I had the amazing honor of performing two poems and a song with @OurLadyPeace Tuesday night in New York city; two poems before their set, and a song during their second encore. After I performed my first piece there was loud, supportive applause from the approximately 900 person crowd. I smiled at the audience, and said, “I think we’ve got time for one more, you ok with that?” At which point there was another loud, supportive burst of applause.
So, I continued: “I’d like to dedicate this last piece to my Canadian comrades from Our Lady Peace.” To which there was thunderous cheering. I then said, “And also, to the folks here tonight from Occupy Wall Street, and the whole Occupy movement around the country and the world.”
As soon as I said “Occupy Wall Street” about ten to twenty guys toward the back left of the crowd began BOOing. Loudly. With a curious smile, I said, “Is Occupy really that controversial in New York?” And the BOO’s continued.
I went into the first line of the poem ABC’s For Roger (2012), which is posted below, and as I spoke the first line, “My mother was not an American when she crossed the border for the first time,” the BOO’S got even louder and spread out to multiple pockets in the crowd.
At this point, I looked down at the first 20 or so rows of people and saw that they were all locked in to the performance and were annoyed at the BOOing. I’d be goddamned if I was going to let to some anti-Occupy haters bully me off stage. I was also goddamned if I wasn’t enough of a professional to follow through on Our Lady Peace’s choice to allow 8 minutes of radical spoken word at their show; by my assessment there were 30-60 people booing, another 100 or so who were indifferent, but the bulk of the crowd was trying to listen.
When the Boo’ers saw that I had no intention of stopping the piece they Boo’ed even louder. At which point I smiled, stepped closer to the mic, and proportionately increased my volume. About three quarters of the way through the piece, my hecklers seemed a bit demoralized at how unphazed I was, either that, or they had started listening and were maybe giving it a chance. Then I got to the part of the poem where I address some issues I see with Police, and the Boo’ers were rejeuvenated! They started a fresh volley of jeers.
I powered through to the end, relishing the challenge, and finished strong. When I was done, there was a loud, strong applause from the hundreds of folks who were listening. I stepped back a little from the mic, and said, “For those of you Boo’ing, maybe you’ve figured it out by now, but its not my job to send you home happy.” I then asked the crowd to give it up for OLP who were up next. The crowd went crazy with excitement, and I walked off stage feeling like I just had a fist fight.
Backstage, Our Lady Peace were concerned as to whether or not I was OK. I said that I was great but that I hoped I hadn’t embarassed them. They said they were in my corner 100% and we put our hands in on a group huddle, and “Whoaaaaa Team’d!” baseball style in hopes of good luck for the rest of the night. OLP played an amazing, emotional, and intense set; if you’ve never seen them live before, I completely recommend it to music fans of any genre. They blend multiple styles of music, have great range, and the songs are nearly flawless renditions of their recorded albums, but with a rawness and realness that sort of transforms the room. Which is why they’ve been a band for 20 years and are still selling out 900+ person venues around the world. The crowd was through the roof (OLP’s got some of the most devoted and energetic supporters anywhere.) At the end of the night, the band brought me back out for the second encore and I rapped a song over an extended version of the instrumental they use at live shows to intro their hit song Starseed. There was loud applause when I walked back out, applause at multiple parts during the song, and louder applause at the end.
When the show was over, I went down to the lobby to make myself available to anyone who wanted to take a swing at me or talk politics. Instead of getting the shit I expected, I wound up receiving crazy high fives, pats on the back, and “great jobs.” Instead of getting swung on, I was asked to sign 20 or so OLP albums and tickets, and asked to take pictures with over a dozen supporters. Eventually, one republican dude from the crowd came up to me and said, “Hey, man, I disagree with you but I respect that you stuck it out like that. I want to apologize for the people who were boo’ing. I have some questions, can we talk?” We went outside and talked for like 45 minutes with a whole crowd of people. Not a single person other than him said anything negative or challenging to me. All in all, it was a great goddamned night.
Since then, a few OLP fans online have tweeted that having me on as part of the show was “inexecusable” and “cowardly,” and that OLP had “lost them as a fan” after having been subjected to my “un-American” poems. A significantly larger number of folks have tweeted and fb’ed them with support for their decision to include me.
It’s important to note that the loud BOO’ing started 20 seconds before the poem even began. It started as soon as I made the @OccupyWallSt dedication, and was in full swing during the first word of the first line of the piece, but, for anyone who’s interested, I’ve pasted the text of my “cowardly,” “inexcusable,” and “un-American” poem below:
Getting Boo’ed so viciously and attacked online (on some “9/11! How dare you talk about cops in NYC!” over something so not really that radical like this poem, as I’m re-reading Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, is really driving it home for me how ridiculously privileged I am. Not just as a hetero, white American male, but as an organizer / radical in a post 2000 era. The FBI, CIA, Homeland security, and police forces are still entrapping, kidnapping, detaining, imprisoning, beating, torturing, and killing activists, organizers, un-armed black, asian, and latino teens, men, and women, around the world and in this country as well, but back in the day under the Smith Act and the Espionage Act and COINTELPRO, they did all those things to thousands in broad day light for simply picketing, or taking part in a strike, or even talking about it; for simply being a union member, anti-capitalist, socialist, or anarchist. The viciousness in the tone of those Boo’ers last Tuesday and the guy villifying me on Twitter? Shiiiiiiit. If this was in the heat of the 1930’s labor movement I might be in jail for 7-10, after being mauled by a mob outside the show to boot!
THREE CHEERS TO OUR LADY PEACE FOR TAKING A CHANCE!
Info on their new album “Curve” is here: www.OurLadyPeace.com
And here’s the video of a song they wrote and donated to the OWS “Occupy Music” working group: