Jello Biafra. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Saturday, November 18.
Reviewed by Drew Mackie
Standing before an audience of mostly twenty-somethings — an age group that would have been toddling at the time of the Dead Kennedys, which officially broke up in 1986 — former frontman Jello Biafra gave a big thanks to those who attended his show in lieu of watching “Lost or Survivor or whatever else is on at eight o’clock on a Sunday.” When an audience member explained that Lost had finished with new episodes for the year, Biafra retorted, “Ah, a Santa Barbara education. Have Schwarzenegger cut the budget for schools again and you won’t even know that.” The exchange pretty much set the tone for the night, as Biafra mixed political commentary with pop culture references much in the way his name combines the kitschy gelatin dessert with the short-lived African nation.
Literally the only person in the world who can put both “punk icon” and “San Francisco mayoral candidate” on his résumé, Biafra is a bit of a wild card. But from the moment he strode onstage with a faux declaration of martial law, his lecture on the various failings of American government was met with cheers and applause from attendees.
Though he read a piece titled “Ass Clowns in Toyland,” which indicted the Bush administration for its failings in Iraq, the bulk of Biafra’s material consisted of Lewis Black-esque rants. Some may have been surprised that Biafra noted nearly as many faults with Democrats as he did with Republicans. Particularly, Biafra dinged Hillary Clinton for supporting the war despite her liberal status and then called Speaker of the House-elect Nancy Pelosi a “machine politician” who looks like Jerri Blank of Strangers with Candy.
One might wonder how much use Biafra’s words were, as the response from the audience indicated that they were already liberal and probably agreed with his opinions whole-heartedly. All in all, Biafra’s urgings to the audience to work for political change made for an interesting show and welcome change of pace from the usual S.B. events lineup.