21 years ago I was standing in my bedroom with the Dead Kennedys screaming through my speakers, obsessed with finding out about every associated band in the various hardcore and punk scenes that the UK and US had to offer.
21 years later, nothing has changed. I still crave for that same buzz and music still blows my ears apart weekly. It’s an addiction that came from starting out with the greats. The likes of Bad Brains, Subhumans, Conflict, Minor Threat and Black Flag were amongst those greats but for me the DK’s always had the edge over everyone else.
Every album that was released was memorable, every song was as catchy as the last, each track sprayed out a different message of independence but the best part of it all was that Jello Biafra took you to a world that was unimaginable. His stunning combination of energy, humour and passion in his vocals ripped me apart fueled by strikingly anarchic lyrics that were a nothing other than a speed induced catalyst for a one man riot! I loved it!
Tonight I wanted all of that and more. It would be my first time to see Jello sing live and internet rumours were rife regarding the band playing Dead Kennedys songs in the set too Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed and this was no DK’s Karoake. Jello’s new band The Guantanamo School of Medicine are super tight and kick out the jams, held together by none other than Andrew Weiss on bass, who has also driven the likes of Rollins Band, Ween and Butthole Surfers. A man with that sort of punk royalty on his CV is always going to make the whole thing tick.The rest of the band are as just awesome and it’s overall a tight affair with no flapping.
As Jello hit the stage covered in fake blood, lab coat and rubber gloves, the crowd exploded and drinks are thrown everywhere. The frontman who just turned 52 years old this summer launched himself into a frenzy as The Terror Of Tiny Town was delivered with venom. Half the crowd were in disbelief they were finally observing Jello belt out some melodies, the other half were dancing uncontrollably!
3 songs in and you could tell that the Alternative Tentacles head honcho is rampant for the cause again. As new song Clean As A Thistle flew out the speakers Jello was headfirst over the barrier with his mic and wanting to join in the fun!
The new material from this band is clearly the closest project to the DK’s that Jello has put together since leaving the Kennedys. The sheer power of the grinding riffs and the spy-like lead guitar lines compliment each other to form a rockier, spiky punk sound that makes you want to destroy all shit in your reach.
It works perfectly for the first 4 songs which is followed by Jello’s new 21st Century version of California Uber Ales! and now apparently titled with a K. At this point in time, 800 people are singing out loud, living the dream and for the full duration of the song, nobody had control of their legs. It was a trip to witness this! Jello has changed some of the lyrics to bring them up to speed but no one cared, you had to be there to explain the rush of sheer energy this brought with it. Truly a moment in time to be cherished.
But if that wasn’t enough, another new track Panic Land is followed by Let’s Lynch The Landord and once again the vibes are electric and the sweating crowd are now rabid! Biafra has also merged his spoken word into this set so some rants on Three Strikes You Out and Yuppies are chucked in the mix covering English politics. Some ticket payers don’t care for his political views, others lap it up and wait for Holiday In Cambodia which ignited more intense celebration. This truly is a roller coaster ride tonight, one I have not felt since watching The Ruts here in this venue with Henry Rollins up front. That night was sick.
After a break the band come back for the encore, every drip of Jello’s fake blood has now disintegrated into the floor, much like the first 5 rows at the front. I helped lift a friends girlfriend into the air and chuck her into a bunch of outstretched arms. She is 5ft in height and bobs about on the top of people’s heads as Police Truck and Bleed For Me are ripped out of their amps! Could it get any better?! It probably couldn’t but now there are requests coming from all angles for DK songs but the band end on a slower number called I Won’t Give Up after Jello educated the crowd to get amongst it and air their political views.
So, all in all, what can i say? I saw the karaoke machine tour that was the Dead Kennedys and there’s no need to ever see it again. Jello has single handedly out done them with this melee of madness and stole the hearts and minds of everyone who witnessed it. Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine may be back here in the UK once the album drops in October. My advice to you if you didn’t see this premiere, is not to miss the next show for anything else!
Enjoy Sherry’s hand held vids below.