University of Florida, Gainesville • October 27, 1998
“Hey, Jello’s gonna be in Gainesville on the 27th.” “Oh, cool, are we going?” “Yeah.” So James Pitts drives Flail & I to Gainesville. Apparently, this was to be Jello’s first spoken word appearance in Florida for a long time. Pitts also mentions that Biafra was not going to be the only speaker, that the admission is free, and that it is on a college campus. Up until that point, I was expecting to see lots of mohawks. Unfortunately, there aren’t any. But there is a topless (but painted) girl dancing around up in the bleachers. That’s something new. They don’t have that in Venice. Wait… that’s irrelevant.
After the 3-hour drive, we arrive at a large sports/event complex. We get pretty good seats (except for that shoe constantly probing my ass through the entire event, thanks to the jock behind me). Pitts picks up a program from the floor and discovers that Woody Harrelson will be speaking tonight. Holy shit, MTV’s Kennedy, too. “Oh, great.” Krist Novoselic? What the hell is going on here? Are you sure this isn’t Celebrity Death Match? The stage just has some couches on it. “Hey, Loveline‘s tonight. Jello’s tomorrow!” Snicker, snicker.
I spot several girls who used to ignore me throughout high school, dressed up in nice outfits, like they’re going to prom or something. They’re in the V.I.P. section for some reason, being escorted by thick guys in business suits.
Some intoxicated idiot (probably about 20 years old) right out of Beavis & Butthead is standing on his seat in pretty much the front row, thrashing his arms about wildly and yelling lots of things, wearing a Soundgarden shirt. We knew we would somehow end up being trapped in a conversation with this guy, so we all tried our best to be fascinated with something on the other side of the arena. He eventually stumbles his way through the bleachers, slowly moving toward us. He turns towards me, picking ME out of the huge crowd and starts yelling at me about pot. I inform him that I’ve never smoked pot, and luckily, he leaves me alone.
The lights dim and an introductory video starts up. Included in the video are some Nirvana clips. This gets Soundgarden-Kid really excited, and he teeters around, jumping up and down, flailing his arms some more, and screaming the lyrics, as if the real band is playing. Our half of the stadium-thing is pretty much laughing at this guy, but it’s a bit annoying. No one tells him to shut up, so he continues.
Novoselic comes out on stage and begins introducing the speakers. He was to be the moderator/mediator/medicator for the evening. Soundgarden-Kid continues to mosh all around, making peace-gestures at Krist, and dancing a little too much. Soundgarden-Kid pretty much became part of the show that evening, as many of the speakers were forced to interact with him. Enough about the drunk boy.
I don’t remember which order these people were in. I was more concerned with the foot up my ass (you can use that one in your hate-mail responses).
MTV’s Kennedy: This girl had too much coffee. She talked a hundred miles an hour about personal responsibility in a Baptist preacher voice. It was a bit entertaining (but superficial compared to the other speakers), as she was quite proficient at verbally running circles around the people yelling “MTV Get Off the Air!” A very skilled stand-up comedian, I suppose. Not too informative, as one young man pointed out during the Q&A period. Amen.
Todd McCormick (Pot Advocate): This guy was arrested for growing 4,000 pot plants in his mansion (?). He claimed he was using it to fight cancer; he had apparently had cancer 10 times, and needed LOTS of medication. He’s facing 10 years in prison for growing “a few” plants for personal use.
Amy Ray (Indigo Girls): She sang a song and played acoustic guitar. From where I was sitting, it appeared as if her guitar was made of wood. Nice lady.
Cecilia Rodriguez (Activist, The Commission for Democracy in Mexico): I wish I understood more about Geography and Politics. This went right over my white-ignorant-suburbanite head. It made me feel quite guilty, actually. Apparently, U.S. tanks are driving around in little villages in Mexico and Central America (one of them being her hometown) and blowing up churches filled with praying children. She told really horrible stories and showed lots of gruesome pictures. She pleaded with everyone to take action. I think it’s awesome that people like this suddenly appear in a stadium-thing full of unsuspecting college kids (who claim that life sucks) and reveal the truth.
Woody Harrelson (Actor): He came out with no shoes on, wearing lots of hemp clothing. He complained about how petroleum companies are making money from him when he buys pot in plastic bags. Then he said he’s starting a Web page to change the world. Maybe his use of electronic communication will cut down on the need for paper letters, which would then cut down on the need for marijuana plants (which are the best source of paper, he claims). God, I love how all this stuff just goes right around in circles. He then talked about how he takes lots of drugs, and the audience “Cheered” (get it? Oh, yeah! A pun!) him on. Then he played everyone a multimedia video of monkeys being tortured while he sang, “Money Makes the World Go Round.” Then he talked about how many brain cells he’s lost from smoking lots of pot and more kids cheered.
Tracey Conaty (Activist, The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force): She yelled at one constant volume about how homosexuals are killed brutally. One of the more legitimate speakers of the evening.
Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys): I’ve never heard anyone preach Socialism like he did. Unbelievable. People were actually cheering when he said something along the lines of, “Instead of living in a marketplace, wouldn’t you rather live in a community?” Hello? What does that sound like to you? The slogan of a villain from Atlas Shrugged, maybe? Or possibly the kind of stuff Hitler or Jesus would say? He also suggested that we take all of Michael Jordan’s money and give it to the government to “Balance the Budget.” LIKE THAT’S GONNA HAPPEN! As James Pitts pointed out: Jello’s a guy who lived the American Dream. Moved to CA, started a legendary band, started a successful record label by himself; did pretty well with the free enterprise system, I’d say.
Julia “Butterfly” (Earth First Activist via cell phone from her 2,000 year old tree and home for 10 months): This friendly lady has been sitting in a tree for a LONG time, so it won’t get chopped down. Wouldn’t that be cool if it turned out that Nokia owned that land? That would make for quite an ironic self-mocking post-modern TV commercial.
After the performance, there was a Q&A period, during which lots of angry college kids got up and talked about how they had radio programs, yada, yada, yada. Most of the questions were directed at Jello Biafra, and Jello mostly responded with, “I don’t have a magic answer for that one.” One lady held up her baby to show it to the stadium-thing full of people. What the hell was going through that baby’s mind? Will the infant grow up remembering that day? That REALLY gave me the creeps.
I really enjoyed the entire performance. It was kind of like going to class and having some really opinionated teacher who smashes lots of stuff and uses 4-letter words. It was bizarre to see college kids my age who are currently angry about things that I was angry about in 9th grade. Many of them were probably the spoiled rich kids who called me “weirdo” when I used to rant on the bus about how we should make rope out of marijuana. I’ve still never smoked pot, and here THEY are Cheering (ooooh! Yeah!) at Woody. How ironic! Can I just forget about high-school for a minute? Anyway… I found the event to be intellectually stimulating, informative, and entertaining. However, I was surprised by how young and well-groomed the audience was. From the looks of them, I think most of them were there to see Kennedy, Woody, and a guy from Nirvana for free.