14 dezembro 2009

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine in Portugal Review

This post includes the video "I Won't Give Up" by Jello Biafra and The Guantanamo School of Medicine, performed live in France (August 2009)

(Photo: http://www.myspace.com/jellobiafraandthegsm )

As a way of paying a small tribute to Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, who have just been in Portugal presenting their recent and challenging work, The Audacity of Hype, I will stick to English in this post.

For an excellent and thorough review of both Jello Biafra’s and the Portuguese supporting bands’ shows, by Billy, please look up Billy’s blog at http://www.billy-news.blogspot.com/  or click here.

The show was absolutely amazing and I have to admit it exceeded my already high expectations. The Corroios theatre was almost packed, and the audience was very heterogeneous, both in style and age, which definitely evinces how Jello’s music and message reach out way beyond the punk subcultures. The supporting Portuguese bands performed their task of warming up the public for Jello. Gazua’s strong and melodic rock moved few bodies but put the public in the right mindset, with its direct lyrics, which address themes like contemporary individualism and alienation, lack of collective identification and common causes, and the need to wake up and unite in the struggle for a less unjust, more truly democratic society. Anti-Clockwise’s quick and inflaming rock sound managed to stir an audience who seemed to be set on keeping their energy reserves up high for the main act.

And this proved wise, as Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine offered their Portuguese fans an absolutely electrifying, unrelenting performance which lasted over 1 ½ hour. The public responded en masse with equal enthusiasm and energy: stage divers persistently invaded the stage all throughout the act, giving security a particularly trying job, especially when Jello decided to go for it himself!

Jello’s political commentaries, offered as introduction / explanation for his no less political lyrics / song themes, were also actively and attentively followed by the Portuguese audience. As expected, he criticized Obama for failing Americans by running a country which looks very much like George Bush’s. Some of the topics addressed by Jello included: the maintenance of Guantanamo, the presence of the US military in Iraq or the little support American soldiers get when they go back home, psychologically or physically injured. This is very familiar to any well-informed Portuguese, as a recent survey has shown that 4 in 10 over-65 homeless men are ex-military who fought in the Portuguese colonial war (1961-1974).

The existence of privately-run (profitable!) prisons in the US - "the land of the free" - and the (concomitant) fact that the US is the country with the greatest number of jailed people in the world, and the “three strikes system” were perhaps the aspects which struck the Portuguese audience the most, given their inexistence in Portugal. Jello also attacked the media for disseminating a false idea of rampant social crime and violence, thus fostering social insecurity, when in fact crime and violence are down. The numbness and conformity fostered by consumerism were also approached in "Strength through Shopping".

In the context of “I Won't Give Up”, Jello urged people into non-conformity and mobilization. “I won’t give up/It’s not an option” was enthusiastically sung and shouted en masse. The concert was dominated by The Audacity of Hype themes, which were warmly welcomed by a well-prepared audience, sometimes interspersed by a few of Dead Kennedy’s anthems, at which the crowd rejoiced, such as “Holiday in Cambodia” or “California Überalles” (among others).

In short, a brilliant concert, and one that showed that neoliberalism ("New Feudalism?") has not only created a very similar and uniform commodified world: it is breeding a sizeable mass of nonconformists who share similar ideas about their societies’ (common) problems. Still a very long way from concerted action, which is a fundamental pre-requisite to actually change anything, but still…a glimpse of hope in quite hope-less and politically numb times.

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