Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein describes his years at Penn as distinctly nonpolitical.
"I was kind of always down at the University of Pennsylvania Museum working on fossils," says the former Anthropology major who formed his band with three fellow Penn students in 1995. "That was where my head was -- music and fossils."
Politics was not last on his list of priorities, but it was pretty far down.
"There wasn't a heck of a lot going on in the last 20 years that has been drawing [people of my generation] in," he says. "It was kind of like life is good, things are fine, America is safe, everything is going perfect for you."
He never imagined that he would one day be leading a group dedicated to involving young people in the political process.
HeadCount -- the organization Brownstein co-founded with friend Andy Bernstein -- is doing just that by registering young voters at concerts by groups such as the Dave Matthews Band, the Grateful Dead and Phish.
The organization -- led by about 1,500 volunteers -- has registered over 30,000 people, getting a boost in the last few weeks from summer festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
Brownstein launched the organization in February 2004 with the ambitious goal of registering 100,000 concert-goers in the run-up to the election in November, as well as to stress the importance of voting.
"For us, HeadCount is all about the political process," he says. "I don't want to say that there wasn't a partisan motivation [in founding the organization], but it's gotten to the point where it's not about partisanship. It's about participation."
He hasn't always been this fired up about getting out the vote, however.
"I used to think trans-fatty acids was my cause, that was my joke," he says with a laugh. "I'll rail against trans-fatty acids."
"It wasn't really until the war started in Iraq that I cared to get involved in anything like [HeadCount]," he says.
"When we went to war in Iraq, my head started to turn and my stomach started to turn and I just thought, 'What are we doing?'"
The war motivated Brownstein, especially in light of the fact that he didn't vote in New York state in 2000. Now, he takes it personally when people don't vote.
"This is the first time that things have really, really mattered for me," he says. "I can only just hope that that's a reflection of not the way that I feel, but of ... the entire culture that we are involved in. I get that feeling from 1,300 volunteers from HeadCount."
Now, with the arrival of his first son Zachary Hunter this past Saturday, Brownstein is also a family man. And although he is very excited about the new addition to his family, he remains dedicated to his organization.
"There's a four-day-old baby in my house and I'm spending most of my time on the phone with team leaders," he says.
"For me, it's just normal. I cannot let this thing go regardless of what's going on in my life."Comments powered by Disqus
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