Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine in Montreal – Gig Review and Live Photos

April 5, 2010
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Gig/Concert: Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, w/ Crabe & Slobs opening
Venue: Studio Juste Pour Rire, Montréal, QC
Date: 2 April 2010
In One Word: Nostalgia

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine at Studio Juste Pour Rire, Montréal - photo my Liz Keith, Music Vice

Easter weekend brought with it a trifecta of awesome – it’s the first day of the long weekend, the patios are in bloom with the first warm breeze of spring, and Jello Biafra is in town with a band for the first time in over 25 years.  Not even some random stomach upset can knock the day off track, although it will delay me… Désolé, I missed out on the two bands opening Le Studio tonight – Québec locals Crabe and Slobs – barely making it to the show in time to snag a spot up front before the crowd crushes in for the headliners.  À la prochaine.

Storming on stage for the opener “Terror of Tinytown” dressed in a bloodied labcoat and surgical gloves, Jello showed few signs of being about to turn fifty-two in the sonic attack unleashed at the nearly full house.  The nine tracks off of (the as yet, unaccredited) Guantanamo School of Medicine’s debut The Audacity of Hype veer sharply from melodic metal back into the familiar punk territory, with Biafra’s trademark snarled wit aimed at the war on drugs, political hypocrisy and consumer culture.  Aside from feeling sometimes like the first day back at work after too much time off, the album itself is fairly solid and the band holds nothing back live.  Having seen other punk icons performing in their autumn years where the show came off like a bad Vegas karaoke contest (Billy Idol, I’m looking at you) the GSM bring the fire and fury expected of them with more polish than rust, although Biafra’s voice showed a bit of strain towards the end of the night.

The set was padded with a few Dead Kennedys classics like “California Über Alles,” and “Police Truck,” the latter starting the first encore with a jab at Montréal’s notoriously rowdy cops, and possibly a reference to the (mutual) aggression at a local anti-police brutality demonstration earlier in the year.  While the new material held up well against his former band’s better-known songs, the crowd still went fairly apeshit when the opening rattle of “Holiday in Cambodia” echoed through the room.  Biafra’s antics returned the crowd’s exuberance with random pantomimes and what appeared to be a Mussolini/Frankenstein impression – a chin-out & bug-eyed display of cartoon arrogance mirroring the demeanours of the politicians he’s targeting.

Speaking of which – for those who wondered what comedians and musicians would use for fodder once Bush left office, the continuation of his leftover policies did not go unnoticed, nor unmentioned on Le Studio’s stage.  Between the continuation of both Bush-era wars, the continuation of the Patriot Act, and the lack of accountability in both government and corporate arenas, Obama didn’t get an easy ride Friday night, although Biafra reserved a few comments for Canadian politicians as well.  Actually, he’s one of the few American acts I’ve seen play in Canada who didn’t make a point of apologising for their country and/or politicians – if only because he seemed to know more about our own political foibles than those before him.  I don’t know how much I agree with him saying that Stephen Harper was “not as obviously nuts as Stockwell Day,” – does hiding agendas make them more palatable? I mean, salted or roasted, they’re still nuts – but it was refreshing to hear an American who a) knew something about our politicians and b) knew enough to criticise them coherently.  Could it finally be – the death of Canadian smugness?  This Canuck can only hope.

© Liz Keith, Music Vice

Photos of Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

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