Dixies, Diddy Rock the Vote

Artists honored for political activism

The Dixie Chicks and P. Diddy were among those honored for their efforts in increasing voter awareness at the eleventh annual Rock the Vote Awards at the Hollywood Palladium Saturday. The gala event included appearances by California Senator Barbara Boxer and performances by Fountains of Wayne, Black Eyed Peas and N.E.R.D.

The Dixie Chicks were presented with the Patrick Lippert Award -- named for Rock the Vote's first executive director -- in part for the Texas trio's "Chicks Rock, Chicks Vote" campaign, which began with a $100,000 donation from the band and has led to 150,000 voters registering through the program's site.

In accepting the award, banjo player Emily Robison touched on the inadvertent start to the Chicks' activism, with a crack at the expense of singer Natalie Maines. "We probably wouldn't have been here if you hadn't stuck your big ol' foot in your big ol' mouth," said Robison, referring to Maines' on-stage comment in London last year in which the singer said she was "ashamed" that President George W. Bush was a fellow Texan. The subsequent uproar led to many radio stations dropping the Chicks from their play lists, threats against the band and Dixie Chicks CD destroying parties, all of which was somewhat mitigated by the fact that the group played a long string of sold-out dates following the furor.

"The bottom line is every vote does count," added Maines. "Last year we learned the importance of not taking any of our rights for granted."

Eight-year rock veterans -- and dubious 2004 Best New Artist Grammy nominees -- Fountains of Wayne obliged the audience with their May-December romantic fantasy "Stacy's Mom" and closed with an extended version of their early alternative radio hit "Radiation Vibe," working the Cars' "Let's Go" and Steve Miller's "Swingtown" and "Jet Airliner" into the protracted jam. The Black-Eyed Peas then set the social conscience bar high with their Record of the Year-nominated "Where Is the Love," while N.E.R.D. aimed decidedly lower with "Lapdance" and other libidinous party anthems.

P. Diddy was honored for his participation in various voter outreach programs, including Rock the Vote public service announcements and phone campaigns. Although event organizers were careful to emphasize the value of getting young people involved in politics regardless of party affiliation, P. Diddy's acceptance speech made clear what side he's on.

"We're going to need to get Bush's ass out of that office," he said. "Watching CNN you don't hear a lot of talk about young people. We have to use the energy we have as young people to make them respect and recognize us. I honestly feel the president we have in office doesn't care about young people, doesn't care about minorities and I don't know if he feels the pain of the mothers and fathers of our soldiers that are dying in Iraq. We need to make a change."