NEW YORK Spearhead frontman Michael Franti read poems,
exJane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell played trance music and
actress Rosie Perez and medical-marijuana activist Todd McCormick issued
calls to arms as the Spitfire Tour reached its final stop Monday night.
The monthlong spoken-word package ends Tuesday (Nov. 23) at Wetlands
Franti began the first show of a two-night stand at Wetlands on Monday
by asking hundreds of fans, "Any freaks in this place?"
"We all freaks!," the imposing 6-foot-6-inch rapper shouted.
Franti, wearing shoulder-length dreadlocks and an impassioned expression,
acted as master of ceremonies for the night. He also read three poems.
One was on "compassion fatigue," his term for apathy in the face of social
problems. Another told a tale of African-American brothers, one responsible
and the other irresponsible; the good brother gets shot by police after
being stopped in the bad brother's car. The final poem detailed the
struggles of a man who calls himself "the tree that holds the branches,
the leaves that do the dances."
The rapper's band's songs cover such topics as homelessness, as on "Hole
in the Bucket," racism and homophobia.
Farrell's topic for the night was jubilee, a musical celebration, based
in Biblical scripture, in which all debts are forgiven and the world
receives a fresh start. The organization Jubilee 2000, also supported by
U2 singer Bono, has used the concept to call for the cancellation of the
debt that the world's poorest countries owe the world's richest.
Farrell, wearing barrettes in his hair and a brown suit jacket over his
lanky frame, recalled a dream in which he chose not to wear pins with the
words "punk," "pop" and "rush." Rather than conform to any of those slogans,
he said, he chose to play music and celebrate the points of the "jubilee,"
a term rooted in the book of Genesis.
He then played two trance-heavy songs using a DJ console. He seemed lost
as he played his first song and later said it was the wrong one. But he
improvised and smiled.
"That's jubilee, man," Farrell said.
Farrell, who has performed DJ sets over the past year, released Rev
this month, a compilation of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros material
that features two new solo tracks. One of the solo songs is an electronic
cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" (RealAudio
excerpt of Farrell version).
McCormick, dressed in clothes he said were made from hemp, spoke in rhyme
as he blasted police and the federal government for criminalizing marijuana,
which the 29-year-old activist said he used to treat the pain of cancer.
McCormick faces five years in prison for marijuana possession; police
found more than 4,000 marijuana plants at his home in Bel Air, Calif.,
in 1997. He's appealing the sentence.
Life after his arrest, he said, was brutal his activism was put
on hold while his lawyers fought for him in court. "I had to shut my f---ing
mouth ... and it was killing me," he said.
Perez, a New Yorker known for her roles in such movies as "Do the Right
Thing" and "White Men Can't Jump," spoke about AIDS. She attributed the
spread of the disease to a lack of self-respect, and urged women to
require men to wear condoms. Perez also blasted celebrities who don't
use their status to effect social or political change.
"We forget the power we have. We waste it on bullsh--," Perez said, naming
pop singers Ricky Martin and Britney Spears as examples.
During an open-mic session that lasted nearly an hour, fans aired their
opinions on a number of issues, including environmental protection, racism
and the case of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Rachel Needle, 21, a Columbia University student, said the speeches blew
her away. The crowd fell silent a number of times; in particular, Perez's
tale of losing her virginity to an older, disrespectful man attracted
"It was all very inspiring, just hearing these famous people and what
they have to say," Needle said.
Though he was billed, actor Woody Harrelson, himself an advocate for the
legalization of marijuana, did not perform or attend.
The 14-show tour began Oct. 16 on the campus of the University of Iowa.
Everclear frontman Art Alexakis, rapper Ice-T, exDead Kennedys
singer Jello Biafra, former X singer Exene Cervenka and ex-Nirvana bassist
Krist Novoselic also performed on the tour.
A spokesperson for the outing said it will return for another run in the