Krist Novoselic, Jello Biafra, Kim Thayil Protest WTO With Punk Assault

Ex-members of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Dead Kennedys lambaste trade organization at Seattle show.

Two of the biggest names in Seattle's early-'90s grunge scene joined forces

in that city Wednesday night to rail in classic punk fashion against the

World Trade Organization this week.

Seattle was under a 24-hour curfew and the National Guard prevented nearly

half the ticket-buyers from reaching the Showbox theater, where the concert

was held, according to booker Sean Haskins.

But ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and former Soundgarden guitarist

Kim Thayil managed to get together with political gadfly and onetime Dead

Kennedys leader Jello Biafra as the WTO Band.

The event brought out the fighter in Biafra (born Eric Boucher), according

to Steve Mack, an executive producer at RealNetworks, the music technology

company that webcast the show.

"They were very confrontational," Mack said. "Jello said the songs were

targeted at the WTO and our 'state of wealth addiction' and, at one point,

he was jumping around the stage and yelling 'No, no WTO' and stabbing at

the audience with his microphone like he was possessed. You could have

sworn he was 25 again."

The meeting for delegates of the 135-nation organization set off a two-day

spree of protests — 40,000-people strong — and violent confrontations

between police and protesters. Environmental advocates descended on Seattle

to protest the WTO, based on their beliefs that environmental standards

are threatened by the WTO's focus on free trade and that the organization

favors big-business concerns over those of labor advocates.

Also on the bill at the Showbox was hip-hop/soul band Spearhead, who

headlined the show and gave a more mellow counterpoint to the WTO Band's

overtly political message, Haskins said. The show was originally scheduled

to take place Tuesday night, but it was rescheduled after the city instituted

a 7 p.m. curfew, he said.

"I was harassed by three different police officers just trying to get

down here," Haskins said. The portion of downtown Seattle in which Showbox

is located remains under a 24-hour curfew.

Haskins said the 500 fans in attendance were treated to a rousing set of

Dead Kennedys songs and Biafra compositions by the WTO Band, as well as

Biafra's traditionally caustic anti-corporate and anti-police rants. The

latter tirades were aimed at the riot-gear-wearing officers who had

attacked protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets just hours before.

Among the songs Mack said the WTO Band played were two new Biafra compositions,

as well as the Biafra-penned songs "New Feudalism" and "Electronic

Plantation." They also performed an extended jam of "Full Metal Jackoff,"

a collaboration between Biafra and punk band D.O.A. Novoselic donned a

gas mask during the latter. (KTVU-TV news in the San Francisco Bay Area

reported on Wednesday night that a law prohibiting the possession of gas

masks by Washington state citizens was rushed through the legislature

that afternoon.)

"The curfew just scared all the people watching it on TV away, so Krist

went on three different radio stations and told people that just because

there's a curfew, that doesn't mean you can't go downtown on legitimate

business," Haskins said. Despite Novoselic's pleas, only half of the

1,000-plus fans who bought tickets attended the show, according to the

Showbox booker.

"A concert ticket is legitimate business, and the show was sold out on

paper," Haskins said. "But I think, due to people being skittish about

the curfew and what was going on downtown with the police, they didn't

all show up."

Mack said that after the Tuesday night show was hindered because of the

curfew, an impromptu acoustic gig was arranged a half-block south of the

curfew zone at the 200-capacity Central Tavern. During that show, Novoselic

accompanied Biafra on a cover of late folk singer Phil Ochs' "Love Me I'm

a Liberal," and Spearhead also played an unplugged set.

Several other anti-WTO shows took place in Seattle during the past week,

including a Saturday show at the Breakroom featuring sometime Eddie Vedder

backing band C Average, and an all-ages Sunday show at Graceland featuring

Washington state bands Tight Bro's From Way Back When and Unwound.

Anti-WTO protesters were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and wood

blocks and doused with pepper spray, as police attempted to regain control

of the downtown area following sporadic looting and rock- and bottle-throwing

that began Tuesday, according to news accounts.

Hundreds of nonviolent protesters were arrested on Wednesday after clashes

with police. More than 570 people had been arrested by press time, and

the area around the convention center hosting the talks remained under

24-hour curfew.

Mayor Paul Schell declared a civil emergency early Wednesday morning,

after he'd requested that Gov. Gary Locke call in 200 National Guardsmen

to quell the protests. The troops joined the 300 Washington State Patrol

officers who were called in to help the city's police force.

Mack said Biafra encouraged the crowd to continue railing against the WTO

after the organization wraps up its meetings Friday (Dec. 3).