Dead Kennedys – Liquid Rooms Edinburgh 19.06.17.
Going out to see a band on a Monday night after a long weekend and first day back at work, the place is going to be as empty as a Haunted House with the atmosphere of a library what am I thinking of! There maybe a few pay on the door that have nothing better to do on a Monday night, It’s not as if they even have the same guy singing those classic songs nowadays. But then the calibre of songs we are talking about are worth getting my arse of the sofa any day of the week, especially as the rest of the band are all original members. The Dead Kennedys may have ruffled a few feathers in their time with not only a controversial name, but with their outspoken views about, well everything. After forming in San Francisco, California, in 1978 they released their debut album Fresh Fruit from Rotting Vegetables in 1980, this was both politically scathing and artistically provocative setting the path the band would tread. Jello Biafra set himself up as a spokesman for a generation not only with his lyrics, but also with his forthright opinion aligning himself to many a campaign. The band eventually went their separate ways in 1986, before reforming again in 2001 without Jello Biafra this time. After a number of front men Ron “Skip” Greer from the Wynona Riders stepped in front of the mic, that was nearly 10 years ago but still considered the new singer.
Alright so it wasn’t quiet as I expected on a Monday night, in fact it was shoulder to shoulder and sometimes closer. The crowd were well aware of who they were here to see and the anticipation was growing by each track of the support band Otherkin, who I will be looking more into after an impressive set. But the Dead Kennedys have a reputation that very few bands reach in terms of crowds and of quality of songs they bring to the show, they have embedded themselves in US Punk history. They take to the stage like a geeky queue at an Apple store waiting to be served in there glasses and casual shirts, confirming that you don’t need a studded jacket and mohawk to be punk it’s all in the mind. My pre conceived idea of Skip being a diluted version of Jello Biafra was well off the mark, he was like a man possessed controlling the stage and audience with an hinged swagger that took over his body and imposed his own stage presence in what must be a hard act to follow. Spitting the well-worn lyrics out like a venomous sprinkler system, contorting and jolting as if receiving CPR from 100 volts he seems to have adapted well. East Bay Ray’s 50s surf style echoing chords were like a wave over the audience, he may be dead ringer for comedian Eric Morecombe but he’s more like a magician of the fret board up on stage. Then when you hear that bass line of Klaus Flouride packing your bags for a “Holiday in Cambodia”, an air of menace and danger that comes over you as your heart beats faster and you need to run, the earie high pitched east Bay Ray guitar piercing your nerves in anticipation of what’s ahead. This is the Dead Kennedys pinnacle, a master piece of arrangements with lyrics that bite and bark in your face like a dictators army on the march. Not to be left out is the man that holds it together D. H. Peligro, at times unleashing an attack on the skins that almost sends the kit through the stage floor. “California Uber Alles” starts up with a thunderous marching beat before Klaus and East Bay join in, the build-up is intense before the chorus is unleashed with the backing of a crowd straining to every “oh oh oh oh”. Although I would have bought a ticket to hear these 2 tracks alone, there are others in the Dead Kennedys armoury that any band would want on their CV. “Police Truck” has a 60s psychedelic intro with haunting melody running through the distressed lyrics, the influence of East Bay Rays guitar skills are very prominent here where he lets loose on that fret board echoing into the night. We are invited to “Lynch the Landlord Man” while also being “Too Drunk To Fuck”, the baying crowd wanting to “Kill the Poor” before ending with a couple of encores of including “Chemical Warfare” and “Viva Las Vegas”. Although Skip has stepped into some big shoes left by Mr Biafra, he has imposed his own personality on the band and comes out the other end successfully. The only irritation I have and it’s a big irritation; the amount of time he converses with the audience is stepping over that fine line as there is no time limit to discussing topics between songs, and although he sites old age as a reason for resting, there were more than a few occasions the words ‘get on with it’ were going through my mind. My main objective was to listen to as many of those tracks as possible while they were here, not to be brought into a live Q&A session that at times killed the atmosphere dead. Not many bands can lose such a charismatic influential lead singer and still produce the goods, although to many fans they will never be excepted as the Dead Kennedys without Biafra. I prefer to look at the here and now, they are definitely still HERE, and NOW they are still making those songs sound dangerous, angry and absolutely brilliant as I remember them.