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Obama Jam-a-Rama

Even if I weren't a fan of his politics, I'd still vote for Sen. Barack Obama based on his choice of music. Not only does he have the overwhelming support of most mainstream musicians (Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, and Common among them) but there's good, danceable music attached to his campaign as well. He's had Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield in rotation for awhile — much better than Clinton's more mundane choices of Celine Dion and Smash Mouth. And at 47, he's young enough that scrolling through his iPod would probably lead to any number of interesting selections. Some Prince, perhaps — tell me you can't picture Obama rocking out to "Raspberry Beret." Or maybe Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" as his former competitors dropped out of the race.

But I admit that I was still surprised when I heard Miami's own Spam Allstars were going to open for him and warm up the crowd for his speech at the BankAtlantic Center last Friday in Sunrise. Not because our local stalwarts hadn't earned the right to play for a potential president but because the talented electro Latin funk band is so eclectic and musically "out there" that I was amazed anyone in the Democratic Party would sign off on this.

How in the world did they get the nod to play such a gig? And with the Miami Pan Symphony Steel Orchestra—a 12-piece Caribbean steel-drum ensemble playing ahead of them, it seemed like the hipness of Obama's campaign was transcending itself.

The night before the gig at the BankAtlantic Center, I chatted with Andrew Yeomanson, AKA DJ Le Spam, to get his thoughts on playing in support of Obama, particularly at an event in which the senator would actually be there, as would tens of thousands of fans. Typically a very chill character, Yeomanson still seemed a bit stunned that this was all happening.

"I wasn't expecting to get asked to play the Obama rally this week; no, it wasn't on my list of things to do," he joked. "But it's the type of thing where you drop everything you have going on to make it happen."

A tough decision? No, Yeomanson says, a no-brainer.

"In the bottom of our hearts, I don't think there is anybody out there that we want to see become president more than him," he says. "So we're totally excited to do it."

The whole thing came about very quickly — a friend of the band's, entertainment attorney Les Zigel, thought that, given the band's multicultural sound, it'd be perfect to open for Obama. The recommendation was made; the Obama campaign listened to the band's recordings and simply said yes. There's a rumor that it was between the Spam Allstars and Alicia Keys, but Yeomanson wouldn't confirm how valid that was.

"Well, I heard that," he says. "And I know she's in town, but I'm sure she's busy."

In some ways, it's a good thing the mega-star Keys didn't play the event, which might have taken away from the Obama rally itself.

By the time I arrived to the BankAtlantic Center last Friday, the place was packed with thousands of Obama supporters, many of them drenched from the heavy rains. I missed the Miami Pan Symphony Steel Orchestra since the lines for entry were ridiculous, but by the time I got in, the whole place was rocking to the tunes that the Spam Allstars were playing. There was a sense of unity in the building, and I couldn't help but think the group's music was making it happen. As I looked around at an arena of whites and blacks dancing together, Indians and Pakistanis, Cubans and Haitians, Muslims and Jews, all grooving together as the Spam Allstars proceeded to rock the house, it was an undeniably powerful set.

As voters, we'll all see if we're able to change history this November. While watching the Spam Allstars get a packed arena of soggy South Floridians of every ethnicity to dance in unison, you couldn't help but think, "Yes we can."

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Jonathan Cunningham