In this undated photo, folk singer Woody Guthrie plays his guitar. More than 75 years since Guthrie traveled across Washington and Oregon, composing 26 songs that extolled the virtues of Washington State's Grand Coulee Dam and the electricity it produced, a new wave of protest music is popping up across the Northwest.

In this undated photo, folk singer Woody Guthrie plays his guitar. More than 75 years since Guthrie traveled across Washington and Oregon, composing 26 songs that extolled the virtues of Washington State’s Grand Coulee Dam and the electricity it produced, a new wave of protest music is popping up across the Northwest.

AP

Donald Trump’s inauguration party starts Thursday, with musicians like Toby Keith playing at the Lincoln Memorial.

This week in the Northwest there will also be celebrations, along with demonstrations, and other discordant sounds:  Signs that a new era of protest music is brewing.

Portland-based musician Kyle Craft’s protest song “Before the Wall” was inspired by Trump’s promise to “build a great wall along the southern border.”

“If the wall it goes up and the country comes down / And it’s too tall to get in, too late to get out,” the song goes.

“It’s just one big question, what does that wall that’s being talked about getting built represent,” Craft said of his song. “What does that represent not only to people inside of it but outside of it?

“I think that’s what Trump’s message was: ‘We don’t need anybody else but us,’” he said.

Most of Craft’s other songs sound more like David Bowie than Woody Guthrie. And in the past, he’s tackled more of the personal than the overtly political.

But Craft says things feel different right now.

“This moment, it’s a cloud, you know, hanging over you. In the same way that these love experiences and romance experiences sort of hung over my life like a cloud, it feels silly to even have personal problems like that, right now.”

Other Northwest artists are feeling the same push and pull. Like the Seattle band Wimps.

“Typically the songs are just about what happened in one of our days. So it’s a lot of daily life stuff like oversleeping or feeling anxious about work. Being at a show and realizing you’re the oldest person there,” said Wimps lead singer Rachel Ratner.

“Before this election when I was writing songs about day to day minutia it was about like: not wanting to go to work today. And now larger things are taking up my mind, so those minutia aren’t as important to me as the larger issues that are faced in the world. How I’m going to translate that into song is still being figured out.”

Ratner says a lot of Seattle bands are feeling the same political mood right now. And it’s not just about the music:

“How to make sure immigrants, women, planned parenthood and abortion rights are supported. So there’s been a lot more benefits I’ve noticed bands doing - a lot of that kind of like, community activism,” she said.

Seattle music critic Charles R. Cross says political moments like this one tend to usher in big cultural changes, particularly when you look at the history of popular music.

“Having a conservative right-wing government in my opinion - my own political take - is bad for virtually everything other than old rich white guys, but it seems to be good for music,” he said. 

“There is almost an absolute, direct correlation that every great rock and roll song was written during a right-wing administration.”

Seattle feminist punk band Tacocat have always been political, but lead singer Emily Nokes agrees that this moment is different.

“We’ve had some really angry songs before but I kind of tend to skew towards humor in writing. And now I’m finding it a little hard to do even that. I don’t feel funny about any of this right now. I just feel pissed off, like I want to write an album full of shrieking harpy noises,” she said.

And Nokes says, when it comes to the Northwest music scene, a change is going to come.

“A lot more people are feeling mobilized and feeling like they need to do something about it. Certainly in my community where people are just like: What do we need to do.”