Jello Biafra – live review from Rebellion punk festival
Jello Biafra and Guantanamo School Of Medicine
There’s riots in London, apocalyptic rumblings, right wing loons taking over in the States, the world is going insane with the dark lords are telling us ‘we are all in it together’.
Who do we call for?
When the chips are down the mad eyed idealists take the stage.
It’s been some time coming.
Jello Biafra- the helium voiced commentator, whose former band the Dead Kennedys, are part of punk rock folklore and sold stacks of records in the early eighties with pithy songs commentating on the underbelly of the American dream is back.
His new band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School Of Medicine is Biafra back at his best with razor sharp punk rock songs with twanging surf guitars, hardcore blitzkrieg rushes, great time changes and great choruses, their album ”ËThe Audacity Of Hype’ came out last year and almost slipped under the radar. After tonight’s gig it’s going to be one of the big punk records of these times. I must have spoken to a hundred people after this astonishing show and despite the fact that most had missed the album their freaked excitement was proof that it’s going to be a key release in the weeks to come with a big rush to check it out.
Tonight’s gig is no mere comeback, this is one of the great all time gigs. Minutes before he takes the stage Jello is chatting with us amiably the next time we see him he is in a lab coat covered in fake blood hitting a level of manic intensity that few other performers get close to. The band seethe behind him and it’s a display of punk rock passion that few believed could still be reached.
Everything about this gig is epic, the songs, the performance, the statements, the crowd reaction. From the moment the band shuffle onstage and hold the tension for two minutes before kicking into the first song the atmosphere is electric. The packed audience are waiting for some kind of end of festival punk rock epiphany and are chanting Jello’s name waiting for him to hit the stage- what’s he going to do? what’s he going to say? This is no mere cranky old singer on the comeback trail; this is one of the great venerable punk rock figures. The atmosphere is supercharged.
Biafra explodes on stage, hands flailing, eyes on stalks, there is a madness in the house and it’s utterly compelling. The band is supertight and the songs from the album sound great- from ”ËThe Cells That Will Not Die’ Motown stomping rush to ”ËDot Com Monte Carlo’ neo- hardcore rushes there can be no argument that this is Biafra at the peak of his game. The songs proving that the album is the long lost next DK’s release, picking up from where he left of. It’s the same sort of acid barbed political and social commentary, hilarious, and terrifying at the same time, the dark humour pouring out of the songs in that superb helium voice. The music is fast, inventive and delightfully crazy. The fact that most people don’t even know these songs doesn’t get in the way of the reaction, which is explosive.
And then they drop in ”ËHoliday In Cambodia’ and ”ËCalifornia Uber Alles’ and the room is in meltdown- they are killer versions, cranking up the ante and with changed lyrics keeping them contemporary. This is a very special moment.
Biafra has spent the last couple of decades in a myriad of projects and they have all been fascinating and compelling but it’s when he’s twisting punk rock out of shape like this that he is at his best. The spoken word shows were clever, smart and powerful but when he fronting band playing this kind of short, sharp punk rock then he really is in his element. The music is kooky, fun and darkly apocalyptic and he’s got everyone listening.
The world situation got so bad that there was no more time to talk about it. It was time for action and Biafra is back where is he at the best. No more side projects, no more spoken word- this is a direct communication as he spits out the brilliant lyrics and the band seethe those cleverly constructed songs behind him.
Biafra owns the stage, diving into the crowd, becoming an insane preacher man, pouring water on his head, rolling on the floor a non stop, supercharged adrenalin rush of manic energy- one of the great frontmen.
This is not only one of the great all time gigs at Rebellion festival.
It’s one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen.