Jello Biafra with the Melvins

Jello Biafra with the Melvins: live in Los Angeleslive in Los Angeles (2005)
Alternative Tentacles

Reviewer Rating: 5

Contributed by: BrandonSideleauBrandonSideleau
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Of all the great punk shows I've seen in my life and, of all of the great classic punk "icons" I have met, never have I had a chance to watch or meet the seemingly reclusive Jello Biafra. He always seems to surface once and a while for some spoken word shows, and the one time recently he DID come to.

Of all the great punk shows I've seen in my life and, of all of the great classic punk "icons" I have met, never have I had a chance to watch or meet the seemingly reclusive Jello Biafra. He always seems to surface once and a while for some spoken word shows, and the one time recently he DID come to L.A., I didn't know until it was too late.

I have been a Dead Kennedys fan (like many of you) and a Jello Biafra fan in general for many, many years. I own and adore almost everything the man has created, from the awesomely bizarre Witch Trials album to his collaborations with both D.O.A. and NoMeansNo. Over the past year we have seen a sudden explosion of activity by Jello, which has included 2 new albums with the Melvins (Never Breathe What You Can't See and Sieg Howdy) and an extensive musical tour (something, to my knowledge, Jello hasn't done in many years). So, needless to say, when I heard that this tour was making its final stop in Los Angeles I was extremely excited.

I got to the show about only an hour early (no thanks to the horrible traffic on the 101), but luckily I arrived to a relatively empty Henry Fonda Theater. It's a nice place (I saw the Circle Jerks here little more than a year before) but the barricade in front of the stage (which is horribly common these days) was thoroughly irritating. The first band, called Killradio, came on at 9pm. I had heard the name before but honestly had no idea what to expect. They played a surprisingly good mix of hardcore and pop-punk, while managing to avoid the trappings of most new bands by incorporating plenty of funky and jazzy guitar riffs, not to mention a healthy dose of intensity. Their singer/guitarist really knows how to put on a show and can play his ass off. I haven't heard anything from them before but I'll have to check 'em out sometime; it was a good start to a legendary evening.

Next, after a refreshingly short wait, was a band called Altamont fronted by Melvins drummer Dale Crover. They seemed to play a heavy blend of hard rock with some pop sensibilities, very tight and well done, but nothing too memorable. Maybe I'll have to pick up their album and see if I can get into it better.

Anyway, they played a short set and, rather than leaving the stage and pulling the curtains, two band members (the drummer and the keyboardist/bassist) remained onstage making some absolutely cacophonous noise as the Melvins set up (I guess to keep us entertained). After about ten minutes of noise they left stage and on came the Melvins, which proceeded to plunge into yet another 5 minutes of loud, screeching noise (which pissed off some of the audience, but I thought it was great) before blasting into the epic "Amazon" from their 1999 album The Maggot. This is one of my favorite songs by them, so I was psyched, until they went into the next song "The Bloated Pope" (from their recent Pigs of the Roman Empire album with Lustmord) which happened to be yet ANOTHER favorite of mine. The Melvins are easily the absolute LOUDEST band I have ever seen; there were times when I didn't think my ears could take much more. Now I've seen some REALLY hard bands, but nothing comes close to the insane noise these guys produce; it's just terrifying and awe-inspiring at the same time. I can see why it might not be everybody's thing, but it's certainly MY thing.

Anyway, their excellent set concluded and on stage sprinted the man himself, Jello Biafra, dressed in a bloody lab coat and surgeons gloves, under which he wore 2 shirts, one a large upper-body-covering American flag and the other his new "Democracy We Deliver" t-shirt. They went on to play an amazing set of songs off both of the new 'Jelvins' LPs, several Dead Kennedys songs, a loving cover of Wesley Willis' "Rock N' Roll McDonalds," and, surprisingly, the song "Forkboy" by Jello's former collaboraters Lard. Jello may have gained a few pounds over the years, but he thankfully hasn't forgotten how to put on a show, as he still managed to do his fair share of freaking out, stage diving (shirtless at one point, glad I wasn't under him and his sweat), and the strange hand motions he is famous for. His vocals are still in high quality -- very clear and just as snotty as ever before. He, expectantly, went into a long anti-Bush "spoken word" piece during the interlude in the classic DK track "Bleed for Me." Some of the security seemed offended; I thought it was great.

Anyway, a killer show with passionate performances by all. The set list for the Jelvins was "approximately" as follows:

  • Plethysmograph
  • McGruff the Crime Dog
  • When Ya Get Drafted
  • California Uber Alles
  • I Am the Owl
  • Yuppie Cadillac
  • Bleed for Me
  • Chemical Warfare
  • Forkboy
  • Caped Crusader
  • Voted Off the Island
  • The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism
  • Lesson in What Not to Become
  • Rock N' Roll McDonalds
  • Holiday in Cambodia


People who liked this also liked:
Scum - Gospels for the SickSleater-Kinney - The WoodsThe Avengers - The AvengersAdolescents - AdolescentsMary Timony - Ex HexThe Germs - M.I.A.: The Complete AnthologyThe Weirdos - Weird World, Vol. 1Sonic Youth - Rather RippedX-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents [expanded]Joy Division - Closer

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Mr_Streetcore (December 21, 2005)

i'm quite the fan of jello biafra with the melvins i have the albumn sieg howdy i guess i need to get some more and by the look of things this new albumn would be a good start

Anonymous (December 11, 2005)

Killradio was fantastic. They used to have another guitar player which freed up the singer to do the craziest antics.

Anonymous (December 10, 2005)

I was at that show too, and I have to agree about the first band Kill radio. I had such a different expectation of what they were going to be like, I assumed they would be some poppy, phony band and I was really impressed at how tight they sounded. I was standing in the center of the floor and it was wild because Jello came out on kill radio's first song and watched from the floor in the middle of the audience right next to me for their entire set. I would definitely go see them again and am keeping an eye out for their next one.

I thought Altamont was a bit underwhelming and that The Melvins who I really love played a bit too long and it got redundant feeling. But when Jello came out as the bloody butcher the show just exploded.

it really felt like being back in time watching a dead kennedys show only with a better backing band.

overall, if was a seriously memorable show and I loved the first and last act the best.

Anonymous (December 10, 2005)

I saw the jelvisn a month or so ago in olympia and it was great too. Though i had to leave early at 1:15 it was great it was pretty much the same as you mentione amazing with the lab coat and such. But the melvins thing this being there home base maybe jello wasn't ready or shit but they played a noise thingy for literally 40 minutes but when jello went onstage it was well so amainz. Also we had this old hobo looking guy called baby gramps openign first he did this weird acoustic dittys about stuff such as scrotums it was bizzare but great. Akimbo and a few others also opened like this band which i can't remember but anyway very great especially the Wesley Willis cover

Anonymous (November 26, 2005)

Bad impersonation... They didn't use "gay" as an insult one time, they used it at least twice in the same interview, so I'm guessing they used it more in other settings. And you failed to refute the fact that Iron Cross (a popular band whose members were friends with Ian MacKaye and other DC bands, as well as a lot of Boston hardcore kids) sang in "Psycho Skin" about how they just beat their "third queer." The fact that such a lyricism was accepted (and became their most popular anthem of the era- Agnostic Front makes them remembered for "Crucified," though) shows that the general mindset was very homophobic... I think most of those guys eventually realized how stupid that attitude was and made a complete 180 into preachy, political types, but there was a time when it wasn't that way.


Anonymous (November 26, 2005)

Using gay as an adjective in a negative way one time is exactly the same and belonging to a religion completely intolerant of homosexuals. Yeah, they're about square.

Charles Bronson invented powerviolence.

Crust doesn't exist, I just make you THINK it does.

-Wayne the Brain AKA Will

Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

I'd say a lot of hardcore kids were homophobes in the original DC scene... Ian MacKaye and company use "gay" as an insult in early interviews and I read of an account where Wendell Blow of SOA and Iron Cross jumped a gay hustler... I think the unity was within the scene at that time, but I don't think they had any strong political ambitions as to the equal rights of other human beings.


Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

On another note.....Jello isn't THAT fat....he's just alittle over-weight....just like the majority of other men turning close to 50. Maybe he should workout with Hank or something.

Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

Bad Brains were one of the greatest bands of all time, punk or not, but yes, they did fall into sad homophobia during the mid-eighties. I don't think they were in the late 70's and early eighties.....when they were in the local DC scene and everybody was cool with everybody else. I'm thinking HR started smoking WAY too much weed and got all crazy on religion. I think alot of their "Jah" stuff is really cool and I love reggae.......but the homophobia sucks, way to blow it. OH well......still a great fuckin' band- HR laid the blueprint for how a punk rock frontman should go nuts onstage.....in fact the "other" HR (Henry Rollins) has said he owes much of his excellent stage presence to watching HR in the late 70's.

Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

The Bad Brains were asshole homophobes in their 80's, but their music is completely better than 99.9% of bands from their era... Including MDC, The Big Boys, SSD, Negative Approach, Necros... Almost all of them.


Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

i cant believe anyone actually likes bad brains

Anonymous (November 24, 2005)

I saw the Dicks one time... They wanted to smoke some weed with me, but I just stole it and left a note degrading their sexuality. Oh well.


lushj (November 24, 2005)

"lose," not "loose." Sorry, it's been bugging me for days.

The Jelvins were pretty rad @ Bat Fest 2005 (the Frisco Halloween show)- one of these years I won't be working it and will be able to actually enjoy the entire show. I was extra-stoked on The Dicks too!

Anonymous (November 23, 2005)

jello needs to loose some weight

Anonymous (November 23, 2005)

I'm suprised Jello would let Killradio - a major label band - open for him.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

Saw them in Vancouver - superb stuff. Jello was amazing.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

Doesn't Jello look like William Shatner now with the hair plugs and all?

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

>>>My friend saw the "Jelvins" play in detroit last year, and according to sources, the ministy guys showed up and did a fucking LARD set as an encore.

Nope. The Jelvins were the encore of the Melvins show last year. There was no standalone Jelvins show in Detroit.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

I was at the Bat Fest, it was badass.

Munly was great, but I'd say the three 'big' bands, Jelvins/Dicks/Zolar X all stole it. Great, great show.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

Did anyone go to Bats Fest? I heard Munly stole the show. Which is no surprise to say the least.

joeg (November 22, 2005)

hey i was at this show too. it almost didn't happen for me but i got a ride at the last minute. didn't really care for the first 2 bands. the melvins were ok. i was sleepwalking through the whole night until jello popped out in his bloody lab coat. fucking great set. the jelvins tunes were rockin and i was actually kind of dumbfounded as i couldn't believe i was seeing him do dk songs. incredible. i'm kinda pissed i had to leave early and miss holiday in cambodia but i guess you can't win em all.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

"My roomate just got an F-Minus tattoo"

On purpose, or did he lose a bet?

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

i saw the melvins after their trilogy (maggot, bootlicker & crybaby) came out. what an amazing show. i would kill to see them play live again.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

My friend saw the "Jelvins" play in detroit last year, and according to sources, the ministy guys showed up and did a fucking LARD set as an encore.


skankin_in_the_pit (November 22, 2005)

Good Review. I can't believe they played Forkboy! Anyone see them play any other Lard songs at other shows?

My roomate just got an F-Minus tattoo so I could be biggest F-Minus fan by association. I at least call dibs on third biggest.

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

Wow, they did 'Forkboy'? I would have loved to have seen that.

How did it sound?

Anonymous (November 22, 2005)

This show was amazing but I gotta say that the show was SUPER boring until the Melvins. Also, I think the noise was cool but 15 mins of it was sort of ridiculous.

rkl (November 22, 2005)

bring it sucker. if youre legal, ill buy you a beer.

TheOneTrueBill (November 22, 2005)

I know your zip code now and the general area of where you live. I am literally going to crucify you now.

rkl (November 22, 2005)

im probably going to get crucified for this, but over the years, jello's voice has started to annoy me. he sounds like horton in the cartoon version of "horton hears a who."

don't get me wrong, i still love dk...(lyrics/music), but im not at the stage anymore where i can pop in frankenchrist and listen to it for 3 hours.

TheOneTrueBill (November 22, 2005)

God damnit I'm jealous of everyone that got a chance to see this. The Dead Kennedys were one of the first punk bands I got heavily into and the first one from the 80s that I heard. I was hooked the instant I heard Jello's voice.

Great review Brandon. Have you gotten that F-Minus 7" collection? AT has it for order, and you're the other biggest F-Minus fan on this site.

xblakeyoung (November 22, 2005)

I haven't been able to get into anything Jello has done in a while. I liked DK and Lard but other than that I don't know where to go. Anyone have any suggestions?

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