When news of '80s legends theDead Kennedys
making a stop in South Florida January 1, 2011, hit our inboxes, we just didn't know what to do. Should we hide our obvious hangovers and go out again in honor of our favorite San Fran-based hardcore punk rockers? Our gut reaction was this: Yessssss. Then we remembered former frontman Jello Biafra (born Eric Reed Boucher) is just that, a
frontman. He called it quits with the band in '87 to pursue "greener" pastures. And we've missed him... dearly.
Three other dudes have tried to take his place so far, and nothin'. They haven't released a full-length since 1986's Bedtime for Democracy (or 1987's Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death compilation, if you want to get technical). But will semi-new vocalist Ron "Skip" Greer (since '08) be able to bring it as heavy as Jello would? While we dream of a "surprise appearance" by the original Boucher, we have to be somewhat realistic. Check out our top five reasons Jello probably won't be at the January 1 show at Revolution after the jump.
Jello apparently has a lot to be pissed about. But does he hold grudges for this long? Probably. He did a speaking gig in Trenton, New Jersey, back in 2007 and mentioned Nouvelle Vague's cover of "Too Drunk to Fuck" during a would-be rape scene of Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse. They turn the hardcore jump-up-and-down anthem into a soft, slowed-down, decidedly French track that you might hear as background noise in a Parisian lounge. Jello mentioned,
"This is their lowest point since Levi's... This goes against everything the Dead Kennedys stands for in spades... The terrified woman later "wins" by killing Tarantino, but that excuse does not rescue this at all. I wrote every note of that song, and this is not what it was meant for... Some people will do anything for money. I can't help but think back to how prudish Klaus Flouride was when he objected to H.R. Giger's painting on the "Frankenstien" (sic) poster, saying he couldn't bear to show it to his parents. I'd sure love to be a fly on the wall when he tries to explain putting a song in a rape scene for money to his teenage daughter... The deal was pushed through by a new business manager the other three hired." Ouch.
He has a label to run.
Sure, we haven't heard too much from it lately, but Jello Biafra cofounded Alternative Tentacles in 1979. The Dead Kennedys released their first single through the label, and Biafra put it all together so they wouldn't have to put up with pressure from major labels to change anything about 'em. He doesn't get paid for his position as owner but does it anyway as he loves to collect "unusual" vinyl and has a ton of artists signed with them. They even claim to be "most likely the longest lasting (and still active) underground record label around." In 2006, he started cohosting a downloadable podcast called The Alternative Tentacles Batcast, where he interviews artists and bands that are signed to the label.
He might be busy running for president.
We think it's kind of cool when pop-culture icons run for office. You know, like when we pictured "The Terminator" running California with an army of robots. But Biafra was there first. He ran for mayor of San Francisco in '79 using the pudding catch phrase "There's always room for Jello." He had a strange platform that included forcing businessmen to wear clown suits and a citywide ban on cars. He finished in fourth that time around (out of ten) and ran for president of the U.S. in 2000 under the New York State Green Party, where he chose death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal as his running mate. But in the end, Ralph Nader was chosen as the party candidate. During the '08 presidential campaign, Jello played at several rallies and was noted as writing an open letter to President Obama suggesting how to run his term as president once he won. Because of all of this, he's been marked as a potential candidate for the 2012 election. We're not kidding.
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He doesn't want to go to jail.
We probably haven't seen this many lawsuits toward one band in punk music. Seriously. In '86, Biafra was taken to trial in L.A. for "harmful material to minors." In '98, former members of the Dead Kennedys sued Biafra for nonpayment of royalties. Biafra said it all started because he wouldn't let one of the band's best-known singles, "Holiday in Cambodia," be used in a commercial for Levi's Dockers. The band denied it, though, and said it was because he didn't pay up and failed to promote their albums. In May of '00, a jury found Biafra liable for fraud and malice, and he was ordered to pay $200,000 to the band members. He tried to appeal it in '03, but the California Court of Appeal "unanimously upheld all the conditions of the 2000 verdict." Has he paid up yet? We don't know, but we're guessing that's a good reason to not want a reunion.
He's in other bands, which he uses to bash Dead Kennedys.
Jello's been keeping real busy. He's joined with Lard (in the past), Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, and the Melvins. But we don't think he'll join with DK because of his obvious bashing of 'em in "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)." The song boasted lyrics like "Look at all the whores/Reunions for the wrong reasons/Playing only songs from the good old days... We'll sue the guy who wrote the songs/So we can sell them into commercials/Steal the name and hit the road/Trashing all our band stood for." Yeah, we're guessing they're not on the best of terms right now.
Dead Kennedys, Saturday, January 1, 2011, at 8 p.m. at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. All ages. Tickets on sale now for $24.25. Visit ticketmaster.com.