5 May 2018
The Agora Theatre; Cleveland, OH
Stalker, The Snakes, Gay Black Republican, T.S.O.L., Dead Kennedys
I gave a serious pooh-pooh the first time I heard that Dead Kennedys were coming to town. Without Jello? Who gives a fuck? Then I remember how awesome East Bay Ray’s guitar work is. And I remembered Klaus Flouride has the coolest stage name ever. And I want to say something about D.H. Peligro, but who really cares about drummers?
So I plopped down my cash and bought a ticket. I can’t say that I regret it.
The show opened with local act Stalker. At first it sounded horrible, but I think that had more to do with PA problems. Every guitarist on the stage that night looked over at the sound booth and shouted obscenities. The sound guy was not having a good night. I enjoyed their sloppy, high energy punk. It’s neat to see a band where nearly everyone takes a turn on lead vocals and I appreciated the use of full chords on the bass guitar. It’s a sound that doesn’t get used enough and when done right it sounds huge and awesome.
The Snakes were another local act. They had a lot more metal in their sound, but I still enjoyed their fast punk tunes. I wasn’t extremely impressed and nearly wrote them off as a band with a hot blonde singer. When she announced they were going to play a cover I wondered if it would be Blondie or the Runaways, but they surprised me by doing my all-time favorite Ramones tune “Pet Cemetary” and won me over. Like my companion pointed out, they were a lot more put together than the first act. I didn’t disagree with him; I just noted that was the reason I enjoyed Stalker more.
It’s hard not to get excited about a band called Gay Black Republican. They played some great high energy rock without distortion but with a lot of catchy hooks. Sometimes I wonder why bands are on bills together (see Frank Ierno and The Descendents), but these guys fit right in with T.S.O.L. and DK. I’m guessing it didn’t hurt their chances that they let the headliners use their drum set.
I’m not sure why T.S.O.L. never achieved the same levels of popularity other first-wave punkers did. They play good tunes and feature interesting guitar work. They put on a good show with the singer doing a little bit of standup between songs. I guess their downfall might be a lack of good singalong choruses. The only tune I recognized was “Code Blue,” and while it is a humorous ode to necrophilia there really isn’t a great hook.
Dead Kennedys put on the show I expected. It sucked that I don’t know more of their songs, but I enjoyed the ones I didn’t recognize as much as “Looking Forward to Death,” “Kill the Poor,” “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Holiday in Cambodia.” Jello’s absence wasn’t felt too strongly as Skip Greer proved to be an entertaining and animated frontman. He did stand-up and political jokes to introduce songs and cheated a little by holding the mic in the crowd and letting us sing the choruses. I meant to stay out of this pit as I’m getting a little old, but at a certain point I said ‘Fuck It’ and slammed into old, sweaty people. Then I found my way to the front and stood in awe of Ray’s guitar work.
The strange thing was how the crowd got smaller as the night wore on. I guess a lot of Dead Kennedys’ fans have earlier bedtimes than they did in the early eighties, but I still thought everyone would stay around for the encore. It was a great set and I’m glad to have added this band to the list of live acts I’ve seen.
If this show comes to your town I would highly recommend getting out and seeing them. How many other chances will you have to mosh to “Viva Las Vega”?