Jello Biafra is one of the most famous front men punk rock has produced. As leader of the Dead Kennedys he helped produce some of the most prominent political punk rock in North America. In the years since the implosion of the Dead Kennedys, Biafra has kept his interest in both politics (at one time running for mayor of San Francisco) and in music, teaming up with the Melvins and DOA, among others. He’s also been quite successful in the spoken word arena - much like punk rock contemporary Henry Rollins of Black Flag. His most recent project is the Guantanamo School of Medicine, which provides ardent proof that he hasn’t mellowed with age.

Coincidentally, just as Biafra was embarking on his latest musical project, one of his favourite Canadian bands, Porcelain Forehead, was making their return, and soon enough they landed on the bill of his show at Mavericks.
Like the Dead Kennedys, the Ottawa quartet specialized in literate, snarky and forceful punk rock. Although the band has lost track of their original bassist during their quarter-century hiatus, they had an able recruit from early-‘80s all-women punk band Unwarranted Trust Janine Frenken to fill in. Having already unearthed the lion’s share of their back catalogue at a reunion show in March, they kept things concise with a brisk performance of edgy rock. The set was too short for Biafra, who redirected the band back on stage for another number.

Klovenhoofs are a band of more recent vintage, a hairy quartet that seems to like their Black Flag as much as they like their Black Sabbath. The results come closer to High on Fire and street punks turned heavy metallers Bison B.C.

While both openers were loudly hurrahed by the crowd - most of whom had not been born by the time of Porcelain Forehead’s first breakup - there was no doubt the crowd was almost completely there for the headliner.

Biafra has recruited an expert band with an impressive resume for his School of Medicine. The Weiss brothers, bassist Andrew and drummer Jon, have between them played for Helios Creed, the Rollins Band, Butthole Surfers and Ween while guitarist Ralph Spight has served with Freak Accident, Hellworms and Victims Family. The youngster of the band, guitarist Kimo Ball, has also played in a variety of acts, including Freak Accident.

First came a brief musical intro for the band to show off their musical chops, then Biafra bounded on stage wearing a lab coat and surgical gloves, all generously smeared with stage blood and the band ripped into the lead song from their debut CD, ‘The Terror of Tinytown‘ (a song recently recorded but first unveiled a decade ago).

Biafra’s distinctive, nasal voice still possesses that distinctive pissed-off quality that has endeared it to thousands, and it works as well on his latest screeds against economic inequality, media scaremongering and consumerism (among other social ills) as it did during his days in the Dead Kennedys. As the show progressed he sprayed the crowd with bottled water and stripped off his lab coat to reveal a stars-and-stripes shirt.

While most of the show was dedicated to a thorough run through their CD, 'The Audacity of Hype' - every song presaged by a bit of relevant miming and mockery - he did treat the fist-pumping crowd to a couple of the songs that made him famous: He kicked off ‘California Uber Alles’ with some-Arnie simulating weightlifting of his microphone stand and spared a few moments for an anti-gentrification diatribe before ‘Let’s Lynch the Landlord’.

Though a sign posted on a support pillar told the audience “No Stagediving, No Crowdsurfing, No Fighting”, this apparently didn’t apply to Biafra, who leapt into the crowd on several occasions.

By the time of the encore Biafra was shirtless but still stagediving to a couple more Dead Kennedys songs - ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ and ‘Bleed for Me’ and finishing things off with the final song and mission statement from his new CD: ‘I Won’t Give Up.’

Set List:

The Terror of Tinytown
Clean as a Thistle
New Feudalism
Electronic Plantation
Panic Land
Let’s Lynch the Landlord
Three Strikes
Strength Thru Shopping
Dot Com Monte Carlo
Pets Eat Their Masters


The Cells That Will Not Die
Holiday in Cambodia
Bleed for Me
I Won’t Give Up

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