Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine returned to Detroit proper last Sunday to the Magic Stick and Motorcityblog was there to witness it.
The place was well attended especially for a Sunday night. The need for punk is indeed not dead. I consumed a few beers before Jello's set to loosen up for what was surely going to be a high energy show. A big shout out to "Roadie Pete" for purchasing me a celebratory drink for my birthday. Jello Biafra ended up being the icing on the cake for the rest of the evening.
If your a fan of Jello Biafra and his previous work including his stint in the Dead Kennedy's, his spoken word shows, and numerous other band collaborations, and are on the fence about seeing Jello at 56 years old with a new band, then you better get yourself straight because a live Jello show has not changed much from the 70's. This is Jello's first proper band since the Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine will not let you down.
The band formed in 2008 and has since released two full length albums as well as two EP's. The 90 minute set for the night included a healthy dose of new material from these albums including "Three Strikes", "Shock-U-Py!", and "The Brown Lipstick Parade". Similar to the Dead Kennedys, the Guantanamo School of Medicine material is often political in lyrics and loud, fast, and rhythmically consistent musically. You can easily sing along to the new material and much of the crowd did just that.
Between songs,and during extended intros to them, Jello gave us some rebellious political angst fueled spoken word that he found a career in after the breakup of his first band. Targets included Michigan governor Rick Snyder, the city government of Benton Harbor, wealthy corporations, and local school boards. Jello called to crowd to take action and his words were completely genuine and passionate. Jello also strayed away from the political spoken word to talk about his passion for Detroit local music including bands that shaped his own musical path including the MC5 and The Stooges. Jello spoke about the recent passings of Stooges Ron (in 2009) and Scott Asheton (in 2014). He wondered out loud how his life would have been like if he had never heard the Stooges. He couldn't imagine it.
Jello Biafra did not forgot his musically roots and played Dead Kennedys material as well. Song's included "California Uber Alles", "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", "Kill The Poor", and "Holiday In Cambodia".
Long time friend of Jello, Karen "Queen Bee" Neal came out for a duet with him on the classic Dead Kennedy's "Too Drunk On Fuck". The Dead Kennedy's material had the crowd in a frenzy and stage diving ensued. Jello himself stage dived multiple times during the set.
And I can't write a review of the show without mentioning Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine's take on the Wesley Willis classic "Rock N' Roll McDonald's". Jello has released several Wesley Willis albums on his label Alternative Tentacles and the performance was a Ode to an artist he has great love for, and by the reaction of the crowd, many others do as well.
Live footage from the show courtesy of Ambervillian Films.
Photos by Adrianne Johnston.