Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - live in San Francisco (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

live in San Francisco (2011)

live show

With a new EP on the horizon, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine came out gunning for their performance at Thee Parkside, focusing on their new music and, somewhat unusually, keeping the spoken word to a minimum. Although it was sweltering at the matinee show on April 23, 2011, the band amped up their most recent output in faster and heavier versions.

Opening with the brand new "Dot Com Feudalism"*, the band set the tone for the night with highly energetic hardcore that almost morphed into thrash metal due to its speed and heaviness. Although the band did throw in a couple of Dead Kennedys classics, as is his want, Biafra kept it current by playing almost exclusively from the group's newish LP, The Audacity of Hype, and upcoming EP.

As a special treat to fans "in the know," the group played a track called "Dillinger" that wasn't on their debut and isn't scheduled to appear on their upcoming release. Between its rapidly shouted refrain, turbo pace, and metaphor reversal, it exhibited what makes Jello's new group one of his best. While some of the tunes on The Audacity of Hype seemed to be just a bit undercooked, now that they've been road tested, the riffs slam a little harder, the choruses are a bit snappier, and Jello is even more vitriolic than before.

Interestingly, while Jello often devotes a significant time of his live shows to explaining, or at least informing people of current issues that concern him (which I enjoy hearing about; others...not so much), his speeches were limited to a few brief lines segueing into song intros. Maybe because the show was a matinee he had to conserve time, or maybe he's making a point that the new project aims to inform through tunes and not soliloquies.

Still, he got in some pretty good digs at California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome and reminded the audience that war crimes are still a current problem. As deft as Biafra is at attacking issues through humor, at one point he stated that "part of me wishes that Newsome child was born with two heads" to illustrate the politico's policies on chemical waste. He also referred to Newsome's child as "spawn."

As brilliant and articulate as Biafra is, I did think it was a little tasteless to attack the child of an opponent. Whatever malfeasance Newsome may have committed, his newborn didn't ask to be born to its parents and isn't able to defend itself. To be fair, Biafra didn't attack the baby directly, but instead, suggested that it could have been harmed due to its parents actions and policies. Still, with so many targets for Biafra to nail, maybe someone with his skill should err on the side of caution and leave the kid out of it.

With a new EP coming out and the band more together than ever, it looks like the Jello Biafra and the GSM are not only becoming tighter and more fierce, but they are rivaling–and sometimes besting–his earlier output.

Set list:

  1. Dot Com Monte Carlo
  2. New Feudalism
  3. Dillinger
  4. Too Drunk to Fuck [Dead Kennedys "cover"]
  5. Electronic Plantation
  6. Clean as a Thistle
  7. We Are the Cells That Would Not Die
  8. Strength Through Shopping
  9. Three Strikes
  10. Pets Eat Their Master
  11. Holiday in Cambodia [Dead Kennedys "cover"]

* - Fun fact: The set list was written on the back of a "Jackson Group Property Management" rental policy agreement. This company is one of the larger property management groups in SF. Oh how I would love to have seen how this piece of paper made its way from the halls of high rent to the hands one of punk rock's biggest dissidents...