Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

1.9.2010 Cafe Atlantik, Freiburg, GER

So you´re happy that gigs in Germany usually start a bit earlier than in Finland but that´s only what you thought. Maybe it´s worth mentioning that it´s Wednesday and there are people who have jobs and even deadlines. But there was no other choice than to wait. And what´s even worse than waiting? To do exactly this in stuffy air and semi-darkness, accentuated with some dubious music. Later I found out that even one meter next to the open entrance door, it is not a lot better so you have to make your decision: “breathe or see” because from the back of the room you cant see anything of the stage, at least not when you´re a tiny bit height-challenged like me.

Endlessly long 1,5 hours took the standing time, from the time the doors opened (8pm) to the first official notes of the Swiss noise-makers Flimmer from Basel (9:30pm). A drum kit and surprisingly two basses with some, well, can you really call that singing? The rest is up to your imagination…

Then it´s time for a legend, ex-Dead Kennedys fronter Jello Biafra slowly comes down the stairs from the backstage while his fellow musicians, amongst others Andrew Weiss (ex-Rollins Band, Ween, Butthole Surfers) and his brother Jon, get their working equipment ready on the small stage. The whole room (filled from back to front) is waiting in happy anticipation.

Finally, the moment is here, Jello, one of the icons of politically motivated punk enters the stage, clad in a “bloody” lab coat. And as the rather “catchy” name Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine already suggests, the lyrics of the band surely are not about remembering the first love or how many cars you have at home. No, it gets political and Jello is even happy to teach the German crowd some new vocabulary like “gentrification”. Dutifully, he explains to everyone what this means, namely getting poorer people out of certain urban districts by way of rent increase; another topic he addresses are private prisons which are very common in the States, however, in Germany we´re not there yet. Topics like that are important and it´s good that there´s someone who talks about it but I somehow have the feeling that most people here tonight are not very interested in his tirades. It´s not like we wouldn´t have any social problems here in Germany but I feel many have come to the gig simply to see the DK legend from face to face and listen to his music.

From under the „bloody“ lab coat appears a US suit and underneath that finally hides a simple t-shirt with the text „Iraq veterans against the war“. The music itself reminds a lot of old DK times, only the stage shows maybe turns out a bit more tame than back then. But still, tonight´s hero enjoys mingling with the crowd from time to time and one or the other crowdsurfer tries his luck, moderate pogoing can be observed occasionally. In any case, everyone is completely thrilled, especially when Jello strikes up some old classics like California Über Alles (here the original governor Jerry Brown is substituted with the current one, Arnie “I´ll be back” Schwarzenegger – otherwise the song is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago) and later in the evening Holiday in Cambodia.

Before the two encores (or even more) are over I have to leave with a heavy heart at around midnight. But in the end it was worth all the waiting.

Kathleen Gransalke

Editor for Reviews - translations, reports, photos - - - Favorite genres? - Punk, Rock, Death Metal, Mathcore - - - Favorite bands? - Coheed & Cambria, Black Dahlia Murder, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon