“It doesn’t feel like it, but since the demise of the Dead Kennedys, US punk icon Jello Biafra has made a lot of music. Mostly by stealing other peoples’ bands, like DOA, Mojo Nixon, Melvins and of course, Ministry with Lard. And throughout it all he’s maintained an ongoing, at times amusing, at times paranoid, at others disquieting diatribe against corporate and state control.”
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It’s paranoia uber alles tonight in a Melbourne town still in the grip of Jello Fever. A couple of weeks ago he turned back time with a blistering set at the Corner with his Guantanamo School of Medicine, and later tonight he will be dropping some wax at Cherry Bar.
But right now it’s all about his razor sharp wit. He comes in post apocalyptic in dark sunglasses telling us to Shut Up And Be Happy. He’s reading from notes, and he will continue to refer to these throughout the next three and a half hours, occasionally tangenting as the mood strikes him.
The number one problem gripping the world is not climate collapse, according to Jello; rather it’s wealth addiction. He believes that politicians should have corporate logos sewn into their suites like sports stars. The barbs fly “Christian supremacists love the unborn more than they hate kids,” the tea party? “Someone has to stand up for the stupid,” and when it all gets too heavy he invents band names for us, “Stone Pimple Toilets,” Brown Sabbath,” “Dyke Van Dick.” It’s a lot to digest; his cynical humour though is laced with a call to arms that is not just inspiring but particularly relevant to us. “ September,” he offers, “has not necessarily gone to the Abbotoir just yet.”
Well Jello has returned to Australia with a live band for the first time since playing a gaggle of legendary shows with the Dead Kennedy’s back in 1983. And whilst we’ve all grown up, bought Corolla’s and now work for multinational oil companies, over the decades Jello has continued to pour petrol on the flame as a gun for hire, working with everyone from the Melvins to Al Jorgenson (Lard). There’s something reassuring about the fact that Jello is still saying the same things, except where back in the day we thought he was a paranoid left wing lunatic with an uncanny turn of phrase, these days we know he was speaking the truth.
Whilst the supports of the Kremlings and Useless Children offer plenty of guitar centric bluster and noise, tonight is all about Jello. He bounds onto stage with bloody hands, theatrically gesturing around madly as he sings. He speaks of Abbot, of Gina Rinehart, private prisons, grand theft austerity, the rock star Obama, the Occupy movement and political corruption. Few have has his innate genius at sloganeering, his ability to rock out with a meaningful message. A Jello gig is a rally, a call to arms, and it works, his Guantanamo School Of Medicine tunes, whilst a little more complex, and not as frenetic as DK’s still pack one hell of a caustic punch.
It’s also an opportunity to experience those classic DK’s songs, with California Uber Alles sending legs, feet, fists everywhere, the slamming expanding from the hardcore Jello fiends in the pit outwards, and you can tell this is why many of us are here. Kill The Poor could’ve been written last week, Police Truck is remarkable, but it’s Holiday In Cambodia that really connects, a visceral kick to the head, that sends many of us into the mosh pit for the first time in a decade and a half. Jello struts and snarls, launching stage divers into the pit, and everyone goes crazy. In fact the whole thing is crazy. Here is a balding pudgy 50 plus punk rock survivor who spends most of his show preaching about how terrible the world is. Why is it so damn inspiring?