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Coachella Week: Jello Biafra as wild as ever at LVCS

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Onstage with the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Jello Biafra is larger than life.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Chris Bitonti

Saturday night’s Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine show brought occasion to pull out the old worn Thrasher t-shirts, patched denim jackets and spiked attire, as the veteran rocker rolled through the Las Vegas Country Saloon. Aging punks filled the venue to 50 percent capacity to see the latest installment of political punk rock from the constantly controversial former frontman of Dead Kennedys. With Jello at the helm, there are a ton of similarities to be made between Guantanamo and DK. They are both classic Bay Area punk bands, heavy on absurdity and laced with anti-establishment rhetoric.

Onstage, Jello is wild as ever, running around like a deranged ringmaster, barking rants at us in his trademark “maniacal Roger Rabbit” voice over three-chord power pieces. Now in his mid-fifties, Jello still performs with the angst of an unemployed 19-year-old virgin. During songs, he pretends to glad-hand, kiss babies and perform speeches, mocking all the things you’d see at a campaign rally. And between songs, Jello hollers diatribes condemning everyone and everything from Harry Reid to Steve Wynn to Wall Street, austerity and corporations, sometimes all in the same sentence.

Jello is larger than life, like a living cartoon, and it's good to see he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. He’s always seemed like an authentically loony but principled hooligan and I think his longevity proves it.

The band burned through tracks mostly off the recently released White People and the Damage Done, like “The Brown Lipstick Parade,” “John Dillinger” and “Shock-U-Py!”—a commentary on the Occupy movement. Guantanamo works better live than on their recorded albums simply because of the increased chaos that Jello brings to a live performance. His goofiness is endearing and constantly entertaining, and though the place wasn’t full, they incited a respectable pit throughout the performance.

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