The Dead Kennedys live .
The Mecca of concerts for most punk rockers. The band that has influenced the lifestyles and mind-sets of so many people with their music and free speech shenanigans has finally decided to tour again after so many years.
But there’s a catch. The infamous Jello Biafra, original outspoken lead singer of the band, is not performing due to “political” reasons. The Kennedys performed at Orbit in Boynton Beach last Saturday, with original members East Bay Ray on guitar, Klaus Flouride on bass, D.H. Peligro on drums, and their new addition, Brandon Cruz, a singer they picked up along the way.
Cruz, not surprisingly, faced the consistent chanting of “Where’s Jello?” throughout the night from drunken hecklers and old-school punk diehards. His vocals resembled Biafra’s, but lacked the chaotic energy and urgent presence that has landed the band in so many documentaries, cut and paste ‘zines, and punk manifestos over the years. No one in the audience seemed to have a clue who Cruz was. He could have just been some hitchhiker the banded spotted from their van on the way down to Florida.
In truth, Cruz has paid his dues within the punk community. He is the front man for Dr. Know, a punk band that has been putting out material since the 1980s. Also, in a somewhat semi-ironic and fitting twist, Cruz appeared as a contestant on the show, The Weakest Link, contributing his $25,000 in winnings to the non-profit Surfrider Foundation.
Three other bands opened for the Kennedys: The Bad Habits, Anchorman, and Miami’s own ska core ragers Against All Authority. Anchorman was a little too poppy to be playing with DK, but Against All Authority more than made up for their weakness.
When the Kennedys finally appeared, just the sheer force of their presence was an incredible realization. Even though the moment was made a little less memorable with the “Where’s Jello?” heckling reaching a pinnacle, most of the audience paid respect. The performance itself could have almost lived up to the original DK standards, if it hadn’t been for the sight of kids being thrown offstage with unnecessary force by Orbit bouncers. Watching this occur was like watching the band succumb to a total contraction of what it originally fought for.
DK was the band that always stood up for youth when it was treated unfairly, especially at their shows. Where Biafra would have jumped in immediately and probably conjured some funny theatrics, Cruz stared out into the crowd and did nothing.
In the end, the band’s performance was rather lively, especially considering their age, but the spirit behind the amps, guitars, political commentary, and distinctive logo, that blurred connection between fan and band that is essential to the punk movement failed (or maybe declined for “political reasons”) to show up.
The Dead Kennedys live .