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Jello Biafra

Sept. 3 • Madison Theater

By Mike Breen · August 27th, 2012 · Sound Advice
soundadvice_jello biafra and the guantanamo school of medicine_photo_elizabeth_sloanPhoto: Elizabeth Sloan
One of the hardest things about growing up is watching the ideological heroes of your youth — be they debauched and drugged-out or politically minded and hyper-socially aware — “lose their religion,” so to speak. Hearing songs by The Clash used in car commercials, for example, can be soul-crushing, enough to make you reexamine your own belief system, which was built upon years of absorbing others’ through books, music, art and film. Is giving in to the system like religion and golf, something you just eventually come to further down the road on your life’s journey? As you age, is it just easier to give up and say, “I’m getting a job on Wall Street, going to church every Sunday morning and golfing every Saturday afternoon”? At a certain age, do classic songwriters like Pete Townshend just unavoidably snap into “Must. Sell. Songs. Now.” mode?

Heroes often disappoint. But not all of them. Along with Ian MacKaye (Dischord Records, Minor Threat, Fugazi), Jello Biafra of trailblazing Bay Area Punk icons Dead Kennedys has never said, “Well, maybe just one little Burger King commercial,” or remotely toned down his pointed political poetry and commentary. (He even fought his former DK bandmates in court because they wanted to sell DK music for advertising.)

Biafra has always walked the walk/talked the talk … and continues to do so to this day, be it as a musician, a spoken word artist, an independent label (Alternative Tentacles) founder or simply a politically active citizen (he was up for the Green Party’s presidential nomination in 2000 and has campaigned for Ralph Nader and other Greenies in the past few election cycles).

As his own name, his original band’s name or his new band’s name (Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine) suggest, Biafra is a provocateur with a sense of humor, often using comedy and absurdity to convey his messages. The Guantanamo School of Medicine — which retains an early DK energy and intensity, but is a technically more proficient machine —  released its debut, The Audacity of Hype (complete with Shepard Fairey-styled “Hope” parody cover art) in 2009. Biafra sent President Obama an infamous “open letter” after his historic election, offering suggestions and pleading with him to not become like another president who “had the audacity to exploit and toss aside people’s hope” — Bill Clinton. Needless to say, Jello remains highly critical of Obama and his failure to follow through on his promises; Biafra recently told the site whopperjaw.net in an interview that he has a newer song called “Barackster O’Bummer.”

Biafra & the Guantanamo School’s latest single, “SHOCK-YOU-PY!,” is classic Biafra and his contribution to the songs inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests. The track is from a forthcoming album, White People and the Damage Done (the follow-up to last year’s Enhanced Methods of Questioning), which Biafra hoped to have out before the election, but probably won’t see release until as late as January.

Pioneering local Punk band SS-20 — celebrating 30 years together — open the show. Biafra was a fan of the group in their early ’80s heyday. And on the group’s MySpace page “Sounds Like” window, SS-20 once wrote that they “(used) to sound like the Dead Kennedys. Now (singer) Jughead looks like Ted Kennedy.” Should be a great night of true Punk spirit.

JELLO BIAFRA performs Monday, Sept. 3 at Covington's Madison Theater with the Guantanamo School of Medicine, SS-20 and The Cooties. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.



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