Sunday 3 September 2000
Former punk rocker is still
fighting the big fight
The Ottawa Citizen
Jello Biafra, with his normal haircut and normal clothes,
doesn't look like a punk icon. Then, it's hard to say for
sure, since it seems most punk icons his age are dead.
But Biafra, born in Boulder, Colorado, in 1958 ("six blocks
from the JonBenet Ramsey murder site," the press kit says),
is indeed a giant of the punk rock underground. And 20 years
after he first poked the public eye as frontman for the
outrageously outspoken Dead Kennedys, he introduced his older,
mellower stage character to a capacity crowd in the auditorium
of the National Gallery last night.
"This area is now under martial law," he intoned from off-stage,
as he began the spoken-word performance with a dystopian
fantasy -- one that forewarned of, among other horrors, "mandatory
black velvet paintings of Conrad Black on everybody's living-room
That one got a hearty burst of applause from the 450 or so fans
who filled the seats and spilled over onto the stairs. "Your
neighbourhood watch officer will be around to collect urine
samples in the morning," he continued, as he walked onto the
stage for the three-hour show, presented as part of the annual
Alternafest music festival.
Biafra is still fighting the big fight, the one against the
mainstream media and corporate malevolence. His public life has
been a series of fights: the pugilistic, electric battles on a
quiver of Dead Kennedys' albums, including Bedtime for Democracy
and Give me Convenience or Give me Death; the fight against
Tipper Gore's corps over naughty rock lyrics in the 1980s; and
his recent battle against the rest of the Dead Kennedys over his
refusal to allow their song Holiday in Cambodia to be used in a
Most people in the audience were not yet born, or at least still
smelled of diapers, when the Dead Kennedys released Fresh Fruit
for Rotting Vegetables in 1980. Biafra has changed his delivery,
but not his message, and it still pulls in the young and
"The homeless? Give them a home," he said, in a satire of sound-
bite politics. "Balance the budget? Tax religion. We have a
minimum wage: How about a maximum wage?"
He wrote Canadian content into his script: "Mike Harris to drink
water in Walkerton," he said, while calling for suitable punishment
for politicians, landlords and other ignoble characters. "We could
force him to do a blind taste test. Which one's the Walkerton water,
Mike? Which one?"
But, for the most part, he railed against the usual American
suspects -- Tipper Gore and other leading Democrats and Republicans;
Columbine grief counsellors; the drug war; SUV-driving yuppies, CNN,
privatization. "Privatization is the key to everything," he said in
a wry tone. "Get government off people's backs, so you can put
corporations on people's backs."
Still fresh from his run for the Green Party presidential nomination,
he envisioned an unorthodox cabinet of Green candidate Ralph Nader,
lefty philosopher Noam Chomsky, rapper Ice T and "Larry Flynt on the
"Nowadays, we're programmed to believe that everything from
immigrants of a different skin colour to Snoopy Doggy Dogg are more
responsible for tearing apart our social fabric than are conniving
Democrats and Republicans."
It may have lacked the edge of a punk band in a basement bar, but
the young audience applauded frequently and loudly.
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.