Jello Biafra (courtesy of MySpace.com/jellobiafra)
U of U Oplin Ballroom
When Jello Biafra spoke at the Oplin Ballroom, I must admit, that I wasn’t quite prepared for the performance that I was about to see. At 7 p.m., the legendary activist and ex-lead singer of the Dead Kennedys came on stage dressed as a judge, complete with a cop hat that was embellished with a huge cross. Soon after he changed into a uniform that resembled that of a security guard with his signature star belt buckle. The next four and half hours were the most engaging, interesting but also draining in a way and the entire time the audience, who ranged in age from around nine years old to almost 50, were all very attentive. The majority of his performance could‘ve also been found on his new spoken word album, In the Grip of Official Treason, like his renditions of “Die For Oil Sucker” and “Ass Clowns in Toyland.” However, many of the speeches found on the album were also repeated to a tee during the performance: the bit about his 10th grade geometry teacher was made more hilarious due to his facial expressions, while the information about Biafra's time spent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina became more heart wrenching.
The first half of the show relied heavily on Biafra's complaints and observations of the Bush Administration, presidents before, Hillary Clinton and basically the sad state that our world is in. During most of the performance the audience was laughing hysterically even though the topics being covered shouldn’t have been anywhere near as funny. Although, when it comes down to it – it is better to laugh at the horrible state that our world is in, then to spend time weeping over it.
Biafra's negative concentration on Hillary Clinton made it very clear that he didn’t support her as Democratic front-runner for presidency in 2008; his main reason being that she doesn’t support the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. His impersonations of her (along with other politicians, like Bush) added spice to his already flame-throwing tongue.
While the first half of the performance was focused on complaining about frustrations of life, the second half concentrated more on ways to fix the world. Biafra informed the crowd of the importance of knowing what you would do differently if you gained a position of power – rather than just knowing that what the people in power right now are doing is wrong. Biafra also brought up points like the importance of developing “bullshit detectors,” taking time to educate ignorant people as opposed to writing them off as idiots or rednecks and the importance of not supporting corporations. This point was the most powerful tone. As he put it, globalization leads to poverty and poverty leads to terrorism. As long as globalization exists, America will never be safe and all the safety precautions at the airport won’t help. I couldn’t agree more.
The last hour of Biafra’s performance was my favorite. It was inspiring and gave me renewed hope that my actions (no matter how small they may be) can lead to a world that I would want to live in. Not everyone has to grow up and turn into a Republican, yuppie piece of shit. It is possible to stay true to the radical ideals that you grew up with. Jello Biafra is a clear example that it can happen.
Biafra’s new spoken word CD serves as an excellent reminder of how wonderful his performance was. I enjoy listening to it much more now as I can recall his expressions that accompanied the topics. At some points of it, I even found myself laughing out loud. If you missed him in Salt Lake, fear not--the three-disc release is hilarious but also thought-provoking. At the end it should make you realize that yes, the world is fucked… but you must realize all the ways that you can make it better.