Rev. Billy, on fossil fuels and special songs
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | “It strikes at the heart of our ability to control the places in which we live. It’s a test. They think they can force this on us…and if they do, they can force a lot.” That ominous warning of bigger and bolder corporate things to come flows from Reverend Billy’s assessment of a plan by Spectra Energy Corp to construct a 20-mile natural gas pipeline stretching from Linden, NJ to Gansevoort Street.
To thwart the Spectra project — or at least throw the righteous light of activist shame on it — Reverend Billy is planning to lead locals on a march to “where that pipeline is supposed to surface, in the Meatpacking District.”
Equal parts parade, protest and performance, this group trek to the pipeline’s outcropping will cap an afternoon “service” designed to both enlighten and enrage. They’re calling it “Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir Present: No Pipeline, at The Highline.” That’s Highline as in the Ballroom — not High Line, as in the nearby elevated park. Both venues are in danger, warns the Reverend. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission calls the pipeline “safe” — but Reverend Billy is using far less generous words. “We will say ‘yes’ to solar panels on our rooftops, and we will say ‘no’ to dangerous fossil fuel. That’s the devil.”
The increasingly likely prospect of a natural gas pipeline snaking its way through West Chelsea is just the latest marriage between corporate interests and fossil fuels to merit the Church of Stop Shopping’s wrath (it’s been years since they’ve moved beyond exclusively protesting conspicuous retail consumption).
Previously, Reverend Billy — an outspoken hydrofracking opponent — has traveled to West Virginia for a show of solidarity with locals who were protesting the removal of mountaintops for mining purposes. At this time last year, the Reverend and his choir brought their original blend of performance art, community activism and political satire to London’s Tate Modern gallery. “We were invited by a group of seven activist organizations who are opposing British Petroleum giving money to this illustrious institution and putting their logo on the front of it,” recalls the Reverend — who, in a few weeks, will once again return to London for a solo performance at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace (located in the heart of the Financial District).
As for the July 1 Highline event, Reverend Billy notes that there will be material specific to their latest endeavor. “We have a new song, in which we sing to Spectra,” he says. “It’s called ‘The River Song,’ and it’s a cross between a gospel song and a hex. Our post-religious, all genders, all races chorus is definitely full of the spirit right now. We’re going to sing that, and we’re gathering many different kinds of eco-activists.” Strength in numbers, Reverend Billy asserts, is the only way to counteract well-funded corporate interests. “The creative destruction of the earth by fossil fuel extraction,” he says, “must be stopped.”
ART/ACTIVISM | REVEREND BILLY & THE STOP SHOPPING CHOIR PRESENT:
NO PIPELINE, AT THE HIGH LINE
Sun., July 1, at 1pm (doors open at noon)
At the Highline Ballroom
437 W. 16th St., btw. 9th & 10th Aves.
For tickets ($12), call 212-414-5994 or visit highlineballroom.com
Appropriate for all ages. Lunch and spirits served