This guest post comes from Genji from Los Angeles. Look for more metal/punk posts from our California correspondent in the coming year.
Last weekend I went back home to San Francisco for my friends’ 40th birthday. Wanting to prove to ourselves that we might be old in body but not in spirit, we decided to jump into the ‘hot tub time machine’ which took us to The Metro in Oakland, California for the Dead Kennedys/Flipper homecoming show.
Yes, it IS 2011, and yes I said the Dead Kennedys and Flipper. Neither of us had ever seen these two punk rock institutions so onto BART we hopped and headed across the bay. On our walk to the venue we met a group of 18 year old punk girls and guys who were following us to the show. We thought they would deride us for being old and bunk, but they actually thought it very cool that we were still going to shows in the twilight of our lives. As I realized these kids were way too young to know anything about two of the most seminal hardcore bands to ever come out of the Bay Area punk scene, a flutter of hope ran through me that kids these days can actually appreciate what great punk rock is all about….
After meeting up with more old folk for some pre-show beers, we stumbled over to the venue just in time to catch Flipper. Now I have to admit that as a young metal head growing up, I didn’t start getting into hardcore punk rock until high school in the mid-eighties, by which time Flipper were already done, and I had never really started listening to them until the last 8 or 9 years or so. In their prime they were a very misunderstood band, outcast by most hardcore audiences because of their slow, meandering, atonal style. In my opinion they were just too far ahead of their time. Aside from being a truly unique and great band, they were highly influential to bands like Nirvana, The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard, with Krist Noveselic from Nirvana going so far as to join them for their last release, Love.
The first thing i noticed was that Krist was not there, one of the reasons I was excited to see them, but I was not to be disappointed as the band ripped into classics like Ever and Shed No Tears off debut, Generic. I was actually surprised at how young looking and sprightly lead singer Bruce Loose was, at first i thought it was a new guy but once he started his maniacal laughing on classic Hahaha I knew there could be no other. Rachel Thoele (ex-Frightwig) and OG drummer Steve Depace kept the beats driving and old man Ted Falconi mesmerized the crowd with his noisy, jarring riffs. During closer Sex Bomb Baby a bunch of punks crashed the stage to dive and scream into the mic. Those same 18 year olds we’d met earlier made it onto the stage and from the looks on their faces, I knew in that moment that the kids are alright and Flipper was finally getting the long overdue acceptance they always deserved.
Before the DKs came on, my friend and I got into a small debate about whether or not we sided with Jello about the widely publicized disputes and legal battles with the band. Now I understand there’s a certain bittersweet irony in going to see a Dead Kennedys show in 2011, mostly because of the absence of Jello Biafra and classic punk rock ethos, but that’s beside the point. The fact I was there should give you some insight into how I feel, and the packed crowd was there for the same reasons I was, to get a chance to see this legendary band in action.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but the band came out fired up and jumped into Forward to Death followed by other classics like Winnebago and Police Truck. Klaus Flouride kept the rhythm tight and East Bay Ray was cranking out the classic riffs in fine form. New singer Ron “Skip” Greer (ex-Wynona Ryders) sounded like a young, slightly lower register Jello, and his presence on the stage looked neither stiff nor intimidated. The first true test came when they launched into Let’s Lynch the Landlord and he nailed it, getting the crowd riled up and bouncing around, even generating some drunken crooning from myself as well. Most of the rest of the set came from Fresh Fruit…. and Plastic Surgery/In God…. with anthem California Uber Alles closing out the show. The encore was highlighted by rousing renditions of Holiday in Cambodia and Chemical Warfare that left the crowd charged up after the final chords died out.
There is no denying the huge void missing that is Jello, to me he’ll always be the Dead Kennedys, but I thought the band sounded sharp and relevant and Skip did a tremendous job. On this night, I saw a band that didn’t want to live in the past, they wanted to prove that they can still do the old stuff as well as they ever did, and to me they passed that test in spades. The best thing they could do is work on some new stuff, establish Skip and put some distance between them and Jello. From what I saw they’ve still got some juice left in the tank and if they’re serious about continuing on and coming out from under the massive shadow that is Jello, there’s a whole new generation of young punk rockers that I think would accept them with open arms.
* video via edtuube