Ask anyone over 40 what Punk Rock is and you'll almost unanimously hear one word:
In a way, you can't argue. The days of originality can only go so far before anything new sounds like a carbon copy of a song The Descendents did 30 years ago, and even then, was anything The Descendents did really original?
Over-analyze any two things and you'll find similarities, but if you ask me what Punk Rock is, it's NOT GIVING A FUCK!
One of Punk Rock's biggest arguments isn't about one generation's sound being better than the others, or even if this band is better than that band, it's about how one man can leave a band behind and if that band is still able to play without them.
Over 30 years ago Jello Biafra left the Dead Kennedys and put Punk Rock drama like Danzig to shame; starting his own record company, becoming one of the most Influential voices in activism, and eventually accompanying The Guantanamo School of Medicine to officially solidify his place upon the solo gods, but what about the other parts of the most iconic punk band in history?
What about the crunchiest guitar lick you've ever heard in the beginning of “Police Truck”? Or the most recognizable bass line that starts off “Holiday In Cambodia”? The opening drums to “California Über Alles”?!
The same legends that laid down some of modern Punk Rocks most influential instrumentals are still touring the world while holding onto the name Dead Kennedys along the way. No Jello? I can't necessarily say “no problem”, but fuck if I'll let it get in the way of hearing some of my most favorite songs in history at a live show! I don't care if Danzig sings em'! (okay, that would suck fishnet-shirt-wearing ass)
Earlier this month saw the return of the same band that was sound checking when The Huntridge roof caved in, but this time The House of Blues held the ceiling up for Dead Kennedys to bring “the greatest band on Earth”, The Dwarves, and legendary Voodoo Glow Skulls to Las Vegas where locals Hard Pipe Hitters and Guilty by Association set off a night of debauchery and anarchism.
These Hard Pipe Hittin motha' fucka's are best introduced in the style of Marsellus Wallace, and they don't sound like a bitch, so don't try to fuck em' like one! Sin City's Puke Core Kings have worked their way from your neighborhood backyards all the way to the House of Blues to let you know about the dangers of religion, the political system, and eating too much brunch!
HPH's own Police Force held down the pit while singer Kiel taught lessons to the believers in “My Satanic Appetite” and “Call Me Criminal” looking at the bleak past from just a few years ago where holding a gram of weed got you an $800 misdemeanor ticket in Las Vegas. It can all be summed up in never forgetting how “Kelly Thomas Got a Bum Wrap”, and just remember to ask if the cop has a warrant in this fucked police state.
HPH set the stage for local Punk originals Guilty By Association to show us what the OG's can still do to open up a Las Vegas Punk Show. If you've seen a show at Dive or Doube-Down that sounded like deep voiced Adolescents was playing, it was these cats.
Reminding us to fight today in “Policy” and that judges can fuck off in “Critic”, all before finishing off with their Sin City favorite “Straight to Hell”. GBA consistently sets up shows that keep the locals moving every time.
Up next were Voodoo Glow Skulls to make America skank again in with their Ska-Core classics. Keeping up with the nights trend of new singers taking over for iconic bands, Voodoo has been able to stay strong with ease since Death By Stereo's Efrem Schultz took over on vocals over the past couple of years.
The only way we could describe Voodoo's live show is a lucha libre Gwar without getting cum all over you. Efran ran around the entire venue, eventually making an appearance at the bar for “El Coo Cooi”, and of course they played through classics like “Shoot the Moon”.
Crazy to think that that there was more to come, but next were the self proclaimed “greatest fucking band of all time! Ain’t no other place to be but here with The Dwarves. What legends!”
If you've never seen or heard of The Dwarves, imagine a porno theater from 1983 New Jersey somehow became a band and it probably looks and sounds like these guys. Front man Blag Dahlia sports his signature leather knuckle gloves and sleeveless t-shirt with the attitude of The Dice Man on H instead of coke, or maybe a combination of the two.
Noticeably on bass is former Queens of the Stone Age's Rex Everything that almost made me forget we didn't have guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed running around in a gimp suit like usual. It didn't take away from the shithead anthems “Get Up & Get High” and “Let's Fuck” making every face in the crowd either cringe in disgust or give the biggest grin imaginable.
You can really tell a lot about a person by their reaction to a Dwarves show. They're like the Punk Rock PC Test; if you can't stand them then you're sorta banned from a few shows before you prove your crumminess again.
From the self proclaimed legends to the actual legends, it was time for Dead Kennedys to show how the East Bay sound has held up through the years. When you see East Bay Ray and Klaus for the first time it sorta reminds you of your older uncle getting together with their buddies for a cover band, but once we heard D.H. kick in the drums to “Forward to Death” there wasn't a question who was behind these strings and about to jam.
Even when a singer that almost no one in the building knew came out and started screaming songs at them in complete Jello fashion, it wasn't a total put-off but there was a lot of effort coming from the stage.
“This world brings me down! I'm looking forward to death!” being sang by grown ass men and thirteen year old kids at the same time makes you realize how far Dead Kennedy’s can reach. I wanted to hate what I was seeing but surprises like “Winnebago Warrior” and “Buzzbomb” showed me these Dead Kennedys weren't fucking around!
I don't care who you are, when you hear “Police Truck” start, you have a memory it takes you back to, and hearing it live sparks it immediately. Along with all of your favorites from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, there was a proper salute to the modern time in “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and of course the hardest version of “Viva Las Vegas” out there.
Capping everything off with “Holiday and Cambodia” and “Chemical Warfare” gave any fan the send off they deserved. If you've seen a Jello Biafra and T.G.S.o.M show and feel like you've missed what Dead Kennedys are, then stop giving a fuck about whether it's Jello on the microphone anymore and go!
Sure, no one will ever do a better “California Über Alles” than Jello to this day, but there is so much more to hear and see while we still can from these godfathers of Punk. I personally always hope for a new, well known, singer for one tour or maybe the always imagined reunion with Jello, but some would say we need to go to another dimension for that.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos ©Stephy Hayward - ZRockR Magazine