello pointed out "The US administration is guilty of war crimes. They are guilty of first strike aggression against a foreign nation. It is not that extreme or far-fetched to suggest that criminals need to be brought to justice, whether it is a guy holding up a convenience store or the criminals in the houses of power. The problem for America is the crimes of our government are accepted as business as usual."
Morello spoke at the recent G8 protest, while Morello and de la Rocha performed at the Hollywood writers' strike.