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Student Orientation

Inspirational rage, confessional moments from activist

Packed house for Jello Biafra

by Adrienne Baker

Spoken-word artist JelloBiafra's performance on September 11 proved that the pure passion of punk politics still has the power to move the masses.

"Wake up! Get real! Call off the drug war!" he said, as he launched into one of his notorious rants against the American political system. The former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys was invited to speak as part of student orientation.

His performance, filled with powerful language and ideas reminiscent of the early punk-rock movement, drew a crowd of 900 to the Henry F. Hall Building auditorium, with some 200 fans waiting outside.

The crowd, who ranged between ages 15 and 30, seemed hungry for the kind of hardcore, anti-authoritarian discourse for which Biafra is known. When he took the stage -- an hour and a half late because of a delayed flight -- he got a rock icon's reception.

For the past 20 years, Biafra has been speaking out about social injustice. He is best known for his fight against censorship and his hatred of American politicians.

In 1979, he ran for mayor of San Francisco, using the slogan "There's always room for Jello." He has worked with Ministry,Mojo Nixon,and NoMeansNo,and still runs one of the largest independent record labels, Alternative Tentacles.

In his spoken-word performances, he uses a blend of sardonic humour and revolutionary slogans. In this performance, he covered a wide range of topics -- politics, the death penalty, corporations, religion, history, and education. He spoke about the end of the world, the dangers of space exploration, and "white-collar business heads"and their abuse of power.

The most moving part was a speech about Biafra's childhood in the 1960s, in which he revealed that he is really a "shy, self-conscious dork with no social skills except on stage."

Though he spoke with intensity about "finding the real America by solving the real problems" of power, money and greed, he offered few solutions, his only concrete suggestion being for the rich to "give away their money."

Even bare concrete provides intimacy, as students listened to music during the two-day Mackay Street Festival. Nearly a dozen bands performed last week as part of the Concordia Student Union's orientation schedule.

Copyright 1998 Concordia's Thursday Report.