Monday, 11 February 2013

80's Style Moshing: The Dead Kennedys at Corona Theatre

The Dead Kennedys at Corona Theatre

80's Style Moshing | Antoine Leclerc

I’m sure the die-hard Dead Kennedys fans out there, the ladies and gents who were rowdy teenagers at the beginning of the 80s, the true hardcore punk rockers of this world would be quick to claim that the band who stepped on the stage of the Corona Theatre on Feburary 9th is not the real deal. It’s true that Jello Biafra’s absence from the line-up didn’t fail to give an awkward quality to the nostalgia that came with witnessing the performance of such an iconic band, especially given how short-lived the punk movement ended up being in the 1980s United States. Indeed, Biafra is a very tough act to follow, and even more so when the task at hand is singing songs that he wrote and helped compose.

However, despite these considerations being pertinent, I’m not going to list the reasons why Ron “Skip” Greer  (or Brandon Cruz, or Jeff Penalty before him) is not Jello, neither will I waste any energy providing details about Dead Kennedys’ and Biafra’s legal quarrels over royalties between the late 1990s and 2001 (the year of DK’s rebirth without Jello). Admit it: nothing could be less punk rock than giving attention to money-centered melodrama between former band mates.

Instead of bitching, I would rather celebrate the moments that made me glad to be among the bearers of studded leather jackets and mile-high mohawks. 

For instance, I got a kick out of the skinny bleached-haired dude who was wearing the ripped remains of a Wayne’s World t-shirt, and whose eyes gleamed in an unsettling way every time a song started. I was also charmed instantly at the sight of the giant, sturdy guy whose beard was a foot longer than his hair and whose smile never disappeared. Predictably, I had a similar reaction to the fact that the very outfits that I assume were worn back in the 80s by those very people were still proudly being rocked on this colourful night. Case in point: I kept seeing caricatures of Ronald Reagan on some of the spectators’ hand-sown patches.

I remember thinking, as I was savouring the last of my red ale, that it had been a while since I had had the chance to bask in such punk-rock-ness. That thought had been formed for just about a second when the curtain rose, and Klaus Flouride played a faithful note on his bass guitar. Instantly, my plastic glass swayed from left to right, along with the arm holding it. To avoid further spillage, I was forced (FORCED!) to chug the rest of my foamy drink. Indeed, there truly was no alternative solution, as the swaying immediately turned into vehement shoving around. No lidless beverage would have survived that blast of dirty youthful energy.

Not surprisingly, the dawn of the mosh pit brought about an avalanche of moments of sheer punk rock beauty: the dude who smiled at me with all the glee he was capable of, just before powerfully pushing me back in the midst of the storm; the several hands that were offered to whoever happened to fall on the ground at one point or another during especially savage times; the bare-chested man, whose aging black tattoos were overrun by green, who kept yelling “SHUT UP AND PLAY!” while Skip Greer was attempting to introduce the band members to the crowd; the moshers who took a well-deserved break of about a second to repeatedly yell “F**K OFF!” every time the chorus of the classic Nazi Punks, F**k Off! came back; the guy who got violently swept away from his position inches away from me, and whose sudden disappearance made me go, “Wow, that was a close—”, right before I got catapulted just as hard in someone’s sweaty shoulder.

Of course, the guys on stage contributed to the mayhem by playing the crowd’s favourites with mind-blowing muscle. East Bay Ray’s faster-than-sound guitar riffs and D. H. Peligro’s vigorously frenetic drums were launched on top of Flouride’s distortion-filled, rugged bass lines, which made all the moshing folks on the premises tremendously happy. Anyone hungry for some intensity was served double portions that night.

However, it would be unfair to describe Dead Kennedys’ as a merely “fast and heavy” act. I remember watching American Hardcore (an amazing documentary about the birth of the U.S. punk movement) and hearing some guy say that, often, punk bands in the early 80s U.S. were just a bunch of teenagers who didn’t have much musical skills and who were just trying to play as fast as they could. That gentleman claimed that because the movement’s focus was energy and speed, bands whose members were actually technically skilled (but still within the fast-and-crazy framework) stood out: think of Bad Brains and Black Flag, for instance, who were massive acts during those few years. 

 Undoubtedly, the guys from Dead Kennedys (original line-up or not) are part of that class of skilled punk rock musicians, and they did not fail to show it that night. From the rise of the curtain to Holiday in Cambodia during the encore, the old-schoolers made sure that nobody could even think of forgetting that they’ve been doing this for a few years. If punk is dead, it at least enjoyed a fun moment of revival on that snowy Saturday.

American Hardcore Trailer

Dead Kennedys - Police Truck (Live au Corona, Montréal)

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