Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School Of Medicine – 5th August 2011 – Birmingham Academy 2.

Here we go folks. Back to gigs. It’s been a while!

I so almost didn’t go to this that it’s unreal. Complacency. Getting older. Finance. Whatever.

Then last night, listening to the Dead Kennedys – I realised I HAD to go and see this legend. I snapped out of complacency. I cannot recall an opportunity to see Jello Biafra perform live. The Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra played in Birmingham almost a decade ago – but what’s the point of that? Needless to say I gave the reformed Dead Kennedys minus Biafra a miss – the right choice.

I used to love the Dead Kennedys. I still do. One of the best bands i’ve ever heard and beyond their sound a band that make you think. I mean – REALLY think. A band I got into when I was 14, the themes they touch upon have shaped they way I see many things. Not blindly but the themes in “Trust Your Mechanic”, “Halloween”, “Police Truck”, “Forest Fire”, “Terminal Preppie”, (I could go on), really opened my mind.

Outspoken. Unafraid. Bold, and, oh-so on it, Biafra is a man on a mission.

I thought to myself as I set off out for this gig – “what if it’s all a huge let down?” What if he’s lost it? I pushed these thoughts out of my mind and headed to The Victoria for a pre-gig beer.

As we got into the venue I was surprised it was in the small room. Quite sparsely populated, there was a band on stage. A bass player, two guitarists and a drummer appeared to be playing the intro for “Bleed For Me”.

I was momentarily confused. Was this Biafra’s band?

Then Jello Biafra took to the stage. We’d timed it perfectly. Wearing a mad scientist white cloak covered in blood and those trademark “Riddler” gloves, looking healthy and up for it Biafra was getting a huge cheer of approval. I made an unplanned beeline for the very front of the venue. My feet just took me there. My brain disengaged. Autopilot.

The band launched into a song off the new album. I have not heard the album. That will be remedied after i’ve written this. It sounded exactly like you’d wish the Dead Kennedys would sound had they not folded under political pressure in the mid to late 80’s. The sound was a logical progression from the Dead Kennedy’s sublime output.

After a few tracks the familiar drum into to California über Alles kicked in. The small crowd lapped it up. I looked around. Everyone was beaming. Jello Biafra does not do complacency. The lyrics had been updated to fit todays news regarding the economy. A masterstroke.

Biafra asked the Security if the barrier could be removed. The security guard shook his head. I watched the security guard during the next track. Far from being a meathead he was nodding his head with the music.

The microphone was swung precisely so fans could sing the chorus of the next track. Respect between the band and audience was tangible.

Then they played “Too Drunk To Fuck”. I’ve never rated this track as one of my favourites. That was about to change massively. Spontaneously all the hairs on my arms stood up. It sounded incredible. Just like the Dead Kennedy’s. It was a near mind blowing moment. Again I looked behind me – the venue oozed ecstacy – we nearly couldn’t believe this was going so well.

Acknowledging Birmingham Jello Biafra praised Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Head Of David. This may have annoyed G.B.H. who were in attendance as they shouted out “G.B.H.?”

I can’t name the new songs yet as I haven’t heard them – but it’s already an album I would highly recommend. Every new track sounded very good.

LARD’s “Forkboy” was aired. Damn, i’d forgotten that track. I’d not heard it since the late 80’s. A hidden gem. Time to buy some LARD material too I think.

Shortly after the band played “Holiday In Cambodia”. I could not believe I was mere feet away from Jello Biafra performing this total classic. The mosh pit grew. Biafra surfed the crowd held aloft whilst belting out the superb lyric. My mate dived in. I lost sight of him only for him to reappear patting Jello on the back as he delivered the “Pol Pot” lines. Was this really happening?

Citing the need for non-violent direct action many words of wisdom were offered. He hadn’t lost it at all. A few new tracks and the band were gone. Seemingly the whole audience bought Alternative Tentacles T-Shirts as the lights went up. I was kicking myself for not bringing an extra £10.

The gig gave me a massive warm feel. Unlike the Kurt Cobain loss that i’ve moped over on this blog Jello Biafra was / is very much still with us. He’s very self aware and still as active as in his hey day. I used to think is he madman or genius – now I know it’s firmly the latter. The current issues intertwined with old classics and the willingness to play these classics needs very high praise.

I’m not sure of their tour schedule – but if you’re reading this and mulling over going to see them – just do it – you may not get another chance to see a true artist of this quality. The range of emotions this gig hit was a whirlwind. Joy – the kind of joy that almost makes you cry with happiness.

A wake up call. A great band. Make that a great band with a Legend for a frontman.

Rate 10/10.


3 thoughts on “Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School Of Medicine – 5th August 2011 – Birmingham Academy 2.

  1. Cool review. I too missed the DKs (and didn’t bother seeing them without Jello) so when he came to Madrid I had to go. Check out my video of Police Truck / Holiday in Cambodia from that gig (
    I spent a lot of time in Brum in the late 80s/early 90s – went to gigs in Edwards and the place down by the bus station (can’t remember the name now, sorry!). I think we must have coincided in various of your early gigs.

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