Picture this: A row of over 100 policemen in full riot gear lined up inside the high chain linked fence of Westover Air Force Base; outside the fence, a row of about 100 demonstrators sitting cross-legged, waiting to be arrested; also outside the fence and beyond the row of demonstrators, a large group of hippies, punks and music fans dancing wildly under the sunny skies of Western Massachusetts to a band playing live from the back of a large pickup truck.
The year was 1990, and the occasion a demonstration against the war in the Persian Gulf. Northampton's Free Press, which included Rob Skelton, Ernie Wilson, Paul Scarpino, and Dave Durst, was the band with enough gumption to bring a generator and set up in the back of the pickup. The scene was a surreal and powerful expression of the attitude that Free Press embodied so perfectly: Think globally, rock locally.
I was freshly graduated from college at the time and living in Northampton. I would go out to see Free Press play every chance I got, and late-night acoustic guitar jams with their guitar player Ernie Wilson on Graves Avenue in many ways represent my birth as a Northampton musician. Years later when I was playing with The Figments, I'm sure I had the local perspective of Free Press in mind while penning songs about local bars and referencing well-known landmarks of the Pioneer Valley. Shame on me for not bringing a pickup down to Westover in 2003.