There’s always room for B-i-a-f-r-a

By Darby Sawchuk

Last Saturday night at the MacEwan Hall
Ballroom, with righteous-stick in hand, Jello Biafra doled out
a double dose of conscience and consciousness. The whiny-voiced,
former-singer-of-the-Dead-Kennedys-turned-anti-censorship- lobbyist ranted his way through more
than four hours of material before a most-pleased left-wing audience.

The first half of Biafra’s spoken-word performance roused chuckles
and applause from fans, but failed to captivate. As he read speeches
from his ever-growing list of spoken word albums, including his
latest "If Evolution is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve",
his self-importance dulled the impact of his words. Further,
Biafra’s delivery felt stilted and unauthentic as he read directly
from the page. Though more dynamic than the teleprompted news
anchors he caustically criticizes, he lacked the charisma and
personality he demonstrated after the intermission.

Biafra returned after the pause armed only with a page of notes
as reminders. Narrating stories more directly from his mind,
he revealed a more authentic self to the audience. This was the
clever, angry Biafra the crowd anticipated.

Frightening and fascinating facts gushed from the speaker. Biafra
spared few members of the establishment from his assault. From
the religious right, to the Clinton administration, to corporations,
to his favourite target, the censorship advocates, and even his
former band mates, Biafra exposed the absurdity of their practices.

For example, note the following: if you are travelling to the
US, and the customs officer asks you if you have ever smoked
pot, say no or you will be banned from the country for five years.

Here’s another interesting fact: the us police keep a list of
"suspected gang members." If your name is on this list,
even if you don’t know it, anyone caught fraternizing with you
may face some rather ridiculous punishments, including eviction
at the hands of landlords who have access to the list.

Along a similar line, he drew shocked laughter from the crowd
when he narrated the tale of the high school student sent home
because he wore a shirt which read "vegan." The principal
believed it was gang-related.

Descriptions of the privatized us prison system in provoked astonishment
as Biafra informed the audience of prisoners’ duty to pay for
their cells and meals while incarcerated. Meanwhile, guards have
been caught forcing inmates to partake in modern gladiator-style
death fights.

Biafra directed further attacks at the blurred line between corporate
media and advertising, the frivolity of the mainstream press,
the inhumane and environmentally-disastrous General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade and Multilateral Agreement on Investment,
and the Nike "Swooshtika."

Though Biafra may have been preaching to the choir, the choir
needed the occasional reminder of their part in the performance.
Despite the crowd’s familiarity with the issues raised, the predominately
liberal-minded audience found new reasons to keep up the fight
against powers whose practices lead to discrimination, poverty,
war, and suffering.

In his final speech, "Wake Up and Smell The Noise"
from "If Evolution…", Biafra urged us all to be ready
for change, to cease inner squabbling, and focus not on the division
of left versus right, but instead, top versus bottom. Should
unity and preparedness reign among those willing to work for
change, Biafra brings confidence that future change will be for
the better.

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