Pearl and Swine

When Pearl Jam performed in Miami a few weeks ago, fans had the opportunity to enjoy two spectacles A one outside the Bayfront Park Amphitheater, one inside. With the gates supposed to open at 7:00 p.m., but not opening until about an hour after that, some slight civil unrest was no surprise. When some attendees decided they didn't want to listen to King's X or Pearl Jam from outside, they rushed the show. The first attempt was a failure, but the gang charged twice more, successfully ripping down a fence, allowing a large mass of ticketless people in.

It was at this time that our friendly neighborhood police decided to call in the riot squad. (This being, in my opinion, a not especially brilliant idea.) The Armored Ones lined up quite orderly. Thanks to my highly developed reporter skills (big ears) I heard that the riot police were due to leave in about 30 minutes.

But, brothers and sisters, who should ruin the moment but a quite portly man who couldn't hold his liquor and likened himself to Nolan Ryan. Throwing a bottle, this man started the "riot" that will guarantee tighter security for future concerts at Bayfront, or perhaps just fewer concerts at Bayfront. Not to babble, but during the tussles this reporter noticed quite a few occurrences that made my opinion of the Miami police sink lower than the cross-bay pipeline. Among the skirmishes: a young man idly walking along the grass, who, pursued by several weighty officers, was enthusiastically kicked in the ribs; an elderly woman, who, when told by a young cop to "please step back from the line, ma'am," and didn't step back far enough, was handcuffed and knocked upon her senior noggin; and a television journalist whose camera was blocked just as he was filming a teenager being beaten out of a few years.

The other spectacle was, of course, inside. That's why I was there A a teenager New Times thought might lend a proper perspective on Pearl Jam, a band whose following consists primarily of people my age. King's X came on first and played a wonderful set. Unfortunately (not being a fan of theirs), I didn't recognize any of the material, but the lead singer dived off the stage, and this certainly garnered my respect for him.

Something that I did not notice until Pearl Jam came on: The concert's promoter, Cellar Door, in a move that I must commend them for, sectioned off the grassy area from the concrete. (How long do you think that fence lasted? C'mon, be realistic now.) This being a night of the proletariat, I enjoyed watching the fans tear it down, showing those yuppies down front a thing or two about grunge.

After a lengthy intermission, Pearl Jam came on, to much applause and fanfare, beginning the set with a song from the second album, Go. Now, not liking Pearl Jam all that much, I still have to applaud Mr. Vedder for his ability to sing as well live as on tape. The band proceeded to play "Animal" and "Dissident." Mr. Vedder, the personable guy that he is (according to several rumors, he cussed out a girl in Coconut Grove) made a few statements to the crowd: "You guys [unintelligible mutterings] college?" Then, as a rowdy and nutty guy named Dave got too rowdy and nutty, Mr. Vedder had him escorted out, much to the delight of the crowd.

The band played a good set, continuing with "Even Flow" (played after a moving speech by Eddie about homeless people near Bayfront, a problem about which he is doing absolutely nothing other than talking), "State of Love and Trust" (from the Singles soundtrack), and "Glorified G." During "Daughter" the crowd joined in "...violins...." I was moved to tears. Apparently this is their only single.

Ah, wait. Pearl Jam did do one thing that was pretty admirable. Near the end of "Daughter," the band struck up the familiar strains of "We don't need no education/We don't need no thought control...." Whether this was merely a plug for the upcoming Pink Floyd concert or just an effect of living in Seattle, it turned out pretty cool. "Release Me" was then played, and "Jeremy" (you older folks and nonfans might not know how gratifying it is to hear about 11,000 people yell "fuck" at once). By the time "Alive" was played, the crowd-surfing was driving the security crew crazy.

Pearl Jam tried out some new material, with a song that started out "Fuck...," covered Neil Young, and, to finish the set, showed "Indifference."

The police actions that took place on that night were totally justified, of course. Like that one mustached officer pulling his gun and screaming, "I'll blow your fucking ass away."

One cop told me that the riot police were on duty anyway, as if I would believe that about 30 gassers sit around the precinct house on a Monday night. (Oh, I forgot, Monday is Meat Madness at Xtra, thus ensuring any number of riots.) The many clashes of humanity that night ruined an otherwise decent concert. Sorry, Nolan Ryan, that portly guy certainly gave you a bad rap.

Anthony Sequeira is a sixteen-year-old sophomore at Coral Gables High School whose favorite group is the Rollins Band.

Yeah, there've been songs written about us, magazine features, in-depth TV news-show episodes, movies, and endless discussions. Generation X? Ridiculous term. As if we were undefinable, a commodity, a statistic (although I guess we are), the number ten, part of a radiograph or a Christmas tree.

No. We're people. We're part kid-part adult even though chronologically we certainly are grown up. We're not the "They're Back! TEENS" that BusinessWeek heralds as the shakeup cultural "ins," rulers over the next 50 years. And no, we're not baby boomers (God forbid).

All this bullshit makes me so angry. Yeah, my life is wonderful. Truly, truly wonderful. But am I, my work, is anything going to make one blackberry seed of difference 100 years from now when the Earth is too black to grow berries? No, it won't. No, I won't. If I have kids, no, they won't.... But that doesn't mean I can't hope.

It's this hopelessness. The film Slackers displayed it visually, homeless veterans and shootings in schools show us physically, AIDS gives it to us biologically, Kurt Cobain rips out our hearts, and five states' worth of people are on Prozac, on a Nineties soma holiday. Hey, me too.

You know, Cobain didn't pretend to represent us or those to come. He wasn't the bloody Messiah, for chrissake. He was one of us, who morning after morning woke up trying to think of a reason to wake up. And, yeah, he was an addict, which didn't help.

But all of us are addicted to something: work, America Online, drugs, coffee, exercise, Star Trek, food. His music was his means of expression. Happened to be good rockin' music caught by every airwave between here and Vilnius (even though it and stuff just like it had been played in bars and basements for years on end). See, a couple of us became powers in the higher powers that control the record companies and got Nirvana and a bunch of others on the radio. Not just college radio or "alternative" (ha!) radio. I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in a bar in home-of-the-cows-and-green-pastures Pennsylvania (a town no bigger than 300 people, I swear to you) where a bunch of old men with no teeth and some big-bellied women were munching on whiskey on a Tuesday afternoon. We're talking classic-rock stations. Massive radio saturation.

So he screamed into a microphone, wrote pretty cool tunes, and became a symbol. "Oh, this is so bad. We're so worried that a lot of kids (we're not really kids, remember) will follow the steps of their hero. Blah, blah, blah."

* First of all, it is not for us to judge him. He had a situation that we'll never understand because we are not him. He didn't kill himself to prove anything to anyone. He killed himself because he was in pain.

* Second of all, if these "kids" had been brought up to believe that they were important, useful, and worth something, then you wouldn't be so worried. Can-do attitudes are around, but dwindling.

* Third of all, even if we were brought up to believe in these things, we've finished college, we have our degrees full of pap and juice and learning, and here we sit. As secretaries. As burger bouncers. As accountants in dead-end positions with a company that doesn't even care enough about us to provide health insurance. Every day we work, or try to work, we receive subliminal messages: You're useless, you possess meaningless skills we can't use. Worst of all, your creativity is disposable.

Hey, I'm making it, but God, so many aren't. The frustration of working in McPositions for which we are way overqualified chews and gnaws on our innards. We're not contributing anything worthwhile, we're unable to provide more than the next month's rent, we're bumping around the table in a never-ending game of craps. We're not on welfare and we're not buying guns. Except maybe to shoot ourselves.

Some of us are whiners, blaming others for our problems, and victimization monsters ("I deserve to be such-and-such because I'm me and I've paid my dues...") rear their bloated heads. Dammit, though, we've inherited this mess. We have to figure out what to do with it, and we're just not equipped for the task. I'm not really blaming anyone for the problems, and I don't feel like a victim. I'm just angry that these problems exist. I get fed up with the hopelessness, the slovenliness. So did Kurt. No matter what we do, it's not going to matter. Because so much has to change.

So now it's back to the same old thing: Why. When I was at Killian High School, I wrote a one-act play (pretty modern, I must admit) that asked "who am I, what am I, where am I, why am I?" Young questions from an inquiring mind (I really wanted to know). Yeah, I know now who I am, what I am, where I am, and why I am. My friends know as well, 'cause they've had enough time to sit around thinking about it. What a lot of us want to know now is why are you? Why is this world? What is this world? And why the hell do you want us in it if you can't support us in what we're supposed to be here for?

Why'd you make us smart enough to know we're helpless?
Johnny Lydon says anger is an energy. Damn straight. Energy is intangible, though, and the intangible doesn't really matter in a world of profit-eyed corporations. And that's what we resist saying at the beginning of every day. Nothing matters.

Evie Altman is a twentysomething former New Times music writer who now runs her own business near Washington,


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