Jello Biafra with the Melvins - live in New York (Cover Artwork)

Jello Biafra with the Melvins

live in New York (2005)

live show

When I first heard the Melvins were going to be playing some shows with Jello Biafra, I flipped. The chance to hear Jello sing DK songs again live was too much to pass up, so I bought my tickets the day they went on sale. Obviously, I'm a huge Jello fan. I have every Dead Kennedys album, the Lard, Mojo-nixon, and DOA albums, and a number of his spoken-word releases and both of the Jelvins albums. Seeing the man perform was incredible, but let me start from the beginning.

It was basically a four-band bill, with Mouth Sewn Shut opening, followed by Alice Donut, a Melvins set, and then the Jelvins. I was (obviously) one of "those guys" there to see Jello. I'd never heard of either of the first two bands, and I'd never heard a Melvins song. Sure, I know plenty about them; I know the guitarist goes by the title of King Buzzo; I know they're very strange [looking]; I know they're from Washington (being from Washington myself); I know they have a million albums; I know that many people refer to them as "the heaviest band ever." However, I still had no idea what they sounded like.

Mouth Sewn Shut went on at 8pm, and they were pretty entertaining. They definitely have that "new" hardcore sound -- the heavy, almost-metal chugging riffs, constant inaudible screaming, etc. Personally, I prefer hardcore along the lines of Minor Threat or Kid Dynamite, but they were a worthy opener.

Next up was Alice Donut. I honestly had no idea of what to expect from these guys. I knew they're an older band, but I asked a few people what they sounded like and got wildly different answers from each person. The most fitting description I heard was definitely "a bastard child of the Pixies and Fugazi." I thoroughly enjoyed their set and plan on picking up an album of theirs; they really DID sound like some mash of the Pixies and Fugazi, complete with falsetto vocals and female bassist, and crazy dual guitar harmonies. To seal the deal, towards the end of the set they did a cover of the Fugazi classic, "Waiting Room," but instead of a straight cover, the drummer swapped places with the lead singer and did the vocals on trombone. It was fucking hilarious, and a lot of fun.

Ah, the legendary Melvins. The band everyone's heard of, but few have actually heard…or something like that. I REALLY didn't know what to expect from these guys. Their hour-long set consisted of what seemed to be about five songs. These guys were heavy as hell, and actually quite good once they got going. I don't know if I'd buy one of their records (I'm not that into the real heavy metal stuff) but they were definitely good at what they did. The set began with five minutes of the bassist screaming into a distorted voicebox and making random noises with his bass, then ten more minutes of them repeating virtually the same riff over and over (their drummer had some nice fills in there, though). After they were done boring the crowd, they finally got to some actual music, which was good. I don't know any of their songs, so I can't tell you what they played, but I enjoyed it. At the end of their set with their last chord still ringing, Buzzo and the bassist turned their backs on the crowd and donned black ski masks. A roadie in another ski mask came out and put up a set list up on the front of the drum set, and on the side of the stage you could see a contrasting figure in white jogging in place.

The crowd went fucking crazy as the Melvins tore into "Plethysmograph." Jello sounded as good as ever, and was energetic and entertaining throughout the rest of the show. His attire was amusing, as well; he came out in a white surgeon coat splattered with blood, and when he removed it he was wearing a jacket of the American flag (heh). Underneath that was the "Democracy / We Deliver" shirt with the requisite picture of the airplane dropping bombs. After "McGruff the Crime Dog," Jello talked to the crowd about various political topics, including the last election, of course. After that, they went into a handful of DK songs (listed below). The Melvins did a fanstic job with them, though Buzzo did fuck up a bit on the opening of "Holiday in Cambodia," but no one really cared. The rewritten "California Uber Alles" was fantastic, with Jello miming body builder moves throughout. In fact, Jello's hilarious miming was probably the best thing about the entire show; he animated virtually every song, from flinching and covering his crotch during "Plethysmograph" to pretending to drive an SUV for "Yuppie Cadillac." He stage dove early in the show, which was pretty amusing…but the best one came at the end. For "Holiday in Cambodia," Jello went old school, taking off his shirt -- sure, he's gained a few pounds, but it still brought me back to watching old `80s bootlegs of DK playing small punk shows. Right in the middle of the song, he caught security off-guard by leaping into the crowd yet again; it was fucking hilarious to see the club security swarm around to pull him out of the crowd. The man may be nearly 50 years old, but he sure doesn't show it.

All in all, it was a fantastic show. If the tour's coming by, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by not attending. I did my best to remember the set list -- I know I got the DK songs right, but I'm not positive on the order, nor on a couple of the Jelvins songs. The first few are in order though, and if I wasn't sure about a song I marked it.

Set List:

  • Plethysmograph
  • McGruff the Crime Dog
  • -----
  • When Ya Get Drafted
  • Kali-förnia Über Alles 21st Century
  • I Am the Owl
  • -----
  • Yuppie Cadillac
  • Wholly Bun Bull? (I really don't remember what song they played here, but I know it wasn't "Islamic Bomb")
  • Voted Off the Island
  • -----
  • Chemical Warfare
  • Caped Crusader
  • Lessons in What Not to Become
  • Bleed for Me
  • Lighter Side of Global Terrorism
  • -----
  • Rock‘n'Roll McDonald's (Wesley Willis cover!!)
  • Holiday in Cambodia