Caitlin Westerfield

On Sunday afternoon, 200 people came to New Haven’s Lyric Hall to listen to live music and raise money to support the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

The concert raised $2,968, nearly triple the original goal, and included performances from at least 26 local music groups. The event drew two rooms full of concertgoers who were passionate about the Standing Rock cause and fostering a sense of community with music.

“Art is one of the most beautiful things that humanity creates,” event organizer Matthew Moroney FES ’18 said. “It’s expressing your curiosity, your creativity, and it’s very important to remember that if there’s one thing that can save us, it is art.”

The concert included one room with acoustic performers and a second featuring louder music, from rock to rap. Some musicians performed original pieces, while others played their own arrangements. Many of the songs were focused on uniting together and remaining hopeful.

Additionally, a silent auction displayed work from a variety of local artists, and flyers encouraged audience members to call their congressmen to advocate against the pipeline.

“This issue is really not about climate change, it’s about indigenous oppression,” Moroney said. “I’ve been telling people it’s like our 1960s. It’s basically pre-civil rights, pre-environmental laws.”

In addition to raising money for the protesters, Moroney also sought to inspire others to actively make a difference. He hopes that by working collectively, the New Haven community can fight to heal society from oppression.

Concertgoers were especially optimistic because just an hour after the music began at 4 p.m., news broke that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe, a major victory for Standing Rock activists.

“Whether it’s just a temporary victory or a permanent one really remains to be seen, but it is just one small victory in a battle that we all are fighting,” Moroney said. “We all are going to have to fight every day for the rest of our lives if we really want to save the world.”

Performers said the event was a success. Aeron Michael, one of the acoustic soloist performers, said that while he has been to many events at Lyric Hall before, he had never seen so many people in the space.

The acoustic soloist Ez Bluez emphasized that it is important to perform at events that support worthy causes.

“If I can use my gift to open people’s eyes and give back a little bit, I’m going to do that, because that’s what is really important in life: not only to have your gifts, but to share them in a positive way,” Bluez said. “You can make money doing music or you can make a difference, and I’d much rather make a difference.”

Audience members Nicole Lod and Jaime Konopka said they were impressed by the energy at the event. Lod especially highlighted the feeling of community spirit, an aspect Moroney stressed was one of the most important in a benefit concert.

“Everyone coming together is worth more than money,” Moroney said.

USA Today predicts there are 1,000 to 3,000 protesters currently at Standing Rock, with another 2,000 U.S. veterans currently on route to join them.