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winning the hearts and minds

ok, i just got back from seeing jello biafra’s show at the convocation hall. i’d been warned that i could expect to be bombarded with a lot of information and he didn’t disappoint. four solid hours with a quick break in the middle. to try to review everything he touched on would be ridiculous, given the scope of the presentation, but, for whatever reason (some of which were personal, see further explanation below), i was completely captivated.

part of that reason was that this was an opportunity to see someone who i’ve admired since i was an angst-ridden thirteen year old trying to figure out why she didn’t enjoy the same things as everyone else she knew. while my musical taste may have veered in a different direction over time, a lot of the old punk and alternative bands i listened to then have a greater meaning for me than bands whose music excites me far more. so there is something really exciting about getting to see a “hero” in the same room, up close.

and up close i was. sick of always having to experience shows from the very back of a room, i got there when i knew the doors were opening. or at least, when they said they would open. there were some obvious organisational glitches that left me and the assembled crowd standing outside for what seemed like an eternity, an irritation even in the beautiful spring weather. it’s rarely a sign of superior planning for a show when the guy you’re there to see has to walk through the crowd and hammer on the door to be let in.

however, the gates did eventually open and i was rewarded for my early appearance by being one of the first people in and getting to park my carcass in the very front row. this is in contrast to when i saw henry rollins last october (in the same venue), where gen and i were practically in the next building we were so far back. this turned out to be one of my better decisions, because, in contrast to rollins, whose delivery is smoother and more scripted, biafra is strikingly unpolished. he speaks from notes, he rambles from one subject to another, he occasionally loses his train of thought and being right in front of him made the most of what was (surprisingly, given the size of the venue) a very human performance (i could have done without the close-up on him blowing his nose, but hey, the rest of it was great). being at a greater remove would have lessened the experience.

some of the segments are more prepared than others- he read an updated version of “die for oil, sucker” (his best spoken word piece) as well as the full version of “ass clown” (excerpted in the surprisingly likeable new ministry single of the same name). and those pieces allow biafra the showman to come out, which is undeniably fun and appreciable from any distance. but most of the evening was just him, taking the piss out of bush, cheney, rumsfeld and all. some of the funniest portions were those where he took aim at the great white hopeful of the democrats, hilary clinton, who he refers to as “the hilary monster”. as the gentleman i will refer to as “my republican friend” is fond of telling me, the democrats don’t have a great record to stand on. it’s nice to see someone speaking on political issues without aligning himself with either party. i was happy that his tirade against his former bandmates was kept brief- not because i don’t agree with him (does anyone care about any of the other dead kennedys anyway?), but hearing about a band you admired reduced to suing each other definitely takes the polish off your memories of them. he took his shots and moved on in short order.

now, let me back up a little to when we were standing outside. no, let me back up to a previous post here, when i was extolling the virtues of getting inspiration for writing from old journals. i’ve spent a large portion of my time in the last week going through sections of my diaries from years ago with the aim of writing something based on a specific set of experiences. the negative part of doing this is that it has a tendency to rip the scar tissue off wounds that had long since healed. in this case, since i’ve been working on a story about an instance where i had someone rip my heart out and stomp on it (more out of an interest in how people relate to each other than in wallowing in the hurt), this has left me feeling a little vulnerable and has reminded me of what it felt like to go through that. so, when we were all gathered outside, waiting to be let in, i was thrown off by the unexpected sight of the person who did rip my heart out and stomp on it, also in the crowd. this meant that when i did get inside, i was feeling keyed up, a little nervous, off-kilter.

i mention this only because i think my state increased my own sense of engagement with the show. i was a little more open, a little less of a spectator. that, combined with my proximity to what was actually happening on the stage, made the whole thing a more exciting, more envigorating experience for me than it might have been otherwise. i’ve learned through experience at many shows that the very best ones are not necessarily the ones where you heard the greatest music, or laughed the hardest, or cried the most, but the ones where you leave yourself open enough that the performance is able to get inside and excite you emotionally. by the time biafra wound up the show, moving away from criticism and talking about positive options for bringing about change (not all of which involved things that were illegal), i felt personally empowered to rush out and make the world a better place- immediately.

how i’m going to do that is something i’ll start thinking about when i’ve had some sleep, but i think it’s going to start with figuring out how i can extend the emotional high i’m on right at this moment. because if you feel like you can do anything, you’re more likely to be able to do something.

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