Image: Ben Affleck
Kevin Winter  /  Getty Images file
Actor Ben Affleck is seen in this file photo.
By NBC Reporter
updated 8/27/2008 2:10:11 PM ET 2008-08-27T18:10:11

Jeremy Thompson has to take this call.

"Of course you can invite Matt Damon," he chuckles into his cell phone. "Charlize will be there. Wait, has he done movies with Charlize?"

Thompson, 30, is a lead organizer of one of the Democratic National Convention's most star-studded fetes.

Wednesday night's "Unconventional '08" is a music festival and VIP after party hosted by up-and-coming San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and organized in conjunction with MoveOn.org. It's an event geared toward the hip denizens of the convention world — offering them a night so cutting-edge, it practically bleeds.

This shot of indie-rock chic is chased down with a bit of Tinseltown glitz.

Before the sun sets, attendees will rock out at a free block party played by bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Cold War Kids.

Afterwards, VIP ticket-holders will enjoy a collaborative singer-songwriter jam session attended by the likes of Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and Mathew Caws of Nada Surf.

The evening venue is the Manifest Hope Gallery, an exhibition of grassroots contemporary art coordinated by liberal super-interest-group MoveOn.org.

Expected to be mingling will be actors Ben Affleck (at the behest of the MoveOn team), Charlize Theron, and Matthew Modine, as well as musical artist Moby. Jennifer Lopez is also rumored to be on the list.

"It just came together organically," says Thompson. "That's the funny thing about it."

Father, activist
Don't let Jeremy's 818 (Los Angeles) area code and his friends-of-Damon calls fool you.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

A smalltown Nebraska native who grew up in Denver, he suggests a favorite hometown brewery rather than the toney Palm Restaurant to grab a bite. He doesn't drink.

"Gotta stay sharp," he explains as he sips a lemonade.

A film school graduate, Thompson started experimenting with political web videos before it was cool. 

And, at 30, he's the father of three young children. The idea of reading them Dr. Seuss books lights up is face — even more than when he lands a big-name band.

That may be because booking hipster acts isn't Thompson's day job.

His passion is politics. Particularly, here, in a state that is redefining political alliances.

He first met Barack Obama, not under the bright lights of the Democratic nominee's oft-discussed rise to rock star status, but in policy meetings about a California proposition to redirect oil profit taxes to fund alternative energy research.

In a way, strange bedfellows are par for the course for this infectiously enthusiastic political consultant.

"Environmental nuts meet Chicago goons!" he exclaims, describing the new green and union coalitions gelling around one of the emerging hot-button issues in campaigns throughout the country.

Thompson's firm, SK Insight, specializes in pairing labor and environmental interest groups that have historically feuded. And tonight's event matches up anti-war activists and viral visual artists with funding from AT&T and the Northwest Carpenters Union.

"This is a real effort to create partnerships with groups that normally may not work together," he says. "In a way, that's symbolic of the political coalitions that Barack Obama has brought together too."

The network of alliances that has breathed life into the "Unconventional '08" show is unsurprising, says Thompson, in light of the extraordinary power wielded by its common element – young people.

While convention attendees are bobbling their state delegation banners tonight, the audience at the free outdoor show — young voters who haven't breathed the political air of the Pepsi Center —will be celebrating their own efforts at mobilization by bobbing their heads to the Silversun Pickups.

Red meat for Republicans?
But could a rash of blog posts about J. Lo sightings and crowds of band-tee-wearing Obama hipsterati be red meat for Republicans? Could this be fodder for a party eager to paint the Democratic nominee as a figure with all the depth and gravitas of a flippant emo rocker?

Thompson argues that the youth movement has been too organic to fit those GOP stereotypes.

Rather than an elaborately engineered spectacle of cool, the genesis of "Unconventional '08" started with outreach by the bands, who were eager to contribute — all on their own dime.

All of the groups appearing tonight are playing for free. (Los Angeles-based band Silversun Pickups is actually making the rare move of jetting to Denver in the midst of recording an album in order to play the show.) And much of the event was organized through under-the-radar social networks.

Still, it remains to be seen if the intersection of avant-garde artistry and peculiar political partnerships can bring young people to the polls as readily as it can pull them to a rock concert.

Thompson is confident that young people will be as formidable a force in the general election as they were during the primary season. Their energy will be harnessed – but not powered, he says, by the unlikely coalitions of old and new, square and hip, D.C. and Hollywood.

And maybe even by the likes of Matt Damon. His people will call your people.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments