Dead Milkmen - Live in Wilmington (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dead Milkmen

Live in Wilmington (2022)

live show

At the Dead Milkmen’s April 22, 2022 show in Wilmington, I could see it in singer Rodney Anonymous’ eyes- he was thinking, “Oh no… is this OUR Altamont?” Just moments before, about mid-way through the show, a gentlemen had walked into the crowd, positioned himself about four feet from me, stood there for moment, turned around and then… he sort of slowly sat down, and then laid down, and then was out like a light. The dude was konked. People around him started to sort of jostle and speak to him to see if he would be roused, but he laid there like a log, unmoving, and no one was sure if he was breathing. The Dead Milkmen had expected big things for their first show in two years, but not like this.

But, whereas the Rolling Stones marched through their set, blindly unaware of the chaos underneath, at the actual Altamont, Rodney actually insisted that the band stop there set while the paramedics rushed onto the scene to see if they could help the situation. In fact, Rodney was hit with one or two boos, which he swatted down and said something like “we’re not playing until that guy is okay.”

And in usual Rodney skew-style, he saw an opportunity- which was a big risk, which I’ll address in a moment. While the paramedics attended to the prone fellow, who was still very much zonked, Rodney encouraged the audience to engage in a form of prayer healing, holding their hands up in the air and asking for the healing powers of… Joe Jack Talcum, Dead Milkmen guitarist and co-singer. Joe then raised his own hands and issued a blessing in the damaged man’s general direction. And sure enough, if on cue, the man was revived by the power of Joe! Although he was still woozy and wobbly, the paramedics got him to a wheelchair and took him from the scene, looking a little busted up, but not flat out dead, like he did just five minutes prior.

Frankly, the joke was a risk- if the dude actually WAS dead, Rodney would have looked, well, not so great. But Rodney believed in Joe enough to take the gamble and the gamble worked. I believe in Joe, too. I also believe in the Dead Milkmen.

Their first show back in a long time demonstrated why. The set opened with the killer “Dean’s Dream” and the band threw out the high energy hitters all night long. As is Dead Milkmen style, the band was tight and loose at the same time. That is, they hit the mark with the songs themselves, but are comfortable enough to a let a little swing flow through the tuneage. “Methodist Coloring Book” was a particular destroyer with Joe really howling while Dandrew Stevens on bass and Dean Clean on drums really bashed it up.

“Newer tunes” like “Now I wanna hold your dog” and “the sun turns our patio into a lifeless hell” now fit right in with the earlier hits and have their own weight. If anything, locking the 2000s songs next to the 80s showed just how great of a band the Dead Milkmen were… and STILL are. Few bands are able to weave cynical humor with deeper points all while rocking. The key in Dead Milkmen humor is that it makes their points more profund (ala Jello Biafra) instead of weakening the punch. I also really like Joe’s jangly guitar. It was especially jangly on songs like “Tiny Town and “Nutrition.”

A great surprise was that the band played X-Ray Spex “Germ Free Adolescents” at the end of the main set. It was a great curveball wherein the band tipped their hat to first wave punk all while demonstrating that punk isn’t nearly as narrow as (some people still unfathomably) believe.

The encore included four more tracks and a reprise of “Life is Shit” with a massive Bob Geldof sing a long feel-good type thing… all to the worlds “Life is shit.” I can’t think of a better way to sum up the band or the live show. It is definitely time for a new Milkmen live album.

Before Dead Milkmen, Total Rubbish played. Mixing 90s alt-rock with some post-punk slicing, the band was well received by the audience. The band swam in big riffs and hazy, almost psychedelic vocals. They had a real knack for melody and style and their final song was a real cruncher. The band is relatively new, but they are already fully formed and I expect a grerat full lp is on the way.

The show opened with Stoneburner, which is the side project of Stephen Archer of Ego Likeness. Archer took to the stage wearing a robot-wolf mask and sang through a mic that distorted his vocals into sounding like the robots on Chrome records. Meanwhile, two drummers based away on either side in military cadence. It was pretty rad. The audience seemed hesitant at first by the industrial act, but as Archer drove the set forward, with tracks getting more distorted while retaining the unflinching beat, the crowd was won over by the end, especially when Rodney came out to do a version of Stoneburner’s track “Sell Out.” I say the following as someone who did not know the act prior, and who was won over to the point where I bought the new CD after the set, but I do think Stoneburner throws around the f-word too much. At this point, the word is no longer shocking and in my opinion, acts as a roadblock for more articulate or unique expression. That’s friendly criticism as I hope to catch the act again. And if they don’t like my stance, well, they can tell me to fuck off.