Music joins the presidential campaign Aug. 28, when the Rock the Vote tour kicks off at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, with stops at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and throughout the South and East before wrapping up at Pennsylvania State University on Sept. 19.
The biggest star on the lineup? The tour bus. Designed by street artist Mr. Brainwash, the 44-foot leviathan is outfitted with laptop kiosks, where people can register and learn about voter ID requirements and polling locations.
"Registration is the biggest obstacle to the voting process; 12,000 people turn 18 every day," says Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote. "The bus will stop in cities and small towns. We just want to make it easier for young people to have political participation."
Why Penn State? The school's reputation isn't the only thing that has taken a beating this year. The state's ID requirement laws have been at the center of controversy, as well.
"Some students may be surprised to find that their student ID doesn't meet the criteria for photo identification now required at the polls on Election Day in Pennsylvania. They may need to secure another form of acceptable identification," says Smith. "Also, a lot of inner-city youth don't have drivers' licenses, so they have to take an extra step to register."
By adding music to the mix to, well, rock the vote, organizers aim to register 1.5 million people. "This year, at Lollapalooza, we had 20-30 artists stop by and film PSAs for the campaign that we will air on the bus," says Smith. "This tour is more like a festival. We're looking at a dance tent and attendees can also play video game Assassin's Creed III on the bus."
Jack Johnson, who will headline the Penn State stop for his band's first performance of the year, hopes to draw a few eyeballs to the tour, too. "I have three kids now and as I get more fatherly, the more interested I am in these kinds of issues that affect young people," says the singer. G. Love and Special Sauce and ALO are also confirmed for the tour.
Getting artists to get fans involved in politics works, Johnson says. "In Hawaii, I spend a lot of time and energy working with environmental groups, and when I have an audience I like to be able to shed some light on that issue," he says. "There are a lot more windmills and renewable resources in Hawaii, and I feel good to be a part of that change."
"We want to send the message: This is our country and this is our future," says Smith.