First published in The Brag, May 2013
The Hard Ons are still playing when the news starts spreading. “Bar says no more beer!” meaty men mouth to their meaty mates. The order to stop selling beer cans, according to bar staff, came from “the band”. Either Jello Biafra doesn’t want to duck torpedoed cans all night or he knows that forcing The Metro to revoke the crowd’s beer rights would ignite its anti-authoritarian spirit. No-one trades on that spirit better than Biafra.
The Hard Ons’ set of power pop, thrashy punk and – best of all – their latter-day metal is furious, fun and interspersed by Aussie-as anecdotes. Their attitude is the antitheses of Jello Biafra’s punk rock protest music but well suited to his irrepressible sense of humour.
Biafra bursts out wearing a blood-spattered lab coat. It’s no ordinary crowd. The last time Biafra fronted a band here was The Dead Kennedys’ Australian tour in ’83 and tonight, fans show their love with a circle pit, ceaseless stage-diving and genuine mayhem in the front section. The stage diving entertains, mainly because most barrel off drunkenly at entirely unworkable angles or try (and fail) to film themselves doing it.
The Guantanamo School of Medicine (featuring Andrew Weiss on bass, previously of Rollins Band and Ween) play Dead Kennedys-esque punk mixed with heavy rhythm and blues and jazzy interludes a la Mr Bungle. Not a single song flops and we’re treated to Biafra’s two trademarks: mime and political banter. His stories teem with horrible facts, are delivered with disgusted relish, and provoke an anti-capitalist rage I didn’t know I could still summon. Alarmingly, after all this time, everything Biafra says still seems relevant.
There should be a “maximum wage”, he says, for wealth addicts who already earn millions but still need “more more more”. We’re being “marched into the abattoir”, says Biafra, by governments that respond to deficits by “snip, snip, snipping” services for those who need them most. In a seminal moment for me, even as it’s happening, he even explains the genesis of 30-year-old DKs classics like ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, before the band erupts into it and Biafra hurls himself off the stage.
Love live Jello Biafra and long stand his soapbox!