Dead Kennedys @ Marquee Theatre | Saturday, September 22, 2012
For those not fully versed in the ins and outs of punk rock history, allow me to bring you up to speed: Officially, the iconic punk band known as Dead Kennedys perished back in 1986 due to in-fighting and the drama surrounding the controversial Frankenchrist obscenity trial.
I state this fact because the abomination that crept onstage at Marquee Theatre last night was not, and will never be, the true Dead Kennedys. Period. Its members may have looked and sounded like East Bay Ray, Klaus Fluoride, and DH Peligro, but without original vocalist Jello Biafra in the mix, it ain't the same band who personified early '80s punk and influenced thousands of punkers and hardcore kids worldwide.
See also: Dead Kennedys Are Coming to Tempe (Sans Jello) See also: Concert Review -- Jello Biafra at the Clubhouse Music Venue See also: DK Kennedys -- The same old punks, minus Jello Biafra, plus Brandon Cruz
You can call them the DK Kennedys (the moniker used by the band after their revival in the early Aughts) or the "world's greediest karaoke band" (a title coined by Biafra), but three-quarters of the original lineup and some dummy they've recruited to sing, which is currently Ron "Skip" Greer of The Winona Ryders fame, does not the Dead Kennedys make.
And believe me, Greer seems quite the fool. Like the other would-be Biafras that East Bay and company have sewn onto the corpse of DK over the last decade (including weirdo musician Jeff Penalty and former child star Brandon Cruz), the spasmodic singer thrashed about the stage, becoming a hyperactive, bug-eyed tornado who attempted to one-up Jello's epic stage antics during the band's heyday, but was nowhere near as captivating.
Heck, an actual bowl of Jell-O would've been more enthralling than Greer's weak-ass performance. His vocals were both undermixed (and were hard to hear and times) while his clowning was over done. Greer's timing was also way off, the between song blatherings were pathetic and eye-roll-inducing, and his annoying high-pitched caterwaulings often matched Wall of Voodoo vocalist Stan Ridgway in terms of annoyance.
This was not the wild vibrato-like voice that I first listened to in high school and spoke of social injustice, the indignity of conformity, or the perils of hypocrisy and backbiting.
It was neutered as the bands weak attempts at political discourse during the show -- including a loud tirade from Peligro where he mistakenly confused Arizona's racially motivated SB 1070 with California's homophobic Proposition 8 (um, guess he forgot which state they were playing in) -- and recapturing the defiant spirit of their early years.
To wit: At the conclusion of the 17-song concert, Fluoride pulled his trademark move of unstrapping his bass and letting it crash to the stage. In the '80s, it seemed a defiant act befitting the Dead Kennedys angry nature. Last night, it seemed like an embarrassing pathetic curtain call to their days of relevance.
And it turns out I'm not the only one who feels ashamed for DK. In a recent interview, the always outspoken Biafra summed his feelings about his former bandmates:
I'm still as proud as I've ever been of Dead Kennedys' music and our legacy and all the cool shit we did together, but I'm just embarrassed to know those guys now. People are asking me to do reunion shows, but I have a list of reasons a mile long why I don't want to do that. I'm not a big fan of reunions, but when I saw The Stooges, it was not lost on me how much it would mean to people to see the real Dead Kennedys lineup back together, but for that, everybody has to be willing to get along and treat the other people with respect, and they have no intention of doing that.
For those who missed the show, do yourself a favor and look up the old Rhino Records VHS tape of DK performing at San Francisco's old Mabuhay Gardens in 1984 for a truly epic performance by the band in their primes. Or you can just watch it on YouTube.
Setlist: 1. "Forward to Death" 2. "Winnebago Warrior" 3. "Police Truck" 4. "Buzzbomb" 5. "Lets Lynch the Landlord" 6. "Jock-O-Rama" 7. "Kill the Poor" 8. "MP3 Get Off the Air" 9. "Area 51" 10. "Too Drunk to Fuck" 11. "Moon Over Marin" 12. "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" 13. "California Uber Alles" 14. "Bleed for Me" (encore) 15. "Viva Las Vegas" (encore) 16. "Holiday in Cambodia" (encore) 17. "Chemical Warfare" (encore)
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Last Night: Dead Kennedys @ Marquee Theatre Personal Bias: My best friend for my teens and twenties, Carlton Rahmani, lent me Frankenchrist and In God We Trust, Inc. on cassette in 1992 and I haven't stopped listening since. The Crowd: Old punks, young crusties, anyone who didn't go to either Agent Orange or the second night of Within These Walls. Overheard: "So outta nowhere, Danzig shoves him and this big guy just fucking clocks him. BOOM! It was hilarious." Songs I Wanted to Hear: "Halloween," "Your Emotions," "This Could Be Anywhere," and "Terminal Preppie." Random Notebook Dump: Skip is as much Jello Biafra as I am Lester Bangs. The Pit Report: Photographer and fellow music blogger Melissa Fossum says that the moshing offerings taking place during the show were fairly weak. One More Thing: Another photog shooting the concert stated he'd heard a rumor that Jello joined the band onstage at one of their California shows earlier this week, which is about as likely as Biafra endorsing Mitt Romney for president.