Legendary guitarist East Bay Ray was in fine form Saturday night, and his trademark surf rock sound was complimented by Greer’s spot on vocals and Peligro’s energetic drumming. Sure the Dead Kennedys line-up has changed a lot over the years, but their current one seems to be doing just fine, so there will be no whining from me about their missing former vocalist Jello Biafra (Who by the way I have mad respect for! Thoughtfully politically engaged citizen he is- Sellout he is NOT! )
Just in case you were wondering about the band’s line up these days:
East Bay Ray-guitar
Ron “Skip McSkipster” “I am not a witch, I am YOU” Greer-vocals
Dead Kennedys started out with some old school classics, including “Police Truck” in all of its Cali-surf-rock glory, and “Kill the Poor,” thank you god for DK’s nuanced political commentary.
These socially engaged vets did not let us forget we were in DC, and their set was punctuated with genuinely interesting tangents about the eeriness of hipster blogs (blush) and the dangers of unchained male aggression, ethnocentrism, and racism. I kinda wish the dudes bad-moshing next to me had caught on…
And of course, because one cannot subsist on intelligent social commentary alone, there were more classics about getting fucked up and fucking. “Too Drunk to Fuck,” one of my all time favorites, and a definite crowd favorite sounded badass, and proved that Skip does just fine as a front man for the Dead Kennedys. No it’s not the same, but Skip was all growls, grimaces and rawness on this one, and he sounded like a damn excellent punk vocalist.
When the band busted out “Rawhide” the crowd, as expected got down-unchained male-aggression-western style! This tune always sounds so cool to me, and I am eternally grateful to East Bay Ray for his fondness for spaghetti westerns and his decision to unleash a reimagined punk version of this song. As a Texan lady- I say “thank you.”
“California Über Alles” that sinister warning to fascists everywhere…was basically fucking inspiring, especially given current Californian political issues, and following this one up with “Viva Las Vegas” seemed like a good move- a little darkness and a critique of the American political system followed by Elvis, the embodiment of everything that is actually cool about America-made for a nice balance.
“Holiday in Cambodia,” we thought it was the finale, and it was powerful enough to be just that, but then there was… “FREEBIRD!” Seriously, how appropriate, informed punk activists giving the people just what they want. Sometimes democracy does work!
Lessons learned. The Dead Kennedys reminded us that apathy is not Punk. I just hope that they will forgive me for occasionally reading the Economist.