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Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – Glasgow, ABC 2

Dr. Al Zappa checks out the legendary Dead Kennedys frontman.

Some lines stick in your head for a lifetime. In words of yesteryear, ‘punks not dead it just deserves to die, when it becomes another stale cartoon’. The waiting assembly of extending waistlines, receding hairlines and comfortable footwear makes me twitchy. Is that a lack of expectancy I smell in the room? Dim the lights and, whadya know, it might just have been me after all.

Flailing on to the stage sporting blood-stained lab coat and surgical gloves, Jello Biafra shows few signs of any passing years. This is still the Jello of old and my first reaction is to smile. The man has lost not a shred of his aura and I’m thrilled. And I’ve lost none of the sheer pleasure I’ve always felt at watching him perform. If you’re a fan, there are no surprises waiting and I’m grateful for that.

But there’s no time to reminisce as “Terror of Tinytown” opens a set with more than a passing nod to the Dead Kennedys. Biafra may still be the man, but the GSM are no one man show. Brothers Jon and Andy Weiss tight as rhythm, Ralph Spight and Kimo Ball impressive on guitar. The sound is certainly heavier than, but maybe not as inventive as the DKs. Jello still snarls and froths at political shenanigans on both sides of the pond, the war on drugs, consumer culture and greed, greed, greed but the band, for all its forcefulness, made it look seemingly effortless at times.

More tracks from The Audacity of Hype and Enhanced Methods of Questioning stink of trademark Jello being who and what he always was and always must be. “New Feudalism”, “Strength Thru Shopping”, “Pets Eat Their Master” and “John Dillinger” – the set goes by too fast for us – always a good sign.

As and expected, the set included a few DK classics. “California Über Alles”, “Police Truck,” “Moon over Marin” and “Holiday in Cambodia” the latter finishing the first encore and sending a disappointingly half filled room off its collective nut. Again Jello didn’t disappoint, throwing himself headlong onto the arms of the pit and surfing round the room.

Having seen other icons making a few quid in their autumn years JB and the GSM are the antidote. Jello Biafra is no doubt a man with obsessions but his heart and conscience are where they always were; in the now.

The fortysomethings may run back and stuff themselves in rigid business costumes, but for as long as there’s Jello, there’s hope.



3 Responses

  1. I saw them at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool last weekend. It was a complete aural blitzkreig with the acrobatic vocals of Jello tying in with the surf-punk-meets-Suicide madness of the band.
    I’ve seen literally hundreds (maybe thousannds) of bands.
    I’ve seen the Clash and The Ramones at the Apollo, The Birthday Party at their crazed peak, The Smiths and REM at Glasgow Nitemoves on different nights. All epochal and zeitgiest-defining but Jello and TGSOM was without doubt one of the top five bands I’ve ever seen.
    That good.

  2. This was a great gig, finally after 30 years of listening to JB sing I got to see him do it live in front of me. I’d seen a couple of Spoken word shows over the years but to hear him sing with a great band was a long held hope and was finally fulfilled on this night.

    Every time I’ve seen him though he has exited a taxi or car at my back and walked past me into the venue! Usually claiming to be late.

    I enjoyed the whole set but the newer songs stood out for me, I could have done with less DK songs in the set which I still find a strange thought. Having said that hearing the unexpected “Moon Over Marin” was a treat.

  3. Wasnt half filled – official capacity is 400ish and there was at least that there! Fantastic gig, hopefully Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh this autumn?

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