Jello Biafra & The Reverend
Fear can bring out the worst in people, but it can also be a catalyst for change. In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan marginalized the masses and helped, in a twisted way, make some of the best hardcore punk rock ever. While bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks were at times political, they generally dealt with the isolation of being different in a time when being preppy and similar was, like, the coolest. The Dead Kennedy’s dealt in a different flavor of anger. The bands commander in chief: Jello Biafra was beyond literate, he was dangerously well-informed, and pointedly pissed off. Blind rage can be, terrifying; but, focused, informed, indignation is a revolution that scares the establishment. Jello ran for Mayor of San Francisco in 1979 and finished fourth in a race of 10 people. His antics in the campaign became more of the focus than his politics, which despite being pretty radical were actually somewhat apropos for the time. Of his candidacy, Jello had this to say, “For those of them who have seen my candidacy as a publicity stunt or joke, they should keep in mind that it is no more of a joke, and no less of a joke, than anyone else they care to name.”
The Dead Kennedy’s were a focused target of the P.M.R.C,headed by Tipper Gore for the H.R. Geiger cover of their album: Frankenchrist. This led to the police raiding Biafra’s record label/home, Alternative Tentacles, in search of the “lewd” art work that was to accompany the record. The monetary and emotional strain is what eventually led to the Dead Kennedy’s calling it a day.
Jello Biafra stayed relevant, he began doing guest spots on other people’s records, spoken word tours (the medium du jour for big brained punk icons), and made records with LARD, the Melvins, Mojo Nixon and D.O.A, before forming Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine.
This newest incarnation; JB and the GBSoM is the first fully new band since the demise of the Dead Kennedy’s. It sees Jello at his, Jello-est; shifting attention to where it need to be, on the problems that face us as Americans and humans. He hasn’t lost the edge that brought him to prominence in a tight scene of various upstarts and troublemakers. These days we could use a little hint of insurrection; we find Mr. Biafra at a time that appears to be a parallel to the, “Morning in America”, Conservative dance party that was the 1980’s Reagan era. What with donny trump about to take the oath of office, there are a lot of uncertainties for a lot of scared folks that Jello Biafra might be able to put into perspective; or at least we get to hear what he thinks of the whole affair. That in itself is probably worth the price of admission.
Joining Jello and the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine on this excursion into surreality is the ever popular Reverend Horton Heat, who are no stranger to these parts. The Rev and company usually roll into some part of South Florida every year or so in order to remind us how to let go of all the ridiculousness of the modern world and just have a good time. The Reverend Horton Heat, blends rock-a-billy cool, with punk swagger and rock n’ roll attitude. They came to prominence on the Sub Pop label in the mid-1990’s with a sound that is described by some as, “Country, punkabilly.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s a rocking good time with a rolling beat.
It seems only appropriate that Jello Biafra, a punk rock, rapscallion with a penchant for politics would decide to go on tour with the Reverend Horton Heat; a holy man with a burning heart for the music that made America the mecca of artistic freedom throughout the 20th century. Without jazz, blues, jump big band, swing or rock and roll, there would be no punk, heavy metal, thrash or any of the sub genres that dominate current mall culture. The antithesis, by the way, of what Dead Kennedy’s was all about when they were sneering at cops and doing their best to make you thought while you slammed.
The world sure seems to be a mess these days, maybe what we all really need is a little dose of perspective and a healthy dose of carefree rock and roll fun. Just for a little while maybe we can find a way to all let lose and put differences aside for a few hours; don’t worry, everything will be shitty again as soon as you leave Respectable’s. You can always count on reality to ruin a perfectly good day.
The Reverend Horton Heat with Jello Biafra and the Legendary Shack Shakers play at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, Thursday, December 29. 18+, doors 8pm, tickets $30 advance, $35 at door.